How We Will Survive with Generation ZWhat sets Gen Z apart from the rest of us and how can we best work with them? Step 1: take the time to learn more about these remarkable people.
My experiences with the newest generation entering the workforce
I was talking to a group of fourteen-year-olds about how far data storage had come in the last decade. I reminisced about taking floppy discs to and from school. When I finally left memory lane, I was met with blank stares. They looked around to see whether anyone else in the room understood the “innovations” of a time past.
The following Monday, I brought in a floppy disc, retrieved from a cabinet in my parents’ house, frozen in time circa 1999.
“Did you 3D-print that?”
My millennial brethren, we’re getting older.
For the better part of a decade, I had the privilege of being an educator in the public school system. As I worked with my Gen Z students, I learned a lot about what motivates them and how they learn. But I wanted to know more, so I did some research — surveys and one-on-one interviews — to delve deeper into their unique mindset.
During my interviews, the shocks kept coming. Just for fun, I asked the iconic question:
Were Ross and Rachel on a break?
A majority of them replied, “Who are Ross and Rachel?”
Considering their access to information, you’d think they’d know all kinds of trivia! These kids with their superior tech knowledge have the world at their fingertips. They must be lazy, or at least indifferent.
Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts, or heard comments like this from peers. Maybe you’ve even had comments like these directed at you. Every time a new generation emerges, the older generations doubt them. As a millennial, I felt it, and I’m sure our Gen X predecessors experienced the same.
These feelings are natural. Doubt is a product of unfamiliarity.
But my experiences and research turned me around on Gen Z. So let’s reframe our goal.
How We Will
SurviveThrive with Generation Z?
Step One is understanding them.
So what sets Gen Z apart? And how can we best work with them?
- Gen Z grew up in a tech world. They are the first generation made up only of “digital natives.”
- They prefer working in project teams with five or fewer people.
- During training or onboarding, they prefer an established team member to guide them through the process, with occasional check-ins for feedback. It’s essential to build this into the onboarding process to maintain mentorship and make new hires feel welcome and trusted.
- Many of Gen Z prefer a hybrid work format. Working from home is the least popular option. Unlike many of us, Gen Z’s education was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; they see the value of working from home but prefer to mix it with the traditional in-office format.
- Many of them prioritize work-life balance and are willing to take a lower salary to achieve it.
- If there is an issue in the workplace, many will prefer to let their manager know about it, rather than letting it go. We should foster an open and collaborative environment. Lack of experience does not mean lack of ingenuity.
- In fact, their biggest frustration with older generations is close-mindedness and the “we’ve been doing it this way for years” mindset. This is one of the most defining characteristics of Gen Z – they want change and are not afraid to speak up about it. For example, they are acutely aware of which cultural norms are outdated in today’s workplace; we should listen to them.
- Their biggest fear when entering the job market is competency. Having been students during the pandemic, many feel they‘re not prepared to perform. They feel the expectation of perfection from the get-go. They also sense a lack of confidence from older generations. We should provide a nurturing environment that allows them to grow and all of us to build upon their unique skills and perspective.
- Compared to my generation, they are more self-aware at a young age. They prefer a human-centric approach to work and consider it crucial to understand who they work with.
Doubt is a product of unfamiliarity, but establishing a baseline of familiarity is the first step toward overcoming this barrier. Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned were taught to me by Generation Z. Take the time to learn more about these remarkable people and see how they can help us thrive.
And yes, Ross and Rachel were on a break.
Training My Whole SelfIn 2016, I ran my first marathon. I learned a lot. Here’s what came across loud and clear on my journey to accomplish a physical, emotional, and mental challenge.
The Five Things My One Marathon Taught Me
In 2016, I ran my first marathon. I say first like there were more. Nope. Unlike the potato chip, one is just fine, thank you. That’s not to say I didn’t gain anything from my one-and-only marathon. I learned a lot. Here’s what came across loud and clear on my journey to accomplish a physical, emotional, and mental challenge.
Get ready to change. For me, training for a marathon meant running 5 to 20 miles a day, 5 days a week. Recovery and fuel needs were my guardrails for action. That meant knowing and acting on my requirements for nutrition, sleep, stress reduction, and support. And higher performance demanded tighter boundaries, which affected every area of my life. A huge goal aligns and balances all behaviors.
