Food for Thought

“My gift to you if you are a leader and need to find some new ways to fill your own tank. Take 38 minutes to learn what “people nutrients” you can add to your life and how to do it.”

Listen to 58: Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Key Relationships from Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast in Podcasts.

In an article that first appeared in Inc Magazine, Vistage research has some ideas on how to be more customer centric to grow your business.

5 ways to focus on the customer to grow your business

by Joe Galvin

Top-performing CEOs understand that whether you aspire to enter new markets, win new business or sell more to existing accounts, you need to be relentlessly focused on customers.

Data from our Q1 2019 CEO Confidence Index report indicates that many CEOs of small and midsize businesses are optimistic about their firm’s growth prospects this year. Nearly three-quarters (70%) of the 1,729 CEOs surveyed anticipate that their firm’s sales revenues will increase during the next 12 months, while another 22% expect them to remain the same. Only 7% expect revenues to decrease.

What makes so many CEOs confident about their growth prospects? Our CEO Projections for 2019 report reveals that it boils down to having a strong strategy. CEOs say they’re focusing their strategies around three priorities this year:

  1. Expansion. Companies are entering new geographies and markets, acquiring competitors or adjacent businesses, and introducing new products or services.
  2. Talent. Firms are hiring and training salespeople to increase market reach and penetration, as well as sales leaders to drive accountability and performance.
  3. Marketing. Firms are projecting messages about customer value through digital and human channels with the goal of creating demand in new and existing markets.

There’s one variable that unites these three priorities: customers.

Make customers the priority

When asked about priorities for customer engagement, CEOs cited customer service as their no. 1 priority this year. Customer-facing resources directly reflect your brand and business. They can also serve as a powerful revenue generator by identifying new opportunities to grow with existing customers or grow new customers from referrals. Here are 5 ways to become more customer-centric:

  1. Align your sales teams with your customer service teams. Together, these teams create what becomes the customer experience.
  2. Recognize the implications of customer experiences. Customer culture is the aggregate of customer experiences with your company, whether those experiences are created through digital or human interactions.
  3. Provide consistent and clear messaging across all platforms. This will help you build trust and strong connections with your customers.
  4. Give your customers something (good) to talk about. Customers are your best source of referrals. They will talk to others about their experiences with your customer culture, so make sure those experiences are overwhelmingly positive. Develop a referral program that is driven by customer service asking for referrals, which will then turn into new sales leads.
  5. Leverage artificial intelligence to provide world-class service. Consider whether AI can help automate simple tasks and give your teams more time to deal with complex customer service issues. Some experts say that, in the near future, companies are going to start combining human interactions with AI technology to provide exceptional customer services.

This article first appeared in

They say gratitude is the key to happiness. According to this article it is also the key to good leadership.

Why Living With Gratitude Will Make You a Happier, More Effective Leader by Hayley Panagakis

There’s nothing quite like the holidays—when people come together to meet with friends and family and reflect on the last 12 months. It’s my favorite time of year, and for many of us, it’s one of the only moments we stop to truly count our blessings. Most of the time, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle of our everyday lives and forget to think about all the good happening around us.

I recently watched an episode of SuperSoul Sunday in which Oprah Winfrey interviewed Brother David Steindl-Rast, a 91-year-old Benedictine monk, who authored several books including A Good Day: A Gift of Gratitude and Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness. In the episode, Brother David discusses the one thing all humans have in common: a yearning to be happy. And not just any kind of happy—the kind of happy that lasts: joy.

Joy can’t be found in material items; it isn’t based on your financial standing or the accomplishments that you’ve earned on your path. Just think about it: There are people who seem to have everything yet they aren’t happy, and those who have nothing but they are joyful at their core.

So, what is the secret to finding joy in life? According to Brother David, the key to long-term happiness is grateful living.

“Gratefulness is a way of being,” he says. “At every moment, life gives you the opportunity to do something with what life gives you… Grateful living means learning to avail yourself, moment by moment, of that opportunity. Most of the time it’s the opportunity to enjoy.”

Don’t wait until you lose your sight to appreciate that you can see, says Brother David. There will be times when life deals you a bad hand, but you shouldn’t wait for that to happen before you decide to count your blessings. Grateful living infuses victory into moments when it may be easier to count our losses; it looks at life’s worst experiences and shifts the perspective to make them life-giving.

As leaders, it’s crucial to think about how we are giving life to those who follow us, worrying less about our own joy and more about the joy of others.

