The Question Matters


Are You Willing to Work So That You Can Work to Live?

 

Texas Rangers (baseball)

It's Time.

 

I am the master of my schedule.  If an opportunity to spend some extra time with my family comes up, I will often take it.  If the Texas Rangers are playing (hopefully for a while longer) I’ll cut off work a little early to make sure I can catch the game on TV.  If I’m behind on paperwork at home, no big deal.  I’ll just get that done before I start with my work for the day.  Need a long lunch?  OK, I’m not on the clock.  I’ll take an extra 15 minutes and watch a favorite show on DVR.

My work is too often the master of my time.  If the iPhone is in my pocket, I’m always tempted to pick it up even at family activities.  If I’m watching that Texas Rangers game, it may be with my MacBook in my lap dong a little busy work that didn’t get done.  Did I take a longer lunch?  That probably means I’ll close up shop at 10 that night instead of 9:30.

The notion that we can work to live, not live to work is monumental mental shift.  It may be the biggest shift in workforce dynamics since the labor unions a century ago.  In that time, workers stood up for their rights to a decent wage, vacation time, respect in the workplace, and legal force they did not have alone.  Today, workers are standing up for their rights to choose the times they’ll work, how they do that work, and where they do that work.

James Townsend:

For those of us in Generation X and those in the Baby Boomer generation, we’ve been known to say we “live to work” and often connect our self-identification with our job/occupation.  For those in the Millennial generation, they “work to live” and value time with friends, family over time spent at work.  This generation is more likely to tell their boss when they plan to come to work and when they plan to leave, as there are important things to do outside of work – yoga, exercise, movies, etc…Balancing work and life is vitally important to this generation but not as much for the current generation of office managers and organizational leaders.  The challenge for the Millennial employee is understanding and respecting the structure of the organization

I want that balance in my work life, too.  As a business coach with a passion for younger entrepreneurs, I want them to achieve that balance.  And it must be achieved. It won’t happen by brute force or unreasonable demands.  If the under-30 workforce wants work/life balance, it will have to be earned, either by the slow but steady change of large organizations or by the re-invention of the workplace on your own terms, in your own business.

Either way will require a lot of work.

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Ashly Torian, Body Balance

Posted in Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Generation X,Video by treyfinley1008 on September 22, 2010

Many thanks to Ashly Torian, a client for the past six months, who provided this testimonial.  You can learn more about Ashly’s personal training business at http://www.ashlysbodybalance.com

Coaching Millennials to Fail

Posted in Entrepreneurs,Generation Y,Leadership,Next Generation Leaders by treyfinley1008 on August 17, 2010
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Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it?  A coach’s job is to point his/her client towards success.  A coach should be the one behind the curtain quietly allowing the client to take center stage in his/her own progress and accomplishments.  I’m suggesting a somewhat different strategy when coaching those under 30, one with long-term successes in mind.  Coaching to failure is not a proverbial “stick your leg out to trip someone” gag.  Coaching the largest generation in the history of the world is no laughing matter; it’s serious business.  I propose that the sooner a member of this generation learns what it feels like to fail, the sooner he/she will begin learning from that failure.

What better environment is there to examine failure than coaching?  Coaching is a pure-oxygen environment for breathing growth and transformation into an individual.  If an under-30 client doesn’t fail while coaching with me, I will not have done enough to coach him or her.   My client will not have learned enough.  My client will leave with a less valuable coaching experience.

My premise is simple: I believe controlled failure in a safe environment will produce an “immune” response that better prepares next generation leaders for what lies ahead.  Like dead diseases pumped into someone’s blood, controlled failure can provide a certain amount of inoculation against the fear of failure and its potential consequences.  This controlled “failure” can’t be contrived.  Coaching to fail means that the failure (1) is possible and measurable, (2) has real and potentially painful consequences, and (4) provides opportunities for multiple attempts at success.

Put another way, I’d rather my next-generation coaching client get “sick” of failure now than to “die” of failure in the future.   Over the next few days, I’ll be writing about some of the diseases our next generation faces, and the antibodies coaching must produce in order for them to  lead all of us into the next chapter of life, work, and faith.  Those who intend to lead must learn to:

  • Fight unfounded optimism with story-telling
  • Fight risk-averse behavior with opportunities for creative thinking
  • Fight inattention with critical thinking skills
  • Fight shelter-seeking behavior with “exposure” to the elements
  • Fight institutional skepticism with entrepreneurial experiments

You can probably think of other “diseases” to which those under 30 are prone.  I’d like to hear them, with one condition: you’ve got to suggest an immunization.

Getting My Arms Around Entrepreneurship

Posted in Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on June 9, 2010

5:52 a.m.

That’s about when this blog post started rolling around in my head–a solid half hour before I wanted to be conscious of anything other than my dreams.  Truthfully, it’s not all that unusual for me to wake up 30-45 minutes before my alarm goes off, thinking of what needs to be done in the course of the day.  My mind is trying to get its proverbial arms around my day, my work, and my life.  Some mornings that begins earlier than others.

Like the man in this picture, the circumference of my world is growing, and my arms feel inadequate to the task of getting the leverage I need to hold it securely.

