Posts Tagged ‘work life balance’

Time for a Change #23: Getting Your Team into Flow

by William Reed on August 16, 2012

Individual and Team Flow

No one truly works alone. We all depend on other people to earn and provide a livelihood. But the quality of our work experience, the quantity of our productive output, and the sustainability of our engagement all depend on the degree to which we are able to maintain individual and team flow over time.

Individual flow is often described as an experience of relaxed concentration, the enjoyment of high performance, challenge, and mastery. Athletes call it being in the zone, musicians in the groove, business people call it full engagement.

Alas it is easy to be pulled out of individual flow by a mismatch of talent and task, leading to boredom or anxiety; and by a mismatch of team energy, whereby other people pull you out of flow. You are in flow if you have a real reason to go to work. You have a passion for what you do. You would do it anyway, and not just because you are getting paid. Considering how much time and life energy we spend on work and careers, finding your flow is urgent and important business.

To gain deeper insights into your individual and team flow take the Talent Dynamics Profile Test online and get immediate results in the form of a profile graph and detailed report. Visiting the website will also help you learn more about the 8 Talent Dynamics Profiles shown in the illustration, and how this approach is used in business.

Team members also depend on one another to get into and keep working in flow. This requires an appreciation of differences in styles and strengths, and the ability to communicate and collaborate with people who share your workspace. This cannot easily be achieved with just a pleasant smile and a cooperative attitude. Once you understand the profiles, strengths and weaknesses, and flow requirements of each individual in your team, it is easy to understand who and what is missing in your composite profile. This will also help define your identity and style as a team, as well as help you determine and attract the outer edge supporters and providers who can help balance and fortify your team.

A high performance team is a priceless asset. Think of what happens to a band when a key member leaves, or how highly interdependent are the members of a sports team. The team’s performance is highly dependent on the team and team members remaining in flow.

Shared Mission and Motivation

Sun Tzu’s classic strategy on winning without fighting applies equally well to what happens inside the team, as it does to the opposition. To be successful it is critical that the team have a shared mission, which is more than a mission statement. What holds it together is an emotional commitment, the genuine feeling that we are in this together.

Working together should be a pleasure, your team an extended family. The team that plays together stays together. Having fun at work makes it easier and more natural to socialize with your team outside of work, within the bounds of friendship, and not as a forced obligation. All for one and one for all is not a bad thing to aspire to if it is felt from the inside.

Shared motivation is the other half of the coin that keeps the team together. Motivation depends on a good match of talent and task, role and responsibility. Players in position, passing the ball to the right person at the right time, and celebrating your success. Talent Dynamics gives you a framework for determining both roles and strategy.

Life/Work Balance

One challenge of full engagement in your work is that it can absorb time, money, and resources that might otherwise be devoted to health, financial planning, family and friends, study, personal development, leisure, or even volunteer activities. Almost by default your work will occupy the lion’s share of your time. Hopefully it will also make the other areas of your life better, but the balance is likely to be asymmetrical.

Management guru Peter Drucker found that people who were only successful in business were often quite unsuccessful and unhappy in other areas of their life. Revisit Drucker’s thinking on this through a book by Bruce Rosenstein, who interviewed Drucker at the end of his life, which I reviewed in a separate article, Living in More than One World.

Value and Leverage

Looking at the Talent Dynamics square in the illustration, you can see it as composed of a vertical Value axis, and a horizontal Leverage axis. To a business, Value represents the things that its customers are willing to pay for, its products and services. Leverage represents the way in which value is made known and available, through its people and systems.

The questions to ask on the vertical axis are what is it worth and when? DYNAMO energy in the green triangle is where you find innovation and ideas in the form of products; whereas TEMPO energy in the yellow triangle is where you find timing and sensory experience in the form of services.

The questions to ask on the horizontal axis are who will deliver it and how? BLAZE energy in the red triangle is where you find people who can make the company’s value known and available; whereas  STEEL energy in the grey triangle is where you find the systems and distribution mechanisms which make the company’s products and services readily available.

Making Magic

The Great Multiplication is where you multiply Value X Leverage, which results in sales and profits for the company, as well as increased value delivered to the customers. Companies which do this well over time are able to grow and continue to deliver additional value to customers at higher levels. Amazon.com started out as an online bookstore, but now sells all kinds of products in many consumer categories. It also offers customers a chance to resell used books, and even has a credit card service. They deliver more things, faster and more cheaply, so they continue to grow. But behind the scenes, this is all made possible because many of the individuals and teams working at Amazon.com are themselves in flow. Companies which drive sales and performance by forcing their people out of flow are not able to sustain growth.