“Leaders, you have an opportunity,” writes Judith W. Umlas in her book, Grateful Leadership: Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results. “First and foremost, it is to be deeply grateful for the opportunity you have to lead people… You want to establish an atmosphere in which the people you lead can thrive, and not just survive.”

Judith shares five Cs of grateful leadership that not only allow you to express your gratitude and appreciation to your team members, but also help foster grateful living within the lives of each person on your team. They are:

1. Consciousness. Be aware of what you’re grateful for. Make note of them as they cross your mind.

2. Choice. Know you are the only person who can make the decision to either show your gratitude, keep it to yourself or not recognize it at all.

3. Courage. Expressing gratitude is an act of vulnerability. Summon the courage to speak up and encourage vulnerability within your team as well.

4. Communication. Consider the best way to reach the person you want to thank.

5. Commitment. Let showing gratitude become a habit and commit yourself to being a grateful leader. You’ll see your team members come alive, take more initiative and be more engaged in the work they do.

William Arthur Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” As you continue with your day, think about what you’re grateful for. Stop, take a breath and enjoy the gifts you have around you.

Then, look beyond yourself and consider how you can encourage grateful living among your team. It’s more than just leading by example; it’s how you express gratitude to them that makes them want to pay it forward in their own lives.

This article from Hunt Scanlon Media takes a look at the latest generations to join the work force. Move Over Millennials, There’s a New Workforce in Town

Gen Z, the latest generation to join the workforce, is more positive about the future, say nearly 60 percent of the professionals who responded to a new Korn Ferry survey. More than half of the respondents believe that Gen Zers will bring more motivation to their work. Leading search consultants weigh in from Kinsley|Sarn Executive Search, The Ropella Group, The Bowdoin Group and IRC Global Executive Search Partners!

September 13, 2019 – Generation Z. It is the first generation to know only a digital world. Its members grew up playing on their parents’ mobile devices, and many had their own smartphone as early as elementary school. Now that they’re on the brink of entering the job market, older workers are wondering how these “digital natives” will impact the workforce. There are many other monikers given to this generation, including Digital Natives, Globals, Post-Millennials, Millennials-On-Steroids, iGeneration, Plurals, the Homeland Generation, Centennials and Delta Generation, or Deltas.

As the generation born between 1997 and 2010 enters the workforce, a new Korn Ferry survey of professionals of all ages examines how the next generation in the workplace is bringing plenty of optimism, big purpose and less stress than Millennials (born from 1982 to 1996). Nearly two-thirds of respondents (60 percent) said Gen Z is more positive about the future. In the workplace, that forward-thinking outlook is a big ingredient for success.

The Korn Ferry report found that more than half of the respondents said that the Gen Z members will bring more motivation to their work than Millennials do and that Gen Z will place more emphasis on whether their work has purpose.

To Korn Ferry senior director Mark Royal, it’s a belief the younger group is “ready to take on the world.” It’s a far cry from when Millennials first started entering the workforce in the early 2000s. “Indeed, there were countless articles about how older workers viewed Millennials as entitled, lazy, self-absorbed and disloyal to their employers,” he said. “Those stereotypes of Millennials have been dispelled (or at least not expressed so openly any longer since many Millennials are now bosses). Nevertheless, experts say it’s noteworthy that Gen Zers do not have those stigmas hanging over them when they enter the workforce.”

Less Anxious than Millennials

Professionals also viewed Gen Zers as are less anxious than Millennials. Two thirds of respondents said Millennials are more stressed. Mr. Royal attributes some of that to the different events that each generation came of age with. “Millions of Millennials were in the early stages of their careers when the Great Recession began in 2007, while their parents were still in the middle or latter stages of their careers,” he said. “Between 2007 and 2009, many lost their jobs, fell behind on their finances or experienced other hardships that persisted for years.”

Generation Z members, on the other hand weren’t even in high school yet when the economy started to recover in 2009. “We have seen nearly a decade of prosperity, and that is what members of Gen Z experienced in their formative years,” Mr. Royal said.

Survey respondents were split on which generation values work/life balance more and which generation will be easier to work with. But nearly two thirds, 65 percent, of Millennials are more motivated by moving up quickly in their careers than Generation Z members are. “Each new generation entering the workforce brings with it unique attributes and challenges,” said Mr. Royal. “The key for managers is to understand what motivates all employees to bring their best to their jobs every day and to create a culture where all employees feel supported and valued.”

