Winning and keeping the bright stars of today requires and understanding of the shift in values and changing expectations to today’s workforce. Some of the key elements in attracting and retaining your top talent are:
* Offering a flexible way to work that allows for personal and professional work/life balance. Time spent on the job in a year has increased by 163 hours in the last 20 years, which equates to about one month per year, while our leisure time has declined by about 30%. More and more entry-level professionals are willing to give up salary in exchange for less work hours to help balance their lives. Some research indicates that it is possible to cut turnover by 50% by introducing such programs as: eldercare programs, flextime, alternate work schedules, dependent care leave, counseling, childcare subsidies, commuter subsidies.
* Tie your organizational mission to a deeper meaning so workers can gain a deeper sense of cause and meaningful work. Many employees want to make a difference more than anything – it comes up near the top of many motivational surveys. Create a sense of community among workers by giving them time to be a part of something other than their job position.
* Allow for socializing, learning, volunteering, chairing teams, and setting up your environment to compel integration of all workers and allow for interaction and brainstorming. One high-tech engineering firm in Virginia hosts Technology Tuesdays with free lunch and learn sessions on the latest gadgets or techno stuff. They also offer cookies and milk on Wednesday afternoons so employees can take a break and gather around for a quick break. One financial services company allows workers a certain number of hours off per quarter to volunteer for their favorite community cause.
* Offer personal and professional development at all levels. Allow employees to choose the training they think would benefit them and the company most. Give access to training catalogs and let them choose or work it out with their budgets so they get to decide what to cut if something else is important enough to attend. When people feel valued, they stick around. That goes with customers, employees, and personal relationships. When we don’t feel valued, understood, and listened to – we walk.
Seek inspiring words from great speakers, mentors, trainers, celebrities, sports figures, business gurus, books, or other role models that you admire. Glean wisdom from them on how they acquired their spark, their position, their wealth, their notoriety, or their circumstance. Be a student of life and constantly be aware of the process of continuous improvement.
We are also role models for all those around us – we are part of their environment, so watch your words and actions which affect the energy of others. Who do you admire? What can you learn from them and how can you learn more? What things do you want in your life and who already has those things or is doing the things that you want to do? Find out how they did it to help you figure out your path. There is more than one way to success and by gaining different perspectives and then figuring out the unique way those perspectives fit your life, you are well on your way to becoming a quotable role model for others who will heed your words of wisdom.
I catch myself stating the phrase “You learn something new every day”. Instead of letting serendipity invigorate you by chance, take the reins and seek out adult education classes, recreation courses, meaningful conversations with inspiring people, fascinating books, or interesting Internet websites. Besides having fun and learning a new skill, you will meet the nicest people.
Discovery and knowledge keeps you young, interested, and interesting. Continuous improvement keeps you vibrant, vital, and tuned into the world as well as into yourself. Once your mind is stretched, it will never be the same. What have you learned today? It really is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Life long learning also implies that we learn our life lessons from the compilation of our experiences so we don’t waste our precious energy spinning our wheels and repeating life lessons over and over before we get it.
Once we recognize certain recurring themes in our lives as our life lessons, then we can spend our energy solving the issue and move on to other things instead of spending our energy on the same thing over and over again. Why not be a fast learner and save some of your emotional energy for new lessons down the road. What are the recurring circumstances in your life? What are the arguments, discussions, or power struggles that keep creeping up in your life? Are you learning from these so you can free up your energy to be put to better uses? Try seeking out some aha moments in the near future.
Sometimes our personal or professional lives spiral out of kilter, or the demands on us at work or at home are overwhelming, or there just isn’t a good fit for us anymore. At those times when the heat is turned up and we are moving at the speed of light just to keep up, or just get by without going crazy, here are some tips to understand burnout and how to deal with it.
We move through four basic stages of burnout:
- Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion (emotional takes up most of the space on the exhaustion scale)
- Shame and doubt about yourself, your decisions, or that you aren’t enough or a good fit
- Cynicism and callousness about your situation, sometimes anger or similar energy
- Failure, helplessness, and crises mode when we feel our situation is getting the best of us and we can’t concentrate, nor move forward like we used to
Once we recognize we are either rusting out or burning out, we need to take steps to rectify the situation before it cripples us. It starts by recognizing the stress you’re under, why it’s happening, and listening to your body if it starts to break down such as more accidents, more sickness or allergic reactions, more joint and muscle pain, and general lethargy or depression. Taking action while we still feel strong and capable of dealing with the situation will stop the burnout faster than if we wait until we are incapacitated by our mental, emotional, or physical state. Moving forward while we are still in a position of power to do so is much more likely to start the inertia than if we wait until we are in a weaker state where we may not have the courage, stamina, or resourceful thinking to gain momentum out of the burnout phase.