Remember that no one crosses the finish line alone. While it’s true that the miles don’t run themselves and no one can run the miles for you, it’s also true that community is critical for a big event to succeed. From street closures to water stations, people from diverse backgrounds come together to pull off a race. A simple “thank you for being here” or “I couldn’t do this without you” brought smiles to faces and went a long way in filling my cup long after the water ran out. Encouragement is sustenance.
Be present. My training volume forced me to tune in and listen to real-time feedback from my mind and body. Thoughts, feelings, and sensations sometimes conflicted with one another, and it was up to me to determine the next right thing. Being curious about what was happening and evaluating all feedback as information helped me decide when to push and when to rest. Being in the moment yields good decisions.
We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard. — John F. Kennedy
Take one step at a time. Look, running 26.2 miles is daunting. At mile 16, I was ready to quit. Thinking about all the work left and all the time it would take, all at once, might have caused me to give up. Instead, focusing on taking just the next step helped me finish.
Measure what matters. Knowing my finish time wasn’t going to be stellar, I relaxed around that particular result. Instead I assessed my enjoyment from day-to-day. Because I wasn’t riddled with angst about my time and had an eye on fun, I thought differently about running and kept going when things got hard. Choosing to measure joy supports desired behaviors and well-being.
Since then, I’ve continued chasing joy through physical activity. Running, yoga, CrossFit, hiking, you name it… Getting active helps me access the best within me to better contribute to others. Isn’t that what makes meaning?
The Nature of ResilienceThe stresses I feel from work are similar to those I feel in trail running. Here's why that connection is helpful.
Getting outdoors can help your mental health and boost your work stamina.
Today, the importance of mental health is being discussed everywhere. We’ve seen top athletes back away from big sporting events to take care of their mental health. It’s being discussed on talk shows. We hear about it in reference to school-age children. Unsurprisingly, we hear about it in the workplace, too.
Like most professionals, my day-to-day life can be stressful. I go from meeting to meeting…client to client…and spend a lot of time working through problems to help my clients succeed. At times, it feels overwhelming.
It’s during these times the importance of mental health comes to the forefront of my mind. It not just small kids, big-time athletes and other celebrities who need to take care of their mental health. It’s all of us…including us corporate types.
There are a lot of ways to maintain your mental health and they vary considerably.
Many people seek professional counseling and medication. Some find that changing their diet or getting more sleep has a big impact. Many simply need someone trusted to talk to. Others practice mindfulness.
Many researchers are talking more and more about the benefits of spending time in nature. They find that immersion in nature can benefit both our mental and physical well-being.
I completely agree with them. For years, I’ve been setting aside time to be outdoors. I hike, I bike, I kayak… Just about any outdoor activity you can imagine, I do it.
Most of my time is spent trail running. I’ve run lots of different distances: everything from 5Ks to ultra-marathons. My most common/frequent/favorite distance is the half-marathon. I recently completed my 88th half-marathon race.
Most of these races are on trails. There’s something about being out in nature (on dirt, in the hills, scaling mountains, in the woods, plowing through sands, etc.) that helps me to be more resilient.
Being mentally strong helps me adapt to change and cope with adversity.
The stresses I feel from work are similar to those I feel in trail running. Exposing myself to the stress of a trail run and learning how to manage through it helps me in other aspects of my life, including life back in the office.
Being in nature and running trails is my thing. Find your thing…and leave some white space in your calendar to actually do it. Mental health is something we should all work on.
Maintaining MotivationWhat the heck does a road trip have to do with a work project? Surprisingly, they elicit similar thoughts and reactions. Here's what I learned.
What your road trip can teach you about project success.
I recently returned from vacation. My family and I joined many of our fellow Texans in the annual summer escape from the heat and ventured to the mountains of Colorado. Sure, we could have flown, but we decided to take to the road and enjoy the freedom that comes from being in control of the journey. As we drove, the experience started to remind me of a project.
The trip started out early on a Sunday morning. We were full of energy. The SUV was packed, YETIs were filled with coffee, snacks were at the ready, and teenage sons had their phones fully charged. Things were great, until they weren’t. After five hours of driving, with five more to go, my back started to hurt. My teenagers were bickering like eight-year-olds, and everyone was starving. I even heard a few “how much longer?” comments. I started having doubts…was driving the right decision? Images of the Griswold family flashed through my head.