Who are gonna call to make magic? Call EMC Quest and we can show you how to make the most of your energy, mind, and creativity when it is time for a change in your business.

For a summary of this article and reminders of next steps to take, download a PDF file COLLABORATION MANDALA.

Flexible Focus #46: Lens on Consciousness

by William Reed on March 24, 2011

In the last eight articles we have looked deeper into the realm of the mind, looking through the lens of consciousness to see our life from higher, bigger, and deeper perspectives. And yet even from vastly different perspectives, it is all in the context of our daily familiar existence. Revisiting these articles will help you re-explore the territories where we have been, and see also how they fit together. These selections also correspond to the primary eight categories covered in the series, so this review provides an overview of one trip around the wheel, and also reflects the amazing range of topics possible to address with the Mandala Chart.

The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).

Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.

MIND MANDALA BODY (From Flexible Focus #38: Flexibility without Forcing)

Out of your comfort zone…into freedom

Many people like the idea of flexibility more than the practice of it. This is understandable, for if the experience takes you out of your comfort zone, you may prefer the familiar to the flexible. When your body is stiff, then physical stretching can feel more like pain than gain. A similar thing happens mentally when your values or beliefs are forcibly stretched beyond their limits. The key to expanding your comfort zone is to have more degrees of freedom. A brittle stick has no degrees of freedom, so anything which bends it, will break it. The fear of breaking causes many people to retreat into their comfort zone when stretched, but rigidity is ultimately a zone of discomfort. When you have more degrees of freedom in your mind and movements, then you experience flexible focus in action!

A NEW MODEL FOR COACHING (From Flexible Focus #39: The Principle of Gratitude)

You are not the only one in trouble…Make the world a better place

One of the hardest lessons of flexibility is letting go of the ego’s attachments. Pride prevents you from achieving flexibility, because it insists on being right, being first, or being better than others. It’s companions are alike, inflexible, stubborn, righteous, and condescending. These attitudes have ruled and ruined empires as well as personal relationships throughout history, and of course are equally evident today. The ancient Greeks called it hubris (hybris), excessive ambition or pride leading to a fall, or to total ruin. In Asian tradition, pride is like the brittle stick which does not bend, but only breaks. The inflexibility of mind, also known as the hardening of the attitudes, is ultimately the cause of the problem. It is better to be flexible, like bamboo.

A NEW KIND OF NATION (From Flexible Focus #40: The 8 Frames of Life: Society)

Social Media is a classless…and virtually free territory

What is your place in society? At one time, and still in many countries, this was a not a question which you were permitted to answer or control. Rather, it was a matter of birth, circumstance, good or bad fortune, and your place in society was largely determined by people and circumstances beyond your control. Throughout history in various times and places, individuals and groups of people have raised this question, and asserted their right of self-determination, the right to determine their own role and mission in society. Now due to the momentum of such movements in the past, and the amazing impact of technology to connect people and facilitate communication, these questions are being raised widely around the world, not just in the traditional style of political movements, but in a brand new style of personal movements.

YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN A MANDALA PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #41: Your 100 Year Lifespan)

The past can be changed…and the future is fixed

You periodically encounter popular sayings that life ends or begins at 30, or at 50, depending on the attitude and experience of the person saying it. It is a poor and arbitrary perspective really, and let’s face it, sour grapes living produces sour grapes sayings. Yet there are many people who lose the plot of their life somewhere along the way. If you look closely there is a plot, and although life’s drama unfolds differently for each person, there are underlying themes that are remarkably consistent in a meaningful life. The originator of the MandalaChart system Matsumura Yasuo created a framework using the 8×8 B-style Mandala Chart, called the 100 Year Life Span. He said that, “The past can be changed, and the future is fixed.” How can this be? Commonsense tells us that you cannot change what has already happened, and that no one can say for sure what is coming. However, using the Mandala Chart you can reframe what has happened, and you can pre-frame what is coming.

PUTTING TIME IN A NEW PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #42: Time Lapse as a Mandala Movie)

The Mandala Chart takes you out of conventional time…gives you a new perspective

The 3×3 framework of the Mandala Chart lends itself well to showing the relationship of the frames as a visual Gestalt, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The bird’s eye view gives you a 3-dimensional perspective. But what about the 4th dimension, that of time? Most discussions about the 4th dimension focus on its abstract geometry, trying to visualize what it would be like to be 90-degrees perpendicular to the 3rd dimension, in effect looking at the transformation of a 3-dimensional object over time. This is not so difficult to imagine if you look at the effect you get in time-lapse photography, where you can watch a flower grow, or see a full day of cloud transformations in the span of a few minutes. Time-lapse in real time – it is even closer at hand than that, because we all experience transformation moment to moment.

WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT WHAT YOU GET (From Flexible Focus #43: 8 Levels of Consciousness)

The central premise…is that our thoughts create our world

As central as the number 8 is to the Mandala Chart and the original Buddhist framework of Wisdom which it is based on, it is not surprising then to find that in this framework there are 8 levels of consciousness. The first five are quite familiar. We call them the five senses: Visual, Auditory, Olfactory, Taste, and Touch, which are how we perceive the world, through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch. The sixth is Ideation, our conscious thought, referred to in Buddhist thought as the Monkey Mind, because it is typically unsettled and constantly chattering. The first six levels of consciousness then make up the conscious mind, the part that we are mostly aware of. What gets interesting is when you delve into the subconscious mind, which has two layers; the Mana (Obscuration/Shadow) consciousness, which we refer to as the Ego, and the Seed (Storehouse) consciousness at the core.

A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF BALANCE (From Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance)

How many things are juggled already in perfect balance…without any effort or interference on our part

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all. Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying. At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center.

ABUNDANCE IN 8 AREAS OF LIFE (From Flexible Focus #45: My Cup Runneth Over)

Gratitude grows into giving…and is a principle seen everywhere in nature

In our pursuit of prosperity, we tend to take for granted the blessings that we already have in abundance. A Greek myth which made a big impression on me as a child was the story of King Midas and the Golden Touch. The King was granted a gift to his greed that whatever he touched would turn to gold, but the gift was a curse because he petrified everything and everyone he touched, turning it into a golden object devoid of life. Gold is as perennial in our culture as greed itself. While we talk about a heart of gold, good as gold, and the Golden Age, we often find that gold can bring out the worst in human nature, from gold diggers to Goldfinger. It is often taken as a symbol of wealth, the gold standard. But it is seldom seen as a symbol of abundance. Let your helping hand be one of Kindness, not a golden touch.

NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.

Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance

by William Reed on March 10, 2011

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all.

Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to do give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying.

The juggling pattern

In a previous article in this series we looked at the question, Are Goals Traps or Opportunities? That article looked at four approaches to goals: distracted pursuit, single-minded focus, stepladder thinking, and flexible focus. When you attempt to juggle the elements with anything other than flexible focus, you tend to drop all of the balls.

Juggling is an excellent metaphor for Life Balance, as taught by Michael J. Gelb in his book, More Balls than Hands: Juggling Your Way to Success by Learning to Love Your Mistakes. A good juggler can easily juggle 3 balls with two hands, and a professional can juggle 4 or even 5 balls. However, in life we must juggle far more factors than this, in eight fields of life: health, business, finances, home, society, personal, study, and leisure. This is our challenge.

And yet think about how many things are juggled already in perfect balance without any effort or interference on our part! Your breathing, blood circulation, digestion, sleeping cycles, a vast number of habits and actions we perform without conscious thought or effort. And in the greater scheme of things, the coming and going of the seasons and cycles of nature, the movement of the sun, the moon, and the stars, all of these things are juggled by forces beyond our imagination or control. There is peace of mind in appreciating the process.

A better understanding of balance

A simplistic view of balance is that of equal weights on a scale, like the scales of Lady Justice, dating from ancient Greek and Roman times. While this may be the goal of common law, it is precisely the effort to make everything equal which confounds us in the process of Life Balance. The process is far too dynamic to be able to measure in this way.

Nor is it a matter of trying to please everybody, or do everything. In Japanese, the word happō bijin (八方美人) refers to a person who smiles equally insincerely to everybody. Politicians sometimes fall into this trap, promising all things to all people, and delivering on none.

What metaphors then can help us gain a better understanding of balance, one which is both beautiful and practical? The core metaphor for the Mandala Chart is the zoom lens of flexible focus, through which you can see the big picture, the small detail, and the connections all at once. Through the articles in this series, hopefully by now you have had plenty of practice in flexible focus.

Another metaphor which illustrates the process in an appealing manner is that in the art of Alexander Calder (1989~1976), inventor of the mobile and a pioneer in the art of moving sculpture. It is best if you can see a Calder mobile up close, but there are plenty of Calder art images online to give you the idea. In addition to being asymmetrical and 3-dimensional, they are in constant motion.

Each element able to move, to stir, to oscillate, to come and go in its relationships with the other elements in its universe. It must not be just a fleeting moment but a physical bond between the varying events in life.

~Alexander Calder

It would be hard to find a better poetic description of flexible focus.