If you find yourself burning out, here are some steps to ward off the fire:
* Enlist the support of family, friends, and colleagues, especially if they have been in that situation before
* Practice the art of self-care – be adamant about creating time for yourself to clear your mind, be good to yourself, take care of your body, and replenish it with good food, exercise, rest, and things you love.
* Get very clear about what it is you’re about, what is your purpose, your ideal day, your vision for your ideal life. If you were brave, what would you do or change or create in your life that isn’t there now? What type of work or living situation would you want if you were being truly authentic to yourself?
* Take some time off to refocus your energies and remove yourself from the stressful situation to get a better perspective.
* Research similar fields or other jobs in your organization or industry if you like the work, but need something to best fit your skills, style, and personality.
* Become more self-aware of your work style, communication style, and personality style and seek a career that best uses your strengths. (I offer the Strength Deployment Inventory ® for those who want to learn more about their motivations behind their behaviors, and their communication and conflict management style.)
* Entertain the thought of retraining, going back to school, or starting your own business doing what you love. Test drive a new venture part time to see where your energy goes.
* Recognize that burnout carries a sense of loss of control or an abandonment of a goal you once had. Sometimes it turns into a sense of hopelessness if it goes on for too long. Avoid burnout by recognize the first signs of restlessness, stress, overwhelm, and agitation. Look at your situation and assess if it is a short-term project or a long-term situation before taking action and keeping cool instead of fuming and fanning the flames of burnout.
It seems that stressful times are the times when our self-care is lacking. It is precisely at these times when we need to be vigilant about eating right, getting enough rest, exercising, laughing, connecting, and making good choices to help us through the stress unscathed. When our resistance is low, we are no longer in the driver’s seat and we lack the energy to take charge. If we let ourselves run down by not guarding our personal energy, then we won’t have the energy to take care of others, our work, or ourselves. And so starts a downward spiral of negative energy that is ever harder to break.
Even when our minds won’t recognize that we need a break, our bodies will take over and put us flat on our backs for as long as it needs to heal itself and recharge. The lesson is to take care of yourself first, or else you won’t be able to take care of anybody or anything else.
We need to plan time for creative renewal on a regular basis and particularly during times of intense focus or stress. Good old rest and relaxation are still vitally important to the mental and physical well being of fighting soldiers. Being emotionally drained affects our performance as much as being physically exhausted. We can be very physically fit and get enough rest and still be emotionally exhausted. Taking time out to decompress is vitally important for our vitality.
Sleep and restful downtime increases your concentration and gives you the stamina you need to fight off sickness or other enemies. Adjust your bedtime rituals to allow for restful, uninterrupted sleep. Avoid exercising, caffeine, or lots of liquids just before bedtime and set a regular time schedule and habits to signal your body that it is time to slow down. Just ask any rotating shift worker how productive or alert they feel in-between rounds.
It’s not easy to conjure up enthusiasm for sex when you’re stressed out, but not having sex can actually lead to a higher anxiety level and it can become a stressor if it is unavailable or unsatisfactory. Building a healthy, intimate relationship with your partner can lead to other types of stress releases and emotional support as well as the physical release. Take the time to refresh and renew yourself regularly to avoid the perils and pitfalls of being overcome by stress.
I learned the town name in Italian means Volcano Crater. No wonder there are so many thermal pools, spas, and steam baths scattered around this geo-thermal hotbed of activity. Poised between Florence and Pisa, there are thermal services, pools, caves, and most anything of the spa variety you can imagine. My BFF and I went there to chill out for the holidays to experience the lovely holiday markets, the Gluehwein (hot spiced wine) and of course the pasta and all the spa’ing a person can take. We discovered things we never thought of and other things we wish we hadn’t. It’s all about discovery and being open to try new things. That’s when two brains are better than one when we try to figure out the procedures and how to manage ourselves in new environs in another language….though I learned all you really need in Italian is Grazi and Prego and that pretty much can take you anywhere.