Fast-forward another five hours: after stops for lunch, fuel, and restroom breaks we approached our day-one Texas Panhandle destination. We made it! As we approached the highway hotel and the end of the day’s journey, I felt new energy. Sure, we weren’t in Colorado yet, our stopping point was far from glamorous, and there was more driving the next day, but we all felt a sense of accomplishment.
We hit the road after a quick, mediocre, breakfast buffet at the hotel. The good news: the day 2 trek was only six hours; the bad news: the day 2 trek was six hours. Coming off a below-average night’s sleep in a crowded double queen room filled with road noise, I felt less than spectacular. Why did we do this again?
Fast forward…Traci (my wife) offered to do much of the driving, and I dozed off while listening to music. We made it to our high-elevation destination by mid-afternoon. The mountains were spectacular, the condo was spacious with a great view, and we were walking distance from everything we needed. After a nice walk, a couple drinks, and a casual dinner with the family, all was well. It was worth it! We did it! We were ready to enjoy a week in the mountains. We even felt confident about the drive home at the end of the week.
What the heck does a road trip have to do with a project? Surprisingly, they elicit similar thoughts and reactions. Think about it. How do you feel at the beginning of a project? What about the middle? How does it feel when you hit a milestone or — even better — complete the project?
Most people are highly motivated at the beginning of a project. Sure, there is some nervous energy, but there is energy…natural energy! Leaders and team members are eager to get started and ready to take on whatever comes their way. Project leaders may even organize a kickoff event, complete with team dinner or celebration, to mark the occasion.
Change management practitioners should capitalize on the project beginning and design interventions that create even more “buzz.”
It’s a great time to seek out and engage the Innovators and Early Adopters in the organization. These people will be on board with the change and will build support from within the organization.
The middle is a slog. Middles are the time when people think, “Why did I sign up for this?” Project Managers and Change Managers must engineer wins to keep the team going. Maybe the project is organized in sprints. Sprints create natural milestones that team members rally around. Even better, they are often followed by “sprint retrospective” meetings to discuss what went well and what could be done better in the next sprint. Retrospectives give team members an opportunity to be heard and play a role in what happens next. This is essential to engagement, because people crave a sense of control.
Change Managers work with project managers to identify and create interim goals. We want team members to think “I was successful, and I can be successful again.” Interim goals feel more attainable than project completion. Team members are motivated when milestones or goals are met. They feel a boost.
Organizations should reward people when goals and milestones are met.
For example, “down days” (no meetings allowed), offsite events where the team completes a non-work activity together (e.g., a community service project), or spotlight awards – nominees are acknowledged and thanked by leadership and nominators are entered into a raffle for a prize.
Just as sprinters run a little faster at the end of the race, team members are motivated to push a little harder at the end. Natural energy abounds. Team members begin to evaluate the experience as a whole. Ends create a great opportunity to motivate through connection and impact. Are there photos of teamwork, quotes from stakeholders, events for sharing stories, or music that sums up the experience? Use them. Change and Project Managers must capitalize on desire to finish strong.
The element of time is powerful. Daniel Pink writes about this in his book, When. There are times when energy and motivation come naturally and times when they don’t. Change practitioners must intentionally capitalize on times of high performance and shore up points of lower performance. And travelers should plan their road trips accordingly.
Don’t Travel Like a RookieWhen it comes to traveling, I am a PRO. Well, I was a pro, pre-COVID. I found I’d forgotten almost everything I knew about traveling. Here's how I re-learned the art.
How I remembered everything I forgot about flying
I got into consulting because I wanted to travel. Over the course of my career, I have worked in 70 cities, in 11 countries, and on 4 continents. On weekends and holidays I travel just for fun…visiting another 26 countries, 2 more continents and countless other cities. In total, I’ve flown well over 2,500 times; I am the definition of a frequent flyer. I’ve had status on most major airlines and was Premier 1K (the level above Platinum) with United. I’ve had highest-level status with several big hotel chains including Hilton (Diamond VIP), Hyatt (Globalist) and Marriott (Platinum Elite). Over the years I have taken a lot of great vacations for free by using points. Not only that, I have probably given away more frequent flyer and hotel points than most people accumulate in a lifetime. I say all of that to say this: When it comes to traveling, I am a PRO.
Now, having said that, let me tell you this… In December of 2019, I was working with a client in Dallas, TX. On December 14, 2019, I flew first class from Dallas back to San Francisco. It would be my last flight for the next 20 months. I was home for the holidays and was happily working remotely in January and February of 2020. Then the pandemic hit and everything shut down. So, for 20 months, I was grounded.