Top Search Consultants Weigh In

“Mark Royal nailed it when he stated that understanding individual motivators is critical to creating successful multi-generational cultures,” said Kellie Sarn, managing partner at Kinsley|Sarn Executive Search. “When you invest the time to acknowledge the differences, leverage the strengths, and identify opportunities that harness the collective passions and values of your workforce, exceptional results happen. This can only happen when managers are willing to flip the script on generational differences and realize that it actually provides the ideal environment to experience and foster incredible organizational growth.”

“Although there are some distinct differences between generations, you should always try to meet candidates and employees without preconceived notions about who they will be,” said Patrick Ropella, chairman of The Ropella Group. “After all, you never know when someone will surprise you. The best way to build relationships and drive employee motivation is to get to know them on a personal level, to learn what drives them and what they’re truly interested in. ‘Snowflake’ has become a common insult to hurl at younger generations – originally aimed at Millennials, but there has actually been conversation about renaming Gen Z ‘Generation Snowflake’ – but that’s really how you have to approach your relationship building. Each individual is unique.”

“With the addition of Gen Z, we now have five generations in the workplace — meaning five unique facets of needs and motivation,” said Dave Melville, founder and CEO of The Bowdoin Group. “Executives and senior HR leaders face the challenge of addressing all of those needs when growing their teams. Just as millennials have drastically changed the way we work — for example achieving greater work-life balance and finding more professional purpose and meaning — Gen Z will make their own marks on today’s workplace. Executive and HR teams that listen and respond to Gen Z needs in the same ways they’ve done with millennials and other generations will be ahead of the pack in attracting and retaining them.”

“The report provides some interesting and useful observations about the younger workforce,” said Rohan Carr, president of the IRC Global Executive Search Partners. “However I wouldn’t overemphasize the differences between generations over time – I think sometimes the way we look at different generations can say as much about but the observer as the person being observed.” In his experience, he said that fundamental issues of motivation, engagement, the boss-subordinate relationship and work value have not changed. “Maybe something that should be also looked at is the impact of technology and the speed of change and how this is affecting workers at all levels,” he said.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

This article from FastCompany addresses: How to keep your work from creeping into your personal life. Why do so many people feel like they’re never really able to turn work off completely?

By Elizabeth Grace Saunders

With some jobs, you truly do have to be available to work 24/7: think doctor on an on-call day. But most jobs don’t require giving your work this level of access to your personal time. So why is it that many people—likely you if you’re reading this article—feel like they’re never really able to turn work off completely?

In my work as a time management coach, I see that this “work creep” falls into two big buckets: work you need to complete, and interruptions from others who want something from you. With both buckets, you can proactively reduce the amount of time work intrudes in your personal life with some simple, yet powerful, time management strategies.

Work you need to complete

If work outside of when you want to be working happens primarily due to your own uncompleted tasks, you’ll need to push back more during the workday to protect your time after hours.

1. Know what you need to do

The first step to avoiding working outside of work is to know exactly what needs to be accomplished for the week. Increasing your awareness of what might keep you up at night or working on the weekend allows you to not have it surprise you at the end of the day or the end of the week. Then if possible, look for open blocks of time in your calendar when you can complete the work—for example, an hour gap between meetings or an open morning. If you don’t have any open time, then you’ll need to begin blocking time out in your calendar if you want to have any hope of getting work done at work.

2. Hide from people

Once you have time blocked, you’ll need to work to protect it, including potentially declining meetings that people try to set during that time. In many work environments, it can be hard to get work done at your desk because of the number of interruptions. You may need to take it a bit further and find a place to hide. That could look like simply closing your door (if you have one), finding a conference room, a quiet area of the building with empty desks, or even working from home or at a coffee shop. Remember: If you don’t hide from people at work, you’ll end up hiding from your family and friends outside of work because you still have stuff to get done.

3. Get out of your inbox

During your work time when you are trying to get tasks done, limit the amount of time you spend being responsive. Offices have different standards so some people may truly need to be instantly responsive. Generally, however, giving yourself 30 (or even 60) minutes away from answering email or other forms of communication is acceptable. That way you’re keeping space open at work to complete tasks and slowing the churn on items that may not be that important.

With the above three strategies, you may not eliminate tasks you need to complete outside of work but you can greatly reduce them.

People who want something

Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them. If work creeps into your personal life because of others’ uncompleted work, then you’ll need to put a greater emphasis on pushing back during the hours when you want to be off.