Soft focus and a calm center

At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center. It is in the central frame of the Mandala Chart, the seat of meditation, where you free yourself from the distraction of forces pulling from the outside, yet maintain your awareness and control. You can see it in the eyes of a Buddha statue, soft focus which is all seeing.

In addition to meditation, you can cultivate flexible focus by calm and deep breathing, such as done in the slow movements of Tai Chi Chuan. A compelling image used in this art is that the number of breaths you draw in your lifetime is fixed. Hence calm and deep breathing leads to long life, while quick and shallow breaths can shorten your life. So what is your hurry?

Social Media and Tribes #29: The new BLINK!

by Deepika Bajaj on February 14, 2011

Last weekend, with my co-founders, I was working on a time sensitive project in my living room. They were sitting around the dining table with each of them having a laptop open in front of them. We had to get some work done and decided to make dinner together and make it a “work and eat” session. It was a creative session and we were working on a script for a radio show we have recently launched.

What I observed was that we all had multiple sessions of windows open and one of them was constant across every laptop on the dining table – this was THE FB window.

I was pleasantly surprised by this observation. And then started to pay attention to how each of them was using it.

To my surprise, no one was distracted by it (as per the popular belief). On the contrary it was used to take a break and check out the conversation for a bit and come back to work. And it was amazing how each one was always effectively contributing AND we were not disconnected from our world. I did observe that we went straight to the News Feed, scrolled down to see what was the current activity among our friends and came back to the task at hand… and all this sometimes happened in a matter of split seconds!

Almost reminded of the book by Malcolm Gladwell: BLINK: The power of thinking without thinking.  I saw ALL of us “essentially seeing something that doesn’t register at the conscious-level but provides us a gut-feel about the thing”.  Behind this behavior, the intention is to stay connected and enjoy our social interactions which is big part of our lives while we do our best work.

I think FB window is not a distraction but a sense of connection in your day’s work. I believe with the advancement of technology and mobile communications, we are no longer able to separate work and life. So, if we are able to make a comment, like a status and check a pic of our friend on a vacation – we get a sneak peek into their lives – connect, comment, like and share while we are working. All this is based on our gut-feel, the first impression of the status – the power of our sub-conscious mind.

At work, sometimes we deal with people we don’t like or people who mean nothing to us and part of the work life issue is that you get to spend less time with people who matter. I felt this could play directly into feeling motivated with being able to contribute to our friends who matter…I have learnt about accidents, operations, movements, birthdays and baby showers on FB and made instant calls, comments and even visits based on my gut feelings.

Of course! like everything – “Too much of everything is BAD”. Moderation is key. And you need to be aware of this habit not to get lost in it but to find yourself and get back to being more productive!

Flexible Focus #3: The Principle of Interdependence

by William Reed on May 27, 2010

Want a shortcut to improve your life? Change the way you see and engage with your world.

Things are not always as they seem. What you thought was a snake in the grass turns out to be a rope. A person you dislike says something good about you, and you suddenly see them in a better light. A flexible mind is free of fixed perceptions.

The sand under your feet can be material for a sand castle, or for a silicon chip. A cup becomes a cup if you use it to drink with. To another person it might be a pencil holder, or even a weapon. We experience things less by what they are, than by how we see them.

Abraham Lincoln said that, most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. When you are dealt a wild card, you decide what it will be. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet that, there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

There are 3 ways to engage with the world, each reflecting a different level of maturity. The same process applies to the development of individuals, organizations and nations.

Dependence is where you take your instructions from others, and depend on others for your material needs. Outside influences largely determine how you think, feel, and decide. It is the state in which we are born, and in which some remain.

Independence is where you feed and fend for yourself, and strive to break free from the controlling influence of others. It is the creed of self-reliance, the striving to be captain of your own life. It is also a state of limited freedom, a gilded cage.

Interdependence is where you realize and cultivate the power of connection, and strive for synergy through the power of relationships. Knowing that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, you thrive by working for the good of others.

The progression from dependence to interdependence comes with growth and maturity. It is also possible to stagnate or regress, causing things to get worse. The cure for this is continuous improvement, for which the Mandala Chart gives you a map and a method.