Our first spa experience was what we later termed the sanitarium or insane asylum. Seriously, it was so sterile and clean and minimal and the people all wore white smocks, it was a little weird. We stayed for five hours to take in all the pools and water therapy we could handle. We were led upstairs to a completely empty floor….a bit like the movie The Shining. Seriously, nobody was on the floor except one housekeeper and the attendant who kept running between our two rooms to give us our treatments. No mood lighting, no candles, no soft music, just bright lights like an operating room, cold tables, and opened doors as she kept running back and forth between us.
We both got the special mud pack treatment and the magical mud/cream facial along with a massage. No warming of the massage oil at this crazy place….she slathered cold cream on you with startling precision and then gave the most lack-luster massage I’ve ever had…it did nothing for either of us. It was hard not to laugh because it was so weirdly sterile and antiseptic and not at all relaxing. We were slathered in mud that had incubated in the special waters for up to two years, then swaddled in wrapping. We felt like mud burritos when we were left to cook in the mud. All you could hear across the hallway was us laughing at the absurdity of it all.
Our next thermal experience was like nothing we’d ever experienced as seasoned spa-goers. This thermal vapor cave was discovered in 1849 and recognized as the 8th wonder of the world at one time. There is a resort and thermal spa built around this cave with stalagmites and stalactites that is the length of a football field. They give you little slippers and white canvas robes with hoods that look monk-like. Then you descend into the cave with one end called Paradise which is the “cooler” end and the other end is Inferno/Hell which is much deeper into the mountain and is considerably hotter in this natural sauna steam bath buried into the mountain.
In Hell you find teak deck chairs and a smattering of people just resting in silence and sweat in the dimly lit cave. You sweat for 45 minutes and then emerge from the depths to a shower and a fuzzy robe, then you’re ushered to a nap room that is surrounded by an inside jungle with vines Tarzan could swing on.
From there we were led to our sea-salt scrub and shae butter candle massage. They light the candle and drip the hot shae butter upon you for an amazing massage in an appropriately lush and lavish dimly-lit setting with spa music, heated beds and blankets and aromatherapy. After you feel like putty, then you’re guided to the outdoor thermal pool with individual bubble seats, waterfalls, robe and towel warmers and spectacular scenery surrounding the grounds.
We spent 6 hours at this place and luxuriated in every minute. It was a far cry from the sanitarium spa. Buyer beware – do your homework before you plunk down cash for services that are downright startling. Oh well, nothing that some red wine, great pasta and a little tiramisu won’t fix to help erase our memory of the insane asylum. It’s all about taking care of yourself and inviting new experiences. We had a good laugh at our own expense and know better next time when we research spas and treatments. What are you doing to try new adventures, unique experiences and to take care of yourself? What are you doing to add a little uniqueness, wonder, and excitement to your life? What are you doing to live Hartfully and renew yourself? Next stop was leather shopping in Florence. More on that adventure is customized leather later.
Keeping in touch with those who matter is a vital ingredient to keeping us energized. “You’ve got to give to get” is the important axiom here. Practicing the art of hand-written notes will help you stand out in a crowd. Sending thoughtful emails is a runner up, and the annual holiday letter falls in line somewhere down the list. Amidst the jungle of email and unwanted spam, snail mail still connects people and shows that you’ve taken the time to care and taken the energy and effort to put it on paper.
Be cognizant of the email you send to others to make sure you are not draining their energy by sending unwanted chain letters or forwarded spoofs that they have to delete. On the other hand, email is a fantastic invention for connecting people at any time of the day anyplace on Earth. Once we got our mother signed up, there was no stopping the connection to her family across the nation. Take the time to send a card, a note, or even an email to others to stay connected and energize their day. Who doesn’t like to get mail that isn’t bills, junk, or from Ed McMahon? Some people use their journaling time to pass along reflections or think out issues. Writing thank-you notes is also a terrific time-honored tradition. Connections and communication keep you energized.
Life is full of surprises and travel holds more than its fair share of them. I was reminded of this fact on a recent trip to Canada for a cruise on the St. Lawrence Seaway and through the Bay of Fundy around Nova Scotia from Montreal to Boston. It was supposed to be a fall foliage cruise, experiencing fall in the northern reaches ushering in the Fall all bundled up as we leisurely skimmed the seaway watching the pastoral sights of Canadian coast drift lazily by our suite.