1. Ask what people need

Instead of assuming that people will come to you with enough time to get help, go to them first. If you’re a manager, ask your direct reports what kind of feedback they will need from you. Also, let them know when you will need to receive things in order to review them. Getting something at 10 p.m. that needs to go out to a client the next morning is a recipe for grumpiness. If you’re on a project team, get clear on where your colleagues may need something from you, and prioritize that work during your day. It’s ideal for people to come to you, but if they’re not traditionally proactive, you can take the initiative to find out what’s needed from you.

2. Do what you said you will do

You teach people what to expect from you. If you said that you will get feedback to them by a certain time, keep that commitment. If you said that you wouldn’t check email after 6 p.m., stay off of it.

If you consistently demonstrate through your actions that you do what you say you will do, people learn that you’re serious. On the other hand, if you don’t do what you say you will do, people will expect that it’s okay for them to turn things in late because you do the same. Or they will learn that you will check for their work on the weekends even though you said you wouldn’t.

3. Unplug from work

Ideally, you can have a separate phone and computer for work. That way you can leave one or both tools at the office—or at least keep them in your laptop bag. If for some reason that isn’t possible, you can at least do things like shut off work email notifications when you’re done for the day or the week.

In some cases, you do need to know what’s going on. But in many cases, situations can wait. If you don’t know about them, they either figure themselves out, or you can attend to them when you return to the office.

Using these strategies, you may not prevent all work creep due to other people’s emergencies, but you can at least prevent a great deal of it. It’s time to work hard on the job and then give yourself permission to be off the clock.

About the author

Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the author of Divine Time Management and How to Invest Your Time Like Money and a time management coach.

Courtney Rosenfeld, author, creator of Gig Spark shares some tips on using outsourcing. Especially relevant in this tight labor market, it might make sense for some of your work to be done by a non-employee.

A Cost-Effective Investment: Finding Good Freelancers

Hiring a full-time employee is a big investment when you factor in salary, benefits, training, and overhead costs. However, it doesn’t always make good financial sense, especially if you can find a talented freelancer to do the same work at a fraction of the cost. According to Forbes, it’s a lot easier to find qualified, affordable freelancers these days than it used to be — after all, they’re expected to comprise a majority of the US workforce by 2027.

Freelancers are less expensive in the long term because they’re generally paid a one-time contract fee to perform a specific job for a set period of time, which (usually) ends when the work is delivered. The trick is finding good ones. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Assess Your Need

Think through the work at hand and assess the qualities and background of the individual you’d want for that particular role. Make a list of the personal attributes and experience you’d expect, and then conduct your search based on those parameters. Spend some time on social media (LinkedIn and Facebook) and freelancer websites studying the profiles of people who’ve built solid reputations doing great work.

Outsource Your Needs

There are plenty of tasks that take up your time. Imagine how much more efficient and profitable you could be by plugging in the right freelancer to handle that work. For example, data entry is a specialization that’s ideal for an experienced, organized, and detail-oriented professional. Look for specialists such as an Upwork data entry contractor who can help you with everything from documents to databases and spreadsheets. Farming out this important and time-intensive responsibility will help you focus on other responsibilities, such as promoting and growing your business.

Check out the Reviews

Many freelance platforms allow former employers to leave comments about the quality of the work for which they contracted. These are good places to seek out qualified people because you can choose from a list of professionals with established track records. Employer reviews will tell you a lot about a freelancer’s skill and suitability (much like Angie’s List can help you find a good housing contractor or landscaper).

Ask Around

Chances are your colleagues, clients, and former co-workers can help you find quality freelancers, either from firsthand experience or through word of mouth. Do some networking at professional conferences, and put out the word via social media that you’re looking for a qualified person for a specific role. Also, include details like the assignment’s expected length and whether they’ll be working from home or in your office. 

Ask Prospects to be Specific

If you’re looking for a freelancer, chances are you don’t have a lot of time to waste going back and forth with prospects. Be direct — ask candidates to include a cover letter with their rates so you can weed out overpriced candidates right away. Always set an application deadline to see who’s reliable (and who’s paying attention).

Don’t Jump the Gun

Take your time finding the right person, even if you’re on a tight deadline. It’s better to be thorough, ask plenty of questions, and hire a reliable individual than trying to cope with the foibles and shortcomings of someone you hired in a hurry. You shouldn’t settle or compromise when choosing a freelancer anymore than you would if hiring a full-time employee.