Six steps to continuous improvement

  1. Give to others without expecting reward in return: While many people believe in give and take, this results in relationships tied to temporary transactions. A different perspective is giving without strings attached, knowing that givers gain. This results in long-lasting and rewarding relationships. There are many ways to extend a helping hand, if not through money or tangible resources, then through your time, expertise, and many small acts of kindness. Lighting the candle for others does not diminish your own flame.
  2. Maintain standards for the common good: Seek to act in a way that does not harm or inconvenience others. You can practice this in daily life simply by following rules that have been set for the common good. See that your lifestyle is one of health and sustainability (LOHAS). Behave in a way that is considerate of others. Some of these standards are set by law, others are dictated by common sense. You can also set higher standards for yourself that go beyond the minimum.
  3. Acknowledge and accept your current condition: Nobody is blessed with the best in all areas of their life. You may be financially secure, but not in good health. You may be happy at home, but miserable at work. Misery loves company, so you will find no lack of people wanting to pull you down to their level. However bad your current condition, complaining is likely to make it worse. You have to truly face and understand your condition before you can plan ways to improve it.
  4. Strive for continuous improvement: The power of continuous improvement is similar to the power of compound interest, which Einstein called the most powerful force in the universe. Don’t underestimate the results that you can achieve over time, nor the power of neglect over time. There is nothing in the world that cannot be improved, as long as you have the mindset to make things better. Though it may take time for outer results to appear, the best part is that you yourself will improve in the process.
  5. Be calm and act without confusion or haste: A Japanese proverb says that the hurried beggar stays empty handed. You might say that the beggar mentality is self-reinforcing. One thing people who rise above their circumstances have in common is a calm and steady commitment to improve.
  6. Polish yourself through practice: There are three kinds of people in life: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. You can live your life as a spectator or as a player. The best way to improve as a player is to practice. Continuous improvement is a verb.

In Eastern thought the word karma refers to the actions which actively shape our past, present, and future experience. Like the Celtic Knot, our world is closely woven and interconnected. It is through action that we engage more deeply in that connection. The rules of engagement are that if you engage in a positive manner, you get positive results in return.

Download a Mandala Chart showing the 8 fundamental areas of life. Ask yourself in your life, if they are happily interwoven, or a tangled mess? In future articles we will look at the 8 frames of life, and how to gain comprehensive life/work balance.

Work-Life-Balance

I wish that real life can be like reel life, where the hero just takes care of the villain and for a break just takes care of the lead actress every now and then. In real life, when you bootstrap a business, your family needs to be taken care of along with your business. If you are young and single, you don’t have to worry, but if you are like me, married and with two kids, family needs to be taken care of.

What if you get all the money in the world, but you lose your family? A true entrepreneur makes a difference in the world… but even in this case, charity begins at home first. So, the question is: How do you manage your family while taking care of your startup?

Here are some things to consider:

1. Notice and Manage Your Moods: If you throw a tennis ball at the wall, it will bounce back with the same force back at you. It is the same with your moods. Your moods affect you and the people around you. If you are angry, the people around you become grumpy. You say something to your wife angrily and she replies back angrily. Her only intent is to hurt you, since you hurt her. The same applies with kids. They may suppress it if they are young, but the natural reaction to strike back angrily is there.

So, the first step is to be calm in every situation. How can we be calm? I use a technique called the “1 second delayed response” All living beings including humans act by instincts. If something happens to us, we respond back immediately for e.g. If someone pinches us, we respond back with a shout or a hit immediately, but we as humans have one thing which no other species on earth has.. the ability to think. So, when something happens to us, before we respond, we can think… Just before you respond, think that you want to be joyful and calm. If you hold that thought for 1 second and focus on just that, your response will change. This whole thing about being calm and about managing moods is to make sure that we can think and act effectively most of the time in our life. If you are angry and upset , you would not be able to think and act effectively and this will affect your startup.

2. Spend quality time with your family everyday: We need to take a break from our activity to get our creative juices flowing. Even Winston Churchill used to engage in paintings when he was at war. Help your kids with their homework and you may discover something new. I discovered that I loved Math. I didn’t like math from my childhood, but I found that Math helps me think a lot and it was fun. You can also read to them for 15-20 minutes a day. Just to be with the kids wholeheartedly calms you down a lot.

3. Accept Failures With Grace: Children are drilled in school not to make mistakes, but that doesn’t apply for life and entrepreneurship. In Entrepreneurship, making mistakes is part of the game. It is good you teach kids this habit, before they enter school, so it is ingrained in them. Hey, they can break some things, it is fine.. the things are replaceable, but a habit developed for a lifetime is priceless.

4. Act Consistently: Don’t worry about teaching good manners and habits. If you force it, they won’t listen to you. So, what should you do, Easy.. You act the way, you want them to act. Remember, if you change, your kids change. I always remember this quote

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James Baldwin

Once you master the above four qualities, apply the same to your startup. After all, the startup is your child, too… isn’t it? Replace family with your team. If you are thinking of starting a startup, first start and practice in your family, then it will be way easier when you start a startup.

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