My travel buddy, Barb and I met up in the Toronto airport and landed in Montreal during a heat wave of 95 degrees. We wandered the cobblestone streets of the old city glad we had packed hot weather gear, one of our first surprises. We were fortunate to have landed during their summer fest of cinema and short films shown upon city buildings, trees, streets, and alleyways. Between the quaint sidewalk cafés and being ensconced in art of every kind including one of the most spectacular Basilica’s I’ve ever seen.
When we checked into our hotel early, the nicest front desk associate I have encountered in a while asked us if we would mind having the largest suite in the hotel with a 60-foot balcony overlooking the old town and the river. Would be mind? We didn’t ask any questions and just said yes, please, that would be lovely. We had a hard time keeping our composure on that one and fell into giggles the moment we shut the door to our suite and sweet balcony. We also discovered that the oldest working pub in North America was attached to our hotel and we were pleasantly surprised to have a very nice chat with the bartender over happy hour concoctions that were her suggestion. Montreal was a nice surprise in more ways than one.
Next on the cruise we noticed the average age was decrepit and had never seen so many walkers, wheelchairs, and Rascals in one place in all our lives. Most of the cruises I take are active, adventure trips and this one was more for the relaxed scenery and to visit Quebec City in all its walled glory and for high tea at the Chateau Fontenac. I’m guessing the relaxed pace was just the right pace for those in their 80’s. I hope I’m still racing down the corridors on my Rascal or with my walker in my 90’s on an international trip. The Fall foliage was not as intense as we had expected, no bright red Maples due to the weird weather that summer. Instead we saw muted shades of olive, rust, and brown. Not spectacular, but pleasant nonetheless.
Our next unexpected experience was a surprise sea day compliments of Hurricane Maria. Who knew the rain bands and winds would kick up swells over six stories high so far north and inland? I was on the promenade deck ready to take a picture of the amazing sunset when a wall of water crashed over the side of the ship in the sixth deck. Those were some big swells, and so we couldn’t dock and kept on chugging eastward rocking and rolling with the waves churning around us. We felt we needed seatbelts in bed and everyone walked like a drunken sailor trying to keep upright. I felt for those people in walkers and wheelchairs, it would have been a difficult slog to the dining room. One thing about a surprise sea day….you can spend your time lamenting what you didn’t get to see or you can take full advantage of what you can do on board.
We immediately called the spa as soon as the captain finished his message and we booked the works. We also took advantage of port wine and chocolate tasting, high tea, the pool and hot tub. In times of surprises, do you fret over what could have happened, should have happened, or do you go with what actually happened and move on from there and enjoy what you do have and not what you don’t have. It was interesting to hear different view points on board from those who were flexible in their plans and thinking and those who were not. I dare say the flexible ones were in a much better mood than those who were not. We noticed a distinct difference between the crotchety types and the kind, friendly types and decided we needed to be mindful to be the friendly, kind type now and when we get to the decrepit stage of life. Looking for the positive in our situation, no matter what it may be.
Learning that we have taken a different heading on our course than we would have liked requires some regrouping and adjusting the helm. Assess the situation, eye your compass, and trim the sails for a new course to aim for the goal. It may take a little longer, but you will end up in the correct port instead of turning back. It is invigorating to know you successfully managed an about-face by regrouping your thoughts and resources.
Still your mind and take time to think about your next move. Sometimes your detour has taken you so far off course that it is difficult to find your way back, or move ahead on the same path you are on. By regrouping and gathering your thoughts and your data, you can better assess where you took a wrong turn and what you need to do to get back on course.
At times we are so over-busy with activity, that we mistake it for productivity or the right livelihood and we end up stressed out and burned out from hurry sickness or random busy work that doesn’t have meaning for us. It takes some quiet time and reflection with thoughtful attention to what is truly meaningful.
If what you are doing in your daily life doesn’t bring meaning and doesn’t bring you closer in alignment with your principles and values, then you need to regroup and move in a different direction. Gather your courage, gather your strength, gather your thoughts, and then gather your support network to help you get the regrouping started and make a new plan. Sometimes others can help us see our way better than we can see it ourselves.
A short time planning your course before you set sail saves a lot more time during the journey in the long run. Taking the time to settle down and regroup will save you from more stressful situations down the road.