Remember, the work your freelancer does represents your company, so take the time to find the right person for the job; if things go badly, explaining to a customer that you hired the wrong person won’t salvage the situation. Use your personal contacts and professional network, and pay careful attention to online feedback and reviews. It might require some hard work and dedication, but your diligence will pay off in the long term.

Written by Courtney Rosenfeld, author, creator of  Gig Spark

Its tough everywhere, and some companies are bending to get the employees they need. Are there policies you could bend in order to attract more candidates? Question becomes, what are you sacrificing, and where should you stand firm?

Drug tests and background checks are becoming less important to employers. Here’s why… By Kathryn Vasel, CNN Business

It’s brutal out there for employers looking to hire.”America has a talent crunch,” said Steven Lindner, CEO of The WorkPlace Group. “This one, unlike past ones, is across all age groups. We also see it across all industries.”

So some companies are reducing hiring requirements — like drug testing, background checks and the amount of experience and education wanted. When Bob Camire started working at New England Document Systems in 2010 he had no problem finding workers for the document management company — even for the entry-level production positions that paid $8 an hour.

“We had people beating down our door to get in at the low rate we were offering at the time,” said Camire, who is the director of human resources and operations. “We had one person coming in for an $8-an-hour job who was earning $60,000. Today, the total opposite is true.” To help expand its applicant pool, the company is more lenient on what it will let pass in a background check, according to Camire. Previous blue-collar crimes, like drug or alcohol-related offenses and motor vehicle issues, aren’t automatic disqualifiers unless the position is for a driver or safety-related position. However, because of the sensitive nature of many of the documents it handles from clients, the company is still strict on white collar crimes, like fraud and identity theft.

Paying more and asking for less to attract talent

Close to 40% of employers say they have loosened job requirements in order to recruit workers, according to a recent report from recruitment and staffing firm Adecco USA. “It’s an indicator of where we are and how hard it is to find talent,”said Bill Ravenscroft, senior vice president at Adecco, adding that it’s taking 10-15 candidates to find one who is qualified and wants the job.

“A lot of these companies are also in a situation where they can’t compete on wages … they are finding more creative ways to still get access to talent.” Document Systems increased its starting salaries for production jobs to $10.50 an hour, but it’s still having a hard time attracting candidates. “If we bumped up the starting rate to $12, that would open the pool up for us, but the problem is we have long-tenured employees we would also have to bump up and it would cost the company an awful lot of money,” said Camire.

Companies are also shedding their education requirements. The number of jobs listed on ZipRecruiter requiring an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or an MBA has dropped in the last two years, according to the company. Certain sectors have seen big reductions.For instance, 13% of food service sector jobs posted required a high school diploma or equivalent compared to 21% in 2017, ZipRecruiter found.Hanover Co-op Food Stores, the second largest food co-op in the country, currently has around 30 open positions. To help get more applicants, the company has relaxed its education and experience requirements and increased wages for new employees. While all hires still go through a background check, the food cooperative has also relaxed its stance on past convictions, according to Lori Hildbrand, director of administrative operations. “Before I got here, there was a rule we would never hire someone who had a felony conviction,” she said. “We now look at the length of time since things have happened and their history since then.”If an applicant has had a clean history for about seven to 10 years since the conviction, then they would still be in the running. However, if someone applied for a cashier job with a larceny conviction, the applicant would instead be considered for a position in another department, such as food prep or grocery. The company said it will not hire anyone with a history of child molestation.

The co-op has also sped up its hiring process. The HR department used to pre-screen candidates before a hiring manager reached out. Now, those pre-screening questions are incorporated into the application process and candidates are passed straight to the hiring manager. “The delay was up to two weeks and we would lose people,” said Hildbrand. The co-op also works to get offers made within 24 hours.

Opening up the pool

Some companies have also stopped drug testing candidates or have relaxed which results are flagged. “Clients are saying that is no longer the most important criteria and are eliminating drug screening for certain positions,” said Ravenscroft.And for companies who still drug test, they aren’t as strict with what they’re looking for. “A lot of clients are saying even if we drug test, we’ve dropped marijuana from the panel,” saidattorney Jim Reidy, with the lawfirm Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green.Some companies are targeting older workers, who might not be ready for full retirement. The average number of job postings with language aimed at candidates who are retirement age more than doubled from 2017 to 2019 on ZipRecruiter. “They are including language in job postings saying ‘retirees welcome’ or ‘perfect jobs for retirees’ and saying how they will work with them to provide things like flexible schedules,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter.