To be honest, I didn’t miss the life of Ubers, airports, airplanes, rental cars, hotels, per diems, expenses and the headaches that come with all of that. For 20 months I worked from home. I actually never left the state of California. I was content jumping in the car on weekends and traveling up or down the coast or finding some nearby mountain to explore.
Then, all of a sudden, travel resumed (for me). In the last three weeks (from Aug 12-Sept 3), I have flown on 18 planes!
And I found I’d forgotten almost everything I knew about traveling. I was a travel rookie once again.
On my first trip, I ordered an Uber to take me to the airport. I did not think to look at my phone again to check on my ride. For some reason, I thought I would get a call when the driver arrived. I happened to see him sitting outside. He told me he’d arrived 15 minutes before I came out. ROOKIE MISTAKE #1.
I arrived at the airport and jumped in a line. Then I noticed everyone already had boarding passes and tags for their bags. I thought, “Hmm… Where did they get those?” Then I remembered I needed to visit the kiosk to get a tag for my bag. So, I got out of line. ROOKIE MISTAKE #2.
On that same trip, I had a connection. ROOKIE MISTAKE #3. When I deplaned, I realized I had lost my paper boarding pass for the second flight. ROOKIE MISTAKE #4 & #5 (paper ticket and losing it).
After managing to get on board for the second flight, I realized there was another stop before I would finally get to my destination. How could that be? Well, as it turned out, there was some small print on my email confirmation that said I would be making another stop, but I would not be getting off the plane. So, apparently, I did not read carefully when I was booking my flight. ROOKIE MISTAKE #6.
All three of those flights were delayed. I got to my final destination after midnight. After all that nonsense, I had to retrieve my bag and find transportation to my hotel. There was severe weather, which meant no Ubers or taxis. I waited 40 minutes before a taxi van showed up. So, along with three strangers, I jumped in the van and made my way to the hotel.
During the next three weeks I had several similar experiences with delayed flights…struggles with ground transportation…fights with taxi drivers…and so on. In three weeks, I think I had enough headaches to cover the previous 20 months. I’m all caught up now and hoping to regain my Travel Pro status.
Here are a few more pro tips for those of you who have not traveled in a while:
- Update your credit card information stored in apps. For example, your card info in Uber will eventually expire, and it’s a pain to have to update it while you’re trying to go somewhere. ROOKIE MISTAKE #7.
- Speaking of, the Uber app has changed. So, take a look at it before you need to use it. ROOKIE MISTAKE #8.
- Be sure to pack all those small things that make traveling a little easier, like ear buds or headphones. I forgot mine on the first trip. ROOKIE MISTAKE #9.
- Don’t let the delayed flights fool you. My flight on Friday, Sept 3 was scheduled for 5:55pm. As I was leaving the office, I notice the flight was delayed and wouldn’t be leaving until 8:37pm. With more than two and a half hours of extra time, I decided to go downtown instead of going to the airport. So, I found a nice restaurant and ordered dinner. After ordering my meal, I checked on my flight again. Instead of 8:37pm, it was now 6:37pm. I cancelled my order and walked outside to order an Uber to quickly get to the airport. Then I checked again and the flight was going at 6:01pm! So, it went from being a two and a half hour delay to only being a six minute delay and I was nowhere near the airport. Assuming the delay time would stick is ROOKIE MISTAKE #10.
I got there in time and I was the first to board the plane, so it all worked out. Until we pushed away from the gate and sat on the tarmac for an hour and a half. Oh well…
Safe travels to all!
A Mom’s Guide to Raising a Thru-HikerWhen Kerri's daughter decided to hike, off the grid, for weeks, she had to learn to cope. Read about how our Learning and Development Director navigated her own journey, as a worried mom.
This month, my 23-year-old daughter set off to solo hike the Colorado Trail. After a flurry of phone calls, text messages, and test pings on her Garmin GPS, I was cut off. In the days after she left, I trolled in vain for any sign of life, coming up with only an occasional Instagram photo.
The Colorado Trail is a continuous, narrow, 485-mile path from Denver to Durango. It passes through national forests, wilderness areas, and five major river systems, not to mention penetrating eight of the state’s mountain ranges.
