Are You a Caregiver or a Caretaker?

Photo by Cindy Hesterman

Are you a caregiver or a caretaker?  I was a caregiver for a while when my elderly mother became ill and eventually passed away.  I had some tough decisions to make, which were emotionally and mentally draining, even though I had outside help.  It was important to me to know that my mother was comfortable and in the best situation she could be, where people were there to comfort her and hold her hand when she needed it.  It’s hard to be alone and I could only imagine that I would want to have someone there for me who truly cared.

There was an amazing volunteer from hospice who would come and relieve me when I was caring for my mother at the end of her life.  He had been a hospice volunteer for over 26 years.  He had retired and had apparently earned enough that he didn’t need to earn an income any longer.  He decided that what he wanted to do was to volunteer with hospice.  He spent his days – long days – going from dying person to dying person, providing words of comfort, reading to them and holding their hand.  He also gave caregivers a break so they could go take care of themselves for a few hours each day.  He was such an amazing man.  My mom passed away on a Saturday morning after I had been doing an all-night vigil for 5 days and nights.  This man had come every day to stay for a few hours so I could get a shower, run errands, and get some exercise.  I knew that my mom was in good hands with him.  That Saturday morning when he arrived, he told me he could only stay for about an hour because he had to see 14 patients that day:  14 patients in multiple locations!  It was a Saturday and he had already worked a full week.  To realize that he was ending his volunteer workweek by visiting 14 different patients at multiple locations was amazing to me.  What an incredible, caring person – truly a caregiver!

I’ve met some leaders who seem more like caretakers.  A caretaker is someone who is employed to take care of a property, a cemetery, etc.  They make it look better by planting flowers, pulling weeds, and doing other things to maintain the appearance of the property.  Of course, appearances can be deceiving, and the property may be in much worse shape than it looks.  Caretakers are usually working with innate objects, while caregivers are usually working with human beings.

In your business, are you acting more like a caretaker or a caregiver?  Are you just touching the surface, making things look nice, but never really engaging with the people around you or making a true connection?  How much more of an impact could you have by really getting to know your employees and giving them your care and attention?

I’d suggest that we’d all be better off if more leaders were true caregivers like my friend at hospice – giving from our hearts.

 

Using Danica’s Outburst as a Leadership Lesson

Learn as a Leader

Many of you may have heard about racecar driver Danica Patrick’s reaction to a crash last week.  She was understandably upset about being wrecked for the third time in four weeks, however it was her apparent insensitivity to another driver that hit the airwaves.   Danica was being interviewed immediately after the crash while Aric Almirola was being cut from his racecar and airlifted to a hospital after suffering broken vertebra in his back, and her initial comments were all about her frustration and bad luck.  It took almost two minutes before she expressed concern for Aric. 

Leadership Lessons

While it’s unlikely anyone believes that Danica would wish harm to a fellow driver, her comments seemed insensitive and self-centered.  What can a leader learn from this situation?

All Eyes Are On The Leader

First, as a leader, it’s important to remember that all eyes are on you.  Your employees are always watching you, whether you realize it or not.  Some of them will observe your behavior and then emulate you, with the assumption that is how you’d like them to behave as well.

A Leader Remains in Control

Second, if you feel the need to have an emotional outburst, excuse yourself from the situation until you can gain control of yourself.  Danica could have said, “No comment”, and waited until later to be interviewed.  By giving the interview while she was still in “fight or flight” mode, she was unable to access higher levels of emotional intelligence and reasoning. 

A Strong Leader Takes Responsibility

Third, Danica talked about bad luck, and said that “every time I’m doing better, something stupid happens”.  How would you respond if your employees complained in that manner?  A strong leader should take responsibility and look at the situation as an opportunity to learn something.  It’s often the most difficult times that lead to the greatest growth for an individual or a company.

A Leader Remains Positive

Finally, let’s remember that our words and our attitude have a significant impact on our success.  If we focus on the negative side of things, we’ll continue to make that our truth.  However, if we focus on the potential opportunity to learn and grow, that will soon become our truth.

Which type of leader do you want to be?

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Pot O’ Gold

Seeking Your Pot O\' Gold

St. Patrick’s Day brings up thoughts of shamrocks, pots o’ gold and good luck.   Is your business success a matter of luck?  Or intentional value-creation?

One of the best things you can do to ensure a larger pot o’ gold when you sell your business is to hire the right people.  Hiring people just like you may not be as impactful as hiring people with different strengths and skills.  If you hire people to do the things you do not enjoy, it is likely that they will also do them better than you could, which allows you to focus on areas where you bring more value.

Note that hiring for different strengths and skills does not mean different core values, however.  A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values, and encourage those with different values to find employment elsewhere.  As the leader of your business, you should intentionally create the culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values.

Another thing you can do to increase the value of your business is to implement systems and processes so that the business is not dependent on you or just a few people.  Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed and expand your business.  A scalable business adds value in the long-term and allows you to take those much-needed vacations in the short-term!