When Life Gets Busy, Focus on a Few Key Habits

HBR article helps us keep it simple to maintain sanity…
by Jackie Coleman and John Coleman

Eight months ago, we welcomed our third child. In the past, we’ve written about how to navigate careers, stress, and even “annual planning.” You’d think we’d be prepared for wonderful but disruptive life events like these, but as Mike Tyson famously quipped, “Everyone has plan until they get punched in the mouth.”The past year has been a time of radical prioritization for us. We’re constantly optimizing — identifying our most essential priorities and activities while reluctantly and painfully cutting things that are important but not urgent.

Maybe you’re facing a life event that forces this type of radical prioritization. Whether it’s changing jobs, taking care of a sick parent, relocating, or facing a diagnosis, disruptions in life can make it hard to maintain moment-by-moment focus and well-being, much less think months or years in the future. Long-term goals remain important. But in the fog of life’s most intense moments, long-term focus can be hard.

Daily or weekly habits aligned with your long-term goals can keep you on track even when it’s hard to think ahead, and they can add stability in an otherwise unsteady time. Each of us have regular practices we try to maintain to give our lives structure, to remain mentally and physically healthy, and to assure we’re approaching life consciously. These habits, important at any time, are essential in our busiest and most chaotic periods. So what do these habits look like?

The first step in maintaining regular habits is to articulate and track them. We find the key is to keep this simple. What are the 5-10 things you need to do daily or weekly to keep life on track? Once you’ve written them down, track them. The Momentum app, for example, is an easy way to set daily and weekly habits and be reminded of them. There are many others. If you’re more old-fashioned, you can use a simple Excel sheet or paper planner. The important thing is to reflect on the right habits, write them down, and stay accountable.When setting habits, we’ve found the most critical are clustered in four key areas.

The first is personal reflection. This can look radically different depending on the person. For us, as people of faith, this involves prayer and scriptural study. It also includes religiously agnostic habits, like keeping diaries, documenting the funny things our children say, and crafting gratitude journals in which we can record what’s happening in our lives and what we are grateful for multiple times per week. Studies have shown that these kind of practices can help us better process life events and remain joyful about the good we experience.

Relatedly, we need time for professional reflection. For years, John has maintained the same professional routine. He sits down on Sunday night with a weekly Moleskine planner and maps out his most important meetings and priorities for the week. This helps him assure he’s focused on not simply what’s most visible or immediate, but what’s actually important. And it offers structure so that when new demands arise he can more easily prioritize them. Then, each morning, he inserts a note card into the planner where he prioritizes what needs to be done that day. Simple, daily reflection on priorities and to-dos can make a meaningful difference in productivity and focus.

A third category of activities is building and maintaining relationships. Social science is crystal clear on the centrality of relationships to personal well-being. It’s important to prioritize and manage relationships. For us, right now, the primary relationships we’re focused on are with our kids and with each other. Each day, we structure a bedtime ritual with the kids where we all get together and spend time together, reading and talking about our highs and lows. As a couple, we try to make time to speak every day, and we try to get out of the house together, without the kids, once per week. We also each try to make at least some time to spend with a friend or two once a week. These sound like small things, but they can be critical to maintaining positive relationships and emotional well-being.

Finally, we all need to maintain habits that encourage physical and mental health. Studies show that people who get at least two days of exercise per week are happier (with each additional day boosting happiness further) and as little as 20 minutes of exercise can boost mood and 11 minutes of lifting weights can boost metabolic rate. For mental health, daily meditation can be a lifesaver restoring some order and balance in disordered and imbalanced times. Apps like Headspace and Calm have made practices like this more accessible than ever and easier to track and maintain. For both of us, the simple act of reserving 30 minutes each day for reading or writing can also promote mental health, a task that seems to be backed by science.

Everyone’s life looks different. But we all have periods of life which are busy, disordered, and stressful. In those times, short-term habits —weekly or daily practices — can trump long-term goals as a way to focus, survive, and thrive.

Jackie Coleman is a former marriage counselor and most recently worked on education programs for the state of Georgia.John Coleman is a coauthor of the book, Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders.

Being a humble leader shows strength as this article from HBR shares… How Humble Leadership Really Works

When you’re a leader — no matter how long you’ve been in your role or how hard the journey was to get there — you are merely overhead unless you’re bringing out the best in your employees. Unfortunately, many leaders lose sight of this.

Power, as my colleague Ena Inesi has studied, can cause leaders to become overly obsessed with outcomes and control, and, therefore, treat their employees as means to an end. As I’ve discovered in my own research, this ramps up people’s fear — fear of not hitting targets, fear of losing bonuses, fear of failing — and as a consequence people stop feeling positive emotions and their drive to experiment and learn is stifled.