In the reflective hours of sleepless nights, awaiting a crumb of communication from my baby, I wondered, “Why did she do this?” What made this young beautiful being want to bury herself deep in nature, alone, on such a harrowing adventure? Sure, it’s described as an amazing and life-changing experience, but it’s also described as a four-to-six-week journey bearing risks of hypothermia, dehydration, lightning, and snowfields in mid-summer. (WHAT?!)
Another question keeps knocking around in my head: “Is she prepared?”
What mindsets, skillsets, and toolsets are required to make this journey? Did I do everything I could—as her mom and biggest fan—to prepare her for this challenge? To be successful? Not just to finish, but to learn from and be transformed by the experience?
Here are my thoughts on what it takes to raise a thru-hiker.
Growth Mindset—Reserve the right to be smarter tomorrow than you are today.
Gratitude Mindset—There’s a gift in every experience you have if you know how to look. Expand your horizon and find gratitude for something…anything…everything.
Positive Mindset—Expect things to work out for you and don’t borrow trouble.
Resilience—Yesterday’s experience is behind you. Today is a new day with new steps to take. Get up, put your shoes on, and take the first next step.
Self-Reliant Learning—Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century transcendentalist philosopher said that non-conformity and self-reliance were the secrets to happiness. Take responsibility for your own life experiences.
Empathy—Be kind to yourself. In the darkness of night, with only your over-active thoughts and your hyper-vigilant senses, be the best listener and thought partner to yourself that you’ve ever known.
Nature’s Moments—When you notice your thoughts cycling or fixating on the past or future, step out into nature and take notice of its beauty. Breathe in the fresh air. Let the sun touch your skin. Take in an eyeful of lush green color. Listen to the sounds of birds, insects, and trees whispering in the breeze.
The Path—Someone has been down this road before. When you feel exhausted, hungry, and miserable, focus your attention on your feet. Feel them solidly on the ground. Think about where they’ve been and where they’re going. Say a word of gratitude for the work they put in on your daily grind.
Navigation—Feeling lost? Letting your mind over-process every little thing? Having a colossal self-talk berating? Reset your thoughts with your north star. Find one bright spot, literally or figuratively, and admire it. Tune out the noise of everything else and feel a connection with this guiding light.
If you thought these are only for my precious thru-hiker, you got me all wrong. I need these things as much as she does, as I cope with my hopes and fears for her adventure.
If you have a loved one embarking on a risky path, maybe these mindsets, toolsets and skillsets will help you accept what they need to do. And once you’ve accepted their journey, use it as a self-discovery adventure of your own.
- Stay curious. Use questions to navigate the problem solving, troubleshooting, learning, and discovery.
- Stay grounded (physically and mentally). Don’t attach your self-worth to the outcome.
- Stay open. Listen generously. Stand in the worn, weather-beaten shoes of your adventurer and imagine the view.
It may be clear to a few of you that this post is an elaborate ploy to brag about my daughter. Yes, she’s really quite something. Thank you for reading.
Pride Month 2021 Has Me Feeling Surprised & ThankfulThe compassion, empathy and resilient work ethic of my allies inspired me to exclusively seek roles under female leadership.
My advice? Find your allies.
This year I turned 39. Since my birthday I’ve been in a very reflective headspace—not necessarily because of the looming milestone of the big 4-0, but because the years went by so smoothly. The 22-year-old me, freshly graduated from Monmouth College, could not have envisioned his future.
You see I was born gay and once I fully understood what that meant, I leaned into it and found happiness and peace with who I am. Well, sort of. At the same time I understood people, and their opinions, are complicated matters. So, when it came to getting a real job, I was anxious. I didn’t want being gay to influence my professional opportunities. So I sanded the edges of my personality, molding myself into what I thought would ensure my success in the real world. I also leaned on charm. I nodded, smiled, and fake-laughed my way through awkward interpersonal interactions—even the most mundane like buying a used car or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Doing so made life easier and safer.
However—and let me be clear—I wasn’t embarrassed by my sexual orientation. I was aware, though, that it could be a blight on my resume. From what I had gleaned from life so far, being gay was viewed negatively by a majority of society. But I had bills to pay so I pressed on with my baggage in tow.
My first post-college job interview still haunts me to this day. I talked a big game, but my insecurities were insatiable. Would future employers sense my gayness because of the way my voice sounds? Would that affect my eligibility? Would future co-workers notice my mannerisms, my interests, or even the way I wore my clothes or hair? If so, would any of that affect our ability to work together?
“Don’t let them see you sweat,” I told myself.