6:34 a.m.

I’m 20 minutes into writing this blog post, and it’s beginning to feel a bit whiny.  There are some very positive reasons why the circumference of my entrepreneurial world is growing.  I signed a contract yesterday with a training and organizational development company.  Alongside another coach, our efforts to take coaching into our denomination and to churches in general have taken large steps forward in the last ten days.  These are the culmination of my marketing, my networking, and my cultivation of relationships.  Through the hundreds of conversations I’ve had, I’ve cast seed far and wide, not knowing whether they would land on fertile soil and produce opportunities for me to be who I’m created to be.  These opportunities are answers to prayers.

As I’ve been writing this blog, another ball metaphor comes to mind.  When I was playing high school basketball, we would work on increasing our upper body strength–arms, shoulders, and core muscles–by throwing this:

Recognize it?  It’s a medicine ball, roughly 25 pounds and about the same size as a basketball.  Using only our arms and hands, we would throw these 25 pound monsters to a teammate who would stand further and further away as the exercise continued.  Back and forth, the balls would go, until our shoulders and forearms ached.

Grasping the exercise ball is a futile attempt.  My arms are simply not big enough to get there.  As a medicine ball, on the other hand, my entrepreneurial hopes are heavier still.  They will test my strength, at times outweighing what strength is left in my arms.  Like the 15-year-old basketball player throwing it cross court, they will occasionally land off target.  There will be moments, just like that drill from twenty years ago, when I loathe that ball.

But at least I’ll be able to get my arms around it.

Career Coach: Entrepreneurship Suits Millennials Well

Posted in Career,Entrepreneurs,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 26, 2010
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Troy Stirman, college career coach and certified resume writer tells this story about one of his recent graduates:

There is a young man who graduated last December [2009] who was hired 10-12 weeks following his graduation by a sales firm in the Dallas area.  He didn’t particularly want to work in Sales, but school loans were coming due.  He quickly became disillusioned by the company’s environment.

Notice a couple of things here.  First, it was nearly three months from the time of his graduation to an actual hiring.  Second, notice that this graduate took a job in a field he wasn’t particularly interested in.  He took a job because he had to, not because he wanted to.  Finally, notice that he quickly became disillusioned not by the money, the commute, or the benefits.  He became disillusioned by the company’s environment.  Back to the story:

Rather than resign to a defeatist attitude he started exploring entrepreneurial ideas.  Today, he is launching his own recycling business within upscale neighborhoods.  He provides a curbside pickup for each and every resident.  He is confident that this work matches his career goals of owning his own business and doing something positive for the environment.  As a result, his attitude and outlook have shifted dramatically since exploring this opportunity.

I love this: his entrepreneurial idea has social ramifications.  He’s a social entrepreneur. His business promotes social responsibility, and in so doing, he’s matching his career goals of owning his own business and doing something environmentally sound.  Now, don’t skip over the change in his attitude and outlook.  This is a really important point for understanding Millennials.  They want alignment between how they earn money and what they believe and value.  And as was pointed out in the first quote, they won’t stick around long if they sense that their work and their values don’t and likely won’t match up.  Here are Troy’s thoughts on this:

Many of today’s students have visions of starting their own business. They are not as likely to simply seek out corporate giants that align with their major. They are more likely to fully investigate starting their own business that aligns with their personal goals.

There’s a lot being written on retention among Millennials.  Suggestions for workplace amendments that will attract them, complaints that they seem to lack loyalty to a company.  Let’s be clear.  Millennials are still young.  The oldest among them are still 30 or under.  Many of them are just now attending or graduating from college.  They’ve got some growing up to do; so did I when I was in my 20s.

They’ve got some great ideas, and tomorrow I’ll hit on a few of Troy’s suggestions for workplace environment that will attract and potentially retain Millennials.




Millennials: A New American Dream or Just Dreamers?

Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on May 25, 2010
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Millennials openly tell employers about their new American Dream. Work will not be their life, they only work to live because they seek a work/life balance. They want flexible benefits (such as telecommuting) and a work environment that feels like home away from home. They are willing to leave a company when they aren’t offered these things.

via Gen Y has new ‘American Dream’.

Troy Stirman:  By far the most oft quoted phrase in my office is: “I’m looking for work/life balance…”  Today’s graduates are not looking to work beyond 40 hours per week.

OK, so this sounds great.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness needs to be possible in the workplace, too.  That’s the kind of job I would want.  In a corporate environment, it’s another story.  Some careers simply won’t lend themselves to this.  In other work environments, these ideas are so foreign to your Boomer supervisors and executives that to suddenly expect them is unrealistic.  Again, here’s Troy:

…Hiring managers that I follow up with during the post-interview tell me consistently that today’s students sometimes have unrealistic expectations in this area.  The Accounting/Finance sector is one of these that will strongly resist these changes. It is not part of their mainstream culture.  Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations and I.T./I.S are more apt to engage in these types of work environments.

So, is this a Dream or simply wishful thinking?  As the coach, here’s some of the questions I would ask:

1)  What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to create this kind of workplace?