Take for example a UK food delivery service that I’ve studied. The engagement of its drivers, who deliver milk and bread to millions of customers each day, was dipping while management was becoming increasingly metric-driven in an effort to reduce costs and improve delivery times. Each week, managers held weekly performance debriefs with drivers and went through a list of problems, complaints, and errors with a clipboard and pen. This was not inspiring on any level, to either party. And, eventually, the drivers, many of whom had worked for the company for decades, became resentful.

This type of top-down leadership is outdated, and, more importantly, counterproductive. By focusing too much on control and end goals, and not enough on their people, leaders are making it more difficult to achieve their own desired outcomes. The key, then, is to help people feel purposeful, motivated, and energized so they can bring their best selves to work.

There are a number of ways to do this, as I outline in my new book Alive at Work. But one of the best ways is to adopt the humble mind-set of a servant leader. Servant leaders view their key role as serving employees as they explore and grow, providing tangible and emotional support as they do so.

To put it bluntly, servant-leaders have the humility, courage, and insight to admit that they can benefit from the expertise of others who have less power than them. They actively seek the ideas and unique contributions of the employees that they serve. This is how servant leaders create a culture of learning, and an atmosphere that encourages followers to become the very best they can.

Humility and servant leadership do not imply that leaders have low self-esteem, or take on an attitude of servility. Instead, servant leadership emphasizes that the responsibility of a leader is to increase the ownership, autonomy, and responsibility of followers — to encourage them to think for themselves and try out their own ideas.

Here’s how to do it.

Ask how you can help employees do their own jobs better — then listen

It sounds deceivingly simple: Rather than telling employees how to do their jobs better, start by asking them how you can help them do their jobs better. But the effects of this approach can be powerful.

Consider the food-delivery business I previously mentioned. Once its traditional model was disrupted by newer delivery companies, the management team decided that things needed to change. The company needed to compete on great customer service, but, in order to do so, they needed the support of their employees who provided the service. And, they needed ideas that could make the company more competitive.

After meeting with consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers and some training, the management team tried a new format for its weekly performance meetings with the drivers.

The new approach? Instead of nit-picking problems, each manager was trained to simply ask their drivers, “How can I help you deliver excellent service?” As shown in the research of Bradley Owens and David Heckman, leaders need to model these types of servant-minded behaviors to employees so that employees will better serve customers.

There was huge scepticism at the beginning, as you can imagine. Drivers’ dislike of managers was high, and trust was low. But as depot managers kept asking “How can I help you deliver excellent service?” some drivers started to offer suggestions. For example, one driver suggested new products like Gogurts and fun string cheese that parents could get delivered early and pop into their kids’ lunches before school. Another driver thought of a way to report stock shortages more quickly so that customers were not left without the groceries they ordered.

Small changes created a virtuous cycle. As the drivers got credit for their ideas and saw them put into place, they grew more willing to offer more ideas, which made the depot managers more impressed and more respectful, which increased the delivery people’s willingness to give ideas, and so on. And, depot managers learned that some of the so-called “mistakes” that drivers were making were actually innovations they had created to streamline processes and still deliver everything on time. These innovations helped the company deliver better customer service.

What it comes down to is this: employees who do the actual work of your organization often know better than you how to do a great job. Respecting their ideas, and encouraging them to try new approaches to improve work, encourages employees to bring more of themselves to work.

As one area manager summarized: “We really thought that we knew our delivery people inside out, but we’ve realized that there was a lot we were missing. Our weekly customer conversation meetings are now more interactive and the conversations are more honest and adult in their approach. It’s hard to put into words the changes we are seeing.”

Create low-risk spaces for employees to think of new ideas

Sometimes the best way for leaders to serve employees — and their organization — is to create a low-risk space for employees to experiment with their ideas. By doing so, leaders encourage employees to push on the boundaries of what they already know.

For example, when Jungkiu Choi moved from Singapore to China to start his gig as head of Consumer Banking at Standard Chartered, he learned that one of the cultural expectations of his new job was to visit the branches and put pressure on branch managers to cut costs. Branch staff would spend weeks anxiously preparing for the visit.

Jungkiu changed the nature of these visits. Instead of emphasizing his formal power, he started showing up at branches unannounced, starting his visit by serving breakfast to the branch employees. Then, Jungkiu would hold “huddles” and ask how he could help employees improve their branches. Many branch employees were very surprised and initially did not know how to react. But Jungkiu’s approach tamped down employees’ anxiety and encouraged ideation and innovative ideas.