The job was data entry at a law firm in the Quad Cities area. The gig didn’t offer much glamour or pay, but as an English major I felt it was an adequate entryway to the world of business writing. The interview was with a man who reminded me of Richard Dawson, sans the sense of humor. I don’t know whether my tailored suit or oversized smile turned him off, or if he naturally had a frowny disposition, but I sensed a downward spiral approaching.
From the jump I felt an air of condescension from “Richard.” He looked at me with a cocked head and sour face as I spoke about myself and the value I could offer his firm. I told him I was a hard worker and performed well under pressure, even adding that most people seemed to like me so I’m sure he would, too. None of that broke through—I got zero smiles, not a word of praise, nor any other courteous acknowledgement. He folded my resume in half and said his assistant would follow up with me. I was dismissed without even a handshake.
His cold indifference really did a number on my already shaky sense of self. I returned to my car feeling like I failed. I decided to go to the nearby mall for some retail therapy. As I strolled along the windows, stopping every now again to take pity on my reflection, a young woman approached with a beaming smile. She introduced herself and asked if she could talk to me for a second. Being the people-pleaser I am, I obliged. We walked the mall together as she told me a bit about herself. She was a regional manager for the clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. She asked me where I grew up, whether I had any notable hobbies, and what I saw for myself in the future. After a bit of back and forth, she encouraged me to apply for an assistant manager role at Abercrombie. I was taken aback. The Abercrombie brand was all about confidence and being cool, neither of which I felt I embodied. But I quickly said yes. I remember feeling so flattered and encouraged by the offer—to say the least, it was a stark contrast to the interview.
Dena hired me for the role and she became an invaluable mentor. Her compassion, empathy and resilient work ethic inspired me to exclusively seek roles under female leadership. Women, I learned, were often excellent role models and fierce allies. They helped me realize my gayness wasn’t a weakness; it was a strength and integral part of what makes me me. So, for the rest of my career and to this very day, I’ve worked for fantastic female leaders like Dena, Amanda, Diane, Susan, Karen, Stacy, Mary, and Trish… I’ve had the pleasure of working with the latter two ladies for the past ten years here at Emerson Human Capital.
So, as I approach forty and as we enter 2021’s Pride month, I want to say thank you to my allies. I owe a large part of my past and present to you, and I’ll take everything you taught me into the future. And for anyone reading this post, I hope I’ve helped you realize who your allies are, and to always be proud of whatever it is that makes you you.
From the Trails to the OfficeAfter 25-plus years of consulting and 100 endurance races, I’ve noticed lots of parallels. Here are a few.
9 Lessons Learned From 25 Years of Consulting and 100 Long Distances Races
After 25-plus years of consulting and 100 endurance races of half marathon, marathon and ultra-marathon distances, I’ve noticed lots of parallels. I’ve learned many lessons during my races that apply to my work as a consultant. Here are a few.
Lesson 1: Be thankful you’re able to lace up and go. Not everyone is capable of going for a long run. Some can’t make it due to their age. Some have health problems. If you can lace up and toe the line, you’re lucky.
Try to think that way about work. Sometimes it’s hard to jump out of bed and sprint to work with a smile on your face. But recognize that there are people who would give anything to have your job. Understand that you are blessed. Be thankful for the opportunity and make the most of it.
Lesson 2: You have to show up in order to finish. Lots of people talk about doing marathons and ultra-marathons. Not a lot of people show up on race day. In order to cross the finish line you have to first cross the start line.
It’s just as true in business. It’s critical to “show up” each day. You can’t succeed if you only bring your A Game occasionally. You have to bring it every day, for the duration of the engagement. You have to show up in order to get your project over the finish line.
Lesson 3: Drink before you’re thirsty. One of the keys to finishing long distance runs is hydration. Drink early and often. Your body will appreciate it and you’ll be able to go the distance.
As a consultant, it is important to stay abreast of the latest trends, research, methods, and technologies. Continuous learning is vital to serving your clients or supporting your business. Read. Attend lectures. Participate in professional conferences. Take online courses. Seek certifications. Don’t wait until you need to know something to begin your search—stay on top of the latest information in your field. In other words, “drink before you’re thirsty.
Lesson 4: Never pass an aid station without refueling. Sometimes, on the trail, runners feel like they are falling behind so they bypass an aid station to make up time. Inevitably, this comes back to bite them. In your race prep, you develop a plan. In that plan, you’ve outlined all the things you MUST do in order to be successful. If it is a good plan, stick with it. That includes refueling at the aid stations.