2)  What are you doing to build bridges with those who can help you create this sort of workplace?

3)  If it’s not in your blood to take your time to change a corporation’s culture, are you willing to take the higher stakes road of entrepreneurship?

A story about someone who answered “yes” to #3 coming next.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Entrepreneur, Cont.

Posted in Entrepreneurs,Family by treyfinley1008 on May 20, 2010
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I wrote a while back about some of the barriers I’ve had to overcome as I’ve entered the entrepreneurial world.  There’s the childhood “trauma” of selling candy bars.  There’s the security of a paycheck.  There are the late nights/early mornings wondering what’s next.  Here’s another one.

When I was in fourth grade, I began piano lessons with a teacher in the town where we lived. It was my third year of piano lessons, and I had shown some signs of inheriting my mom’s talent on the ivories.  Getting better required hard work and lots of practice, which I could do.  It required alone time, which I enjoyed.  It definitely helped that I had large hands, allowing me to cover the keyboard with more ease than most kids my age.

I was particularly good at music theory–the scales, the rhythms, the chords, and the chord progressions that form the building blocks of great music.  I enjoyed precision then, just as I do now.  When I was learning a new piece of music, one of the hardest things to do was keep a steady beat.  My focus was on getting the notes right, learning where to put my fingers and how to play the chord with certain fingers, allowing me to be in better position to move to the next chord.  During those first attempts at a new piece of music, the beat was less important than learning the notes.  As the notes became more familiar, the rhythm became more important.

  The tool I used to help instill that sense of rhythm was a metronome. The metronome clicks out a very precise rhythmical sound, keeping the piano student on the beat. It would tell me when I was playing too slowly or too quickly.  As a young student, the mechanism is very helpful.   Over time, though, that metronome became hardwired into my musical brain.  I didn’t need it any more; I could hear the pace at which the music needed to move and maintain that pace throughout the piano piece, even if the piece was new to me.

Some days, I need an entrepreneur’s metronome. Entrepreneurship feels like a piano sonata in which I’m still learning the notes.  The rhythm often escapes me.  I need a hardwired metronome in my business brain that will help me keep the pace.  Business ebbs and flows, speeds up and slows down.  Even as the rhythms of entrepreneurship change, I need a steady tick-tock in my head that paces my work, speeding it up on days that motivation is hard and slowing it down on days that feel too full.

On Goals Gone Wild

Posted in Career,Entrepreneurs,Family by treyfinley1008 on May 18, 2010
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Coach David Clutterbuck: On Goals Gone Wild, and Building Better Coaching in Companies from the Bottom Up

A nice reminder about the systemic nature of goals.  Goals, especially those made within the context of a small business or corporate climate, ripple out.  They are neither made nor accomplished in a vacuum.  For that matter, even the solopreneur’s goals ripple out–perhaps on to his/her family.

Have you set goals for yourself, your family, your career, your business?  If so, who might those goals affect?

Market, Close, Satisfy, Repeat

The “repeat” in the title isn’t an encouragement to “market close satisfy” over and over again.  Rather, it’s a healthy reminder today from a writer at Entrepreneur magazine–the cost of repeat business is a fraction of the cost of finding new clients. It’s much better for your time, your money, and your stress to build a base of repeat customers.   Read the entire article here.  This was a good reminder to me that re-inventing the wheel is almost always a long slow way to make a profit.

The author offers five principles for building repeat business:

  1. Be diligent with your database.
  2. Make your communication personal and personable.
  3. Make it easy for your customers to buy and keep buying.
  4. Decide what you can promise your customers.
  5. Test and measure everything.

The article has me wondering, what does repeat business in the professional services industry look like?  Hmmmmm…

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On a different note, you should read JenX67‘s post today about a writer convinced that Gen X is too polite to lead, and that our politeness will lead to Gen Y getting promotions to executive level positions before they’re 30.  In coaching, we call that “distorted judgment,” in essence believing and behaving as if 1 + 1 = 3.

As a voice for Gen X, Jen is annoyed and it’s hard to blame her.  I’ll take a more pragmatic perspective and suggest that, if indeed a Boomer wants to skip over their Gen X employee’s experience, patience, and wisdom for Gen Y’s idealism, youth, and inexperience, they better invest in coaching for those young leaders now.

Showing Your Career the Door

Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Generation X by treyfinley1008 on May 4, 2010
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I’ve been saying this a while: entrepreneurship is scary, fun, exciting, exhausting, and full of surprises.  And that’s just on Monday.  Entrepreneurship, with all its wild emotional and financial swings, will become a more appealing option.  This is especially true for members of Gen X who foresee little future and/or scarce promotions in their current profession. More and more “plateaued” employees will consider entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to their current workplace.

You want to see your passions, your energy, and your job in better alignment.  If you could get the courage and the opportunity to take the entrepreneurial risk, you’ll do it.  Sometimes unemployment is just what was needed–a little push out the door that makes owning your own business more appealing.  You have less to lose, and more to gain.

Business ownership often the next career move for the unemployed | Business Weekly Article | John Gibson | KITSAP PENINSULA BUSINESS JOURNAL.

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