Over the course of one year, Jungkiu visited over eighty branches in twenty-five cities. His consistency and willingness to help convinced employees who were sceptical at first. The huddles exposed many simple “pain points” that he could easily help solve (for example, training for the new bank systems, or making upgrades to computer memory so that the old computers could handle the new software).

Other employee innovation ideas were larger. For example, one of the Shanghai branches was inside of a shopping mall. In the huddle, employees asked Jungkiu if they could open and close the same times as the mall’s operating hours (rather than the typical branch operating hours). The team wanted to experiment with working on the weekends. Within a few months, this branch’s weekend income generation surpassed its entire weekday income. This was not an idea that Jungkiu had even imagined.

These experiments paid off in terms of company performance. Customer satisfaction increased by 54 percent during the two-year period of Jungkiu’s humble leadership. Complaints from customers were reduced by 29 percent during the same period. The employee attrition ratio, which had been the highest among all of the foreign banks in China, was reduced to the lowest among all foreign banks in China.

Be humble

Leaders often do not see the true value of their charges, especially “lower-level” workers. But when leaders are humble, show respect, and ask how they can serve employees as they improve the organization, the outcomes can be outstanding. And perhaps even more important than better company results, servant leaders get to act like better human beings.

Article by Dan Cable professor of organizational behavior at London Business School.

Less can be more, as evidenced in this Smithsonian article about a grocery store distributor…

The Bizarre Story of Piggly Wiggly, the First Self-Service Grocery Store

What’s in a name?

Self-serve grocery stores saved shoppers money and made financial sense. The one question is why their innovator named the first one Piggly Wiggly.

On this day in 1916, the first Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis, Tennessee. Today, the chain has more than 530 stores across 17 states, according to its website. Its founding is one of the stranger stories in the history of retail. But its founder Clarence Saunders was clearly onto something—today, self-service grocery stores are the norm.

Saunders was a bit of an iconoclast. For the store’s opening ceremonies, writes Mike Freeman for the Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Saunders promised to hold a “beauty contest” that he advertised in local newspapers. “At the door Saunders shook their hands and gave to their children flowers and balloons,” Freeman writes. “Newspaper reporters posing as contest judges awarded five and ten dollar gold coins to every woman, while the supply lasted. A brass band serenaded the visitors in the lobby.”

This enthusiastic greeting was necessary because Saunders was trying something completely new. Before Piggly Wiggly, groceries were sold at stores where a clerk would assemble your order for you, weighing out dry goods from large barrels. Even chain stores used clerks. 

Although the chain store model helped keep costs down, the University of Michigan Library writes, the “small army of clerks” necessary to fill orders were expensive, the university writes, and at least part of that cost was passed on to the consumer.

Saunders’s model cut costs by cutting out the clerks. Shoppers on that first day did see some employees stocking shelves, Freeman writes, “but they politely refused to select merchandise for visitors.” Just like today, a shopper picked up a basket (though Piggly Wiggly’s were made of wood, not plastic) and went through the store to purchase everything. By the end of that first year there were nine Piggly Wiggly locations around Memphis.

“One day Memphis shall be proud of Piggly Wiggly… And it shall be said by all men… That the Piggly Wigglies shall multiply and replenish the earth with more and cleaner things to eat,” Saunders said a few months after the store’s opening, according to Freeman.

As for the name, nobody knows. “He was curiously reluctant to explain its origin,” Piggly Wiggly’s corporate history reports. “One story says that, while riding a train, he looked out his window and saw several little pigs struggling to get under a fence, which prompted him to think of the rhyme.” Another option is branding, Piggly Wiggly writes: “Someone once asked him why he had chosen such an unusual name for his organization, to which he replied, ‘So people will ask that very question.’”

The year after the first store opened, Saunders secured his concept with a series of patents belonging to his Piggly Wiggly Corporation. Though his model quickly took off, he wasn’t at the helm for very long. According to Piggly Wiggly, not long after he franchised the Piggly Wiggly idea Saunders started issuing public stock in the company. As a result, he lost control of it early in the 1920s. But he wasn’t done redesigning the grocery business. He later tried to introduce concepts like Keedoozle and Foodelectric, fully automated grocery stores, didn’t take off. Must have been the names.

Article by Kat EschnerSMITHSONIAN.COM