On your project, spend enough time planning the work. Understand where all the “aid stations” are. We often refer to them as milestones. Be smart about how and when you’ll get there. Be prepared to pause, take stock, and celebrate this small victory. Let your team know how well they’ve done to get to this point. Remind them where the next milestone is and what it will take to get there. You and your team will benefit from taking these pauses to refuel.
Lesson 5: On the tough parts, keep your eyes on the trail. When it’s safe, look up and enjoy the view. There are lots of obstacles along the trail. It’s easy to lose your concentration. It’s easy to stumble and fall. You have to maintain your focus to do well.
The same is true at work. Things come up. Obstacles appear. Keep your eyes on the “trail” as you move toward your milestones. Some parts of the project will be trickier than others. Use extreme focus on those parts. But, when you can, look up and take in the big picture. Celebrate how far you’ve come. Try to enjoy the journey.
Lesson 6: When you’re feeling good, encourage other racers. You’ll need for them to return the favor when you’re not. As you run past your fellow racers, offer them a word of encouragement. It’s amazing how your quick gesture helps push them along.
The same holds true with your work colleagues. Look for opportunities to stop and offer them a pat on the back, a kind word, or a listening ear. There will be days when you’ll need for them to return the favor.
Lesson 7: If someone goes down, stop and help them. On the trail, things happen—pulled muscles…twisted ankles…heat exhaustion…cramps…slips, trips, and falls. When you come across someone in trouble, you help them. You get them on their feet or you offer them water or you go for help. You don’t run past them.
In business, people go down as well. It is often obvious when someone is struggling. You can see that they’re not going to make a deadline or won’t deliver the best deliverable. Help them. Can you act as a sounding board? Stay after work to lend a hand? Give up your lunch hour to listen to your colleague practice a presentation? Figure out a way to help. Your colleagues will appreciate it and the team will benefit.
Lesson 8: Run when you can. Walk when you have to. Just get to the finish line. Finishing is what matters—not how fast. Many runners get stuck focusing on their time. They want to go fast. They want to set a personal record. And some push so hard they end up dropping from the race (because of injury, exhaustion, mental fatigue, etc.). Sometimes it’s better to slow down. Slowing down can help a runner get to the finish line.
In business, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Go slow to go fast.” This is the same concept. Sometimes there is benefit to taking a step back—revisiting the work plan and focusing attention in another area for a moment in order to ensure you get to the finish line. Keep your overall goal in mind. What is it you’re trying to accomplish? What problem are you trying to solve? I’ll bet it has nothing to do with how fast you finish. So, slow down. Get it right. Deliver a great solution. If your company or client tries to push you to finish faster, remind them why you’re there. Remind them of the benefits of success and the cost of failure. Let them know you want to get it right. Tell them, “sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.” Changing those behaviors, implementing that new technology, or whatever your project has been tasked with will eventually help your client go faster.
Just keep running.
Lesson 9: An endurance run isn’t the most difficult thing you’ll ever experience. When you feel like quitting, keep that in mind. Don’t get me wrong, some runs are very difficult. Running 31 miles through the mountains, in the rain, can be a challenge. Climbing thousands of feet in the heat, or running hills over and over again along a 26.2 mile course can be debilitating. You’ll want to quit. When these thoughts enter your mind, remember, this isn’t as hard as life gets. There are many things harder than running in the mountains. I won’t list them here; I’m sure you know what they are. I’m sure you’ve experienced some of them. When you think about those trials, you realize you have it pretty easy to be spending the day in the mountains, breathing good air, getting some exercise, and enjoying the companionship of like-minded people.
We all have tough days at work. Tough months… Tough clients… Think back to all those “tough” experiences. You survived them all. Keep plugging away. Recognize those bad days aren’t so bad; you can handle them. Just keep running.
Endurance running and consulting: same thing, different wardrobe. Who knew?
Resilience v2020What is resilience and how do you build it? As a two-time cancer survivor, here's what I know.
Unprecedented. Yep, that’s about it. Let’s think about what’s been unprecedented in the past eight or nine months.
- COVID pandemic and the associated economic and jobless numbers
- Ongoing social justice marches involving people of all races and ages, in reaction to police killings
- 600+ fires in California due to exceptional lightning storms
- Americans locked out of other countries because we’re viewed as the disease vectors
- Murder hornets
It almost seems like the ten plagues in the book of Exodus!