It takes more than luck to create a successful business.  Why don’t you keep that pot o’ gold in mind as you hire the right people with the right core values and create the processes that will enable you to grow?  In other words, continue to work ON your business rather than IN your business!

 

A Positive Attitude Can Be Contagious

Parkour Egypt

 

I recently spent a week with about 25,000 teens at a national youth gathering.  You may have assumed that this posting on attitude would be about stereotypical negative teen attitudes.  Instead, I’d like to share my observation of how positive attitudes that week were contagious.

Everyone who attended the national youth gathering had to walk miles each day in high heat and humidity, wait in long lines, share hotel rooms with others, and sleep very little.  There were definitely many reasons to have a negative attitude (and all of us were tired and grumpy at some point during the week).  However, what impressed me was how quickly positive attitudes changed everything.

These teens went around saying “Hey” to other groups of teens and giving one another high-fives.  They burst into spontaneous song and dance, clapping and laughing.  When someone started to complain or feel sorry for themselves, another person distracted them or got them to laugh.  At one point, we had fun turning complaints into “love” statements, such as, “I love how much my feet hurt”, or “I just love sweating and standing in line”.  We were soon laughing and back in positive moods.

Vistage speaker Boaz Rauchwerger often says, “Fake it till you make it!”, and these 14-18 year olds showed me how effective that approach can be.   A positive attitude can be contagious.  As a leader, you can overcome the negative attitudes in your company with a little effort – even if you have to fake it till you make it!

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Bolt laughing

When was the last time you laughed so much that your cheeks hurt?  For me and 100 of my colleagues, it was just last week.  I was co-leader of an event in Boulder, CO for 100 Vistage/TEC peers from around the world.  My co-leader and I selected the topic of “Creative Brilliance”, which enabled us to take the group down a path most had never experienced.  We decided to bring in an expert to do a session on “Laughter Wellness”.  After sharing a bit about the physiology of laughter and the impact on health, she led us through 30 minutes of laughter yoga. 

At first, our “ha, ha’s”, “he, he’s” and “ho, ho’s” were forced, yet in a very short time, we were all laughing hysterically.  Each time I looked at someone else doing the motions, I found myself laughing even harder.  It’s amazing how terrific we all felt after just 30 minutes of laughter.  The tension left our bodies, and we were energized and ready to take on the world.  

It was a great reminder of how easy it can be to pull yourself out of the doldrums.  When you’re having a rough day, take a short break and watch a funny video, ask someone to tell you a joke, look at the comics in the newspaper, or just remember the last time you laughed until you cried.  Once you start laughing, invite others to join you so they can reduce stress and become energized as well.  Laughter is the best medicine – no prescription needed!

Time Management

*Time Alone*

Do you often find yourself saying you are “too busy” or that there “just aren’t enough hours in the day”?  I often speak with people who tell me that time management is a challenge for them.  A wise Vistage speaker once suggested that we should call it “priority management” rather than time management.  I agree since we can all make choices as to how to spend our time.

The fact is that each of us has the same number of hours in each day.  Some people seem to be able to find that perfect balance of time spent on various aspects of their lives and business.  Others struggle to find time for important but not urgent activities.  Have you talked to a leader recently who says they don’t have time to work out?  Or to take a day off?  Or to work “on” their business rather than “in” their business?  What they are actually saying is that those things are not a high enough priority right now.  If they were, they would be taking action to make time for them.

If you ever crammed for exams by pulling an all-nighter, you showed how you can shift your schedule to make time for high-priority activities.  Grades were more important than sleep that night.  Did you ever work so hard on a project that you realized you forgot to eat?  The work was more important than your awareness of hunger.  If you can put things higher on the priority list than sleep and food (which are pretty important!), then I know you can make time for those other things if you really want to.

 

Why not identify what you really want and then manage your time according to those priorities?

Emotional Intelligence

Conversation with a rescued owl

You may be smart, but are you emotionally intelligent?

Is there someone in your company who is very much attuned to the needs of others? They seem to be able to sense things about people that the rest of us miss. Others have a way of controlling their emotions and remaining level-headed in even the most stressful situations. I suspect each of you can think of at least one person who displays those characteristics. How do they do it?

Chances are that they have a high degree of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, also known as Emotional Quotient or “EQ”, is often defined as the capacity to understand and interpret the intentions, motivations and desires of others and the ability to understand oneself. EQ is often broken down into 4 core skills:

  1.  Self-awareness — is the ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and understand your tendencies across situations.
  2.  Self-management — involves controlling your own emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
  3.  Social awareness — is the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
  4.  Relationship management — is the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict.

Studies have shown that 90 percent of high performers are also high in EQ.   These are important skills for good leaders. The good news is that EQ can be developed.  You can start by taking an EQ assessment to identify which areas you would like to address, then by creating a plan to improve in those areas. By focusing on increasing your emotional intelligence, you will likely increase success in both your business and personal life.