Daily articles report the number of Americans suffering from anxiety and depression. It’s no wonder; it’s easy to feel like we’re in a dark hole that’s just getting deeper.
We know the world will not go “back to normal” in the next six months.
What to do? Call on your old friend, resilience.
We all have it. Some have more than others, but we all have some in us. Who got you to move on when your parents divorced? Resilience. When your dad passed away? Resilience. And when you lost the “love of your life” to your best friend? Resilience.
What is resilience?
It’s the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty or challenges of any kind and (hopefully) come back stronger, wiser, and more empowered.
How do you build it?
There are thousands of books and articles on how to build resilience, written by people with lots of good credentials. Just Google it.
I’ll tell you what has helped me. (As a person who has survived multiple recurrences of life-threatening pancreatic cancer and one bad encounter with colon cancer, my resilience credentials are pretty good.)
- Love yourself. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Eat well, laugh, go to sleep at a decent time, play, and exercise. Be gentle with yourself. Be proud of who you are as a human being, not just as a partner, sister, daughter, or employee.
- Take one day at a time and avoid the what-ifs. What-ifs usually are negative, rarely positive.
- Focus on what you’re grateful for, not what you don’t have. For example, maybe you’ve just been laid off. But you have a loving partner. Maybe you can’t travel to see your mother in Germany. But you can still run outdoors and enjoy nature.
- Live each day as happy as you can—in that day. Today may not be one of the happiest in your life but, provided the givens, how can you make it a decent day? For example, let’s say air quality is an unhealthy 160. Stay indoors and have your own dance party! Dance and jump like a kid—unencumbered.
- Compartmentalize. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the woes of the world. Focus on one of them at a time. Or if that’s still too big, take a big break and stay inside your bubble. Immerse yourself in some healing, calming, or creative activity. Draw, exercise hard, binge-watch, make a multi-step dessert…the news usually does not change that dramatically from day-to-day. It will be there tomorrow, if you want to engage.
- Share one thing that was good about your day with someone, or record it in a journal. It may be very small—maybe you saw a lady bug on a flower in your backyard, or your morning cup of coffee was exceptional.
One last thing: they say that if you force yourself to smile, you’ll actually feel better. Try it!
Dear CoronavirusWhile many have suffered from a devastating health crisis, COVID-19 also opened our eyes to the need for real transformation.
As strange as this seems, I have a love/hate relationship with you. While so many around the world have suffered in the last few months from a devastating health crisis you caused, you also did something good. You exposed our flaws and opened our eyes to the need for real transformation.
At first, we were at a loss. You forced us to stay at home and we didn’t know how to handle that. Work from home? Be at home? With the entire family? 24/7? Home-school our kids? In a world where everything has become social, offices have moved to blue-sky models, collaboration is king, companies have moved to face-to-face and personalization as the best ways to communicate…here we are, suddenly isolated.
What’s old was new again. Families started to eat dinner together, watch movies together, play board games, and do puzzles. As we began to social distance, institutions on the verge of going under, like drive in movie theaters, began to surge.
More importantly, we saw positivity and creativity. Communities supported each other with food and supplies. Businesses got creative about how to work and how to deliver to customers.
The whole world began to think differently, work differently, relate differently, and behave differently.
Then, the death of George Floyd happened. Suddenly, people came together in a different way—in a protective and resilient way. And while you did not cause that, you set the stage for it. You stoked a feeling that we must stand up and fight to survive. That if we can survive you, we can survive a lot. And that, when the racism reared its ugly head— again—it would not be ignored.
This time, we had already rallied around a cause. You reminded us that, standing together, we are more powerful. And that’s when something beautiful happens. We behave differently. We say “No more. Not on my watch.”
So while you continue to linger in our lives like a toxic cloud (and, in a cruel irony, attack people of color more savagely than the rest), you have revealed our power. You helped us realize that, while we can’t control you, we CAN control some things.
Dr. Martin Luther King wrote,
“Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
You poured alcohol on the open wounds that need to heal. You’ve brought light to things that need to be more visible and voices to those who didn’t realize they could be so loud.
You showed us what it means to slow the day down, appreciate what we have, love each other, stand up for what we believe in, and maybe even restore our faith in humankind. You reminded me of the power of real change— transformational change. I still hate you. But how amazing it is to be part of that.