Failure to Respond

Phone

Are you someone who fails to respond?  Not to cold-calls or blind solicitations, but rather to someone you contacted first?  I am curious what is causing you to behave in that manner?  Do you realize that when you reach out to someone else, they must spend time and energy to respond?  Your own lack of responsiveness when they reply to you creates more work for that person, who wonders if their message was actually delivered or tries another way to reach you, thus expending even more time and energy.  If you contact someone and then change your mind, it would seem to be common courtesy to let them know.  You could send a quick note or leave a voice mail message, anything that would enable the other person to take you off of their list of things to do.

Vistage is not for everyone, so I know that many of the people I speak with will not be a good fit for our organization.  However, I want to help people and will always try to respond in a timely manner when someone reaches out to me.  However, when they fail to respond to my offer to answer any of their questions or provide them with information, it becomes very frustrating.  I am left alternating between irritation, concern for their well-being, and curiosity as to why they reached out to me in the first place.

If you read this and realize you have been unresponsive to others, it’s not too late to change your behavior.  Just let them know you resolved the situation and no longer need their assistance.  Display some no-longer-so-common courtesy!

Procrastination

Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time

Have you ever noticed that there are some tasks on your to-do list have been there for a while?  If you’re like most people, it’s easy to see an item on the list and put it off for another day.  Then when that day comes along, you’ll move the task out even further.  As time goes by, you may realize that you have carried it on your list for several weeks.  Sometimes it’s a difficult conversation that you are procrastinating.  Other times it is related to doing paperwork or getting organized or other non-rewarding tasks.

You may also notice that there are other things that you love to do that never get carried over the next day’s to-do list.  As a matter of fact, I suspect that sometimes you actually complete them earlier than necessary.  Why do we delay doing some things and tackle others immediately?

This often happens because we have a to-do list that reflects unrealistic expectations of what can get done in a normal day.  If we lived on a deserted island with no phone or email, we might be able to accomplish the list in a day.  But we live in a world of frequent interruptions, and should allow cushion in our schedule to accommodate those interruptions.  However even if we were able to get through everything on our list, there are some things we would choose to do last because they are difficult, stressful, or are just plain boring!

If you recognize that you are a procrastinator, what can you do?  Here are a number of suggestions that have worked for me over the years:

  1. Delegate those tasks to someone who works for me
  2. Outsource the tasks to a company or person who does it well
  3. Barter with someone to trade tasks we don’t like to do. For example, “I will set up your spreadsheet if you set up my filing system.”
  4. Create a reward system: “If I get this task done on time the first day, I will reward myself with a chai tea latte.”
  5. Do the undesirable first – before working on something I enjoy
  6. Schedule a regular time in my calendar in which to accomplish those tasks.

Years ago, I used to let my office get messy with piles of paperwork and work that was partially done.  I could not seem to get to the task of cleaning and organizing during the work day.  Even if I stayed late on most weeknights, others were working late and interrupted me.  I learned that everyone left at 5pm on Friday, and I had a nice, quiet environment in which to roll up my sleeves and get this done.  I also could go home over the weekend without the nagging feeling of piles and a messy desk awaiting me on Monday.  Then when I arrived at work on Monday, I could walk in and feel relaxed because I had a clean desk to start my week.  It really reduced stress in many other ways – I was more efficient and could find information more quickly during the week, so I could get things done more quickly.

At another company, I used to arrive 1.5 hours before everyone else, and shut my door, turn off the email sound and my phone, and tackle the most important priority for the day.  It was amazing how much I could get done in that 90 minutes of uninterrupted, focused time.  The same thing can occur if you work from home for a morning each week.

I have come to love the feeling of getting things done right away.  I have learned that it’s much easier to block out time in my calendar to get things done than to deal with the subtle stress of carrying things over on a to-do list.  I have created a follow up system to easily track the things I am waiting on from others.  And I now have much more realistic expectations of what I can accomplish in a day.  Now it’s time for that chai tea latte…

Trust and Connectedness

Story Blog man hugging tiger

I had the pleasure last week of training new Vistage Chairs through our 6 day “boot camp”. It’s always fun for me to bring a group of strangers together and, in just a few days, create a tight-knit, bonded group of people. We do that intentionally to show them how quickly they should be able to bond their new Vistage groups once they are established, since creating an environment of confidentiality and trust is critical to the success of a new Vistage group. When people are truly connected on an emotional, caring level, they are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to help one another.

Of course, Vistage is not the only environment where that works. Our military branches also do a great job of connecting people emotionally to one another, which is crucial when their lives are on the line. Survivors of trauma are often also connected on a deep level with one another. Even kids attending summer camp away from home also can create close friendships in a very short time. Perhaps you have experienced this type of connectedness with others. Isn’t it a terrific feeling?

What could that type of bonding and closeness do for your business? What if your employees truly cared for one another, and went above and beyond the call of duty to help one another succeed? What if you were able to create a culture of trust and camaraderie? Not only could your profits increase, you would also likely attract the best new employees. In this competitive marketplace, that would be a valuable differentiator. Why not give it a try?