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Welcome to the September 2008 issue of Alignment Solutions! This month’s theme is “rest and re-energize.” Although it may seem counterintuitive to advocate for rest given that summer is over, kids are back in school, and organizations are gearing up for the last quarter of what for many has been a dismal year, I contend that the timing is right on target. I use my current and past experience in training for a marathon to illustrate this point. What does training for a marathon have to do with optimizing business results? More than you might think!

In the Feature Article, What a Marathon Can Teach Us about Business, we use training for a marathon and raising funds for cancer research to illustrate the parallels between successful outcomes in endurance events and in the workplace.

In Take a Break for Optimum Performance, the Business Solutions section suggests some ways to ensure you and your employees maintain the energy they need to perform at their optimum levels throughout the day.

In the Personal Solutions section, Time Outs: The Secret to Optimal Performance describes a technique that helps you re-energize yourself on a day-to-day basis.

Personal note: My theme this month was inspired by my decision to train for my seventh marathon and raise money for cancer research through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. I will be walking the Honolulu marathon on December 14, 2008. If you would like to join me in the fight against blood-related cancers (leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma), please visit my Team in Training web site at http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/honolulu08/plynch and help me “Save lives…one mile at a time” by making a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Thank you!

I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com to find other articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!

 

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What a Marathon Can Teach Us about Business

What can training for a marathon teach us about optimizing business results? Plenty! My experience in walking six marathons (and now in training for my seventh!) and raising money for cancer research through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program has provided me with a template for achieving optimal results in other aspects of life, including the workplace. Here are the key elements of this training and fundraising template:

  1. Acknowledging that money matters
  2. Specifying individual contributions to the big picture
  3. Developing a strategy that is aligned with desired goals
  4. Identifying measures of progress and achievement
  5. Implementing the strategy
  6. Focusing on the present moment
  7. Engaging in teamwork
  8. Creating a motivating environment
  9. Acting consistently over time
  10. Taking time to rest and re-energize
  11. Celebrating successes

Some of the above elements may seem counterintuitive to optimizing business results, especially in a “down” economy such as the one the U.S. is experiencing right now. My contention, however, is that they actually are critical success factors in achieving desired outcomes. For a side-by-side comparison of the application of these elements to Team in Training marathoners and to managers and employees, please see the appendix to this article on my web site. For now, let me address briefly two elements that often go by the wayside when organizations face tough times: taking time to rest and re-energize, and celebrating successes.

Just as marathoners must rest their muscles on a regular basis to avoid overuse injuries that would prevent them from completing their races, employees need a break from job-related stress if they are to perform at optimum levels. Athletes know that sufficient physical and mental rest is critical not only to maintaining, but to increasing their performance over time. This same concept applies in the workplace: neither employees nor organizations are well served when those who make decisions are burned out and feel stressed. Illness, increased absences, and dysfunctional turnover are other undesirable consequences when employees are not permitted to refresh themselves physically and mentally.

Another key element to optimizing business results is celebrating successes, including progress made in achieving final goals. Just as the mile markers along the course let marathoners know (and celebrate!) how many miles they have completed, your creating small “wins” along the way enables employees to see that they are making progress and motivates them to continue their quest to achieve organizational goals. So the next time they make progress (i.e., reach another mile marker) and especially when they cross a finish line, be sure the crowd cheers!

For further discussion of how to help energize your employees, see the Business Solutions section of this newsletter.

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Take a Break for Optimum Performance

What is one thing you can do to help optimize your business results? Take the time to REST and RE-ENERGIZE! Though this advice may seem counterintuitive, especially in a “down” economy, it actually makes a lot of sense. Let’s use the analogy of training for a marathon to explain why.

Marathoners must rest their muscles regularly to avoid overuse injuries. They cannot optimize their performance by further taxing sore, overextended, or injured muscles. Injuries will throw them off track and perhaps even prevent them from participating in the event.

Similarly, employees need periodic breaks. Both the body and the brain are like a marathoner’s muscles: they need nourishment to continue to work properly, and they require regular rest to repair the damage caused by stressors to the system. Constant stress cannot be sustained physically or mentally; something has to give. Inevitably stress and burn-out manifest themselves in mediocre or poor performance: employees make bad decisions and mistakes, they become ill, they demonstrate a pattern of tardiness, or in extreme cases, they quit.

How can you build in the rest you and your employees need to re-energize yourselves and ensure optimum performance each day? Here are nine suggestions:

  1. Insist that employees take breaks throughout the day.
  2. Take regular breaks yourself; set a good example.
  3. Leave the office entirely during lunchtime for a change in scenery.
  4. Use your vacation time and ensure employees do the same.
  5. Set clear work/non-work boundaries – for example:

    • limit Blackberry, cell phone/pager, PDA usage to regular work hours except in an emergency
    • set a reasonable response time for e-mail (immediately is NOT reasonable)
    • minimize or get rid of expectations that employees must stay late or take work home with them in order to get ahead
  6. Create a motivating environment.
  7. Learn how to frame situations so that you minimize stressors, and teach your employees that skill.
  8. Remember that all of us always have the ability to choose how we view a given situation; use that choice wisely.
  9. Identify and celebrate interim successes.

The return on investment in your physical and mental well-being is many times what you might expect. Why not take a break today and see for yourself?

 

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Time Outs: The Secret to Optimal Performance

Just as marathoners need to rest their bodies regularly during training in order to complete their events successfully and employees need breaks from stressors in the workplace, we also need to find ways to rest and re-energize ourselves in all aspects of our lives. One technique for taking periodic time outs is to create and make liberal use of “white space.” This concept was suggested to me by a colleague, Bill Corbett. What he means by this term is a space where you free your mind to wander. Below are some examples of how I create my own white space. Each of these techniques is done without any specific end result in mind other than to give myself a break – i.e., no multi-tasking allowed!

  • Take a walk on the beach or in nature
  • Meditate
  • Read an engrossing book
  • Write in a journal
  • Go for a swim
  • Lie in the hammock and observe the birds and flowers in the yard
  • Listen to some favorite classical music with my eyes closed

It doesn’t matter HOW you create your own white space; what matters is that you DO it on a regular basis. You choose the time period: it can be very short or it can take the better part of a day. When you “return” from that space you will feel rested and/or re-energized. As a bonus, you may even discover some great ideas have presented themselves!

Here is how you can get started today:

  1. List three ways that you can create your own white space.
  2. Pick ONE of them and do it at least three times this week.
  3. Observe how you feel afterward.
  4. Repeat on a regular basis, identifying additional ways of creating your white space.
  5. Enjoy!

Time outs are never a waste. I promise the return on your rest “investment” - e.g., in the form of increased energy or positive frame of mind - will be exponential!

 

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Date of Publication: September, 2008
Pat@BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com
www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com | 562.985.0333
Copyright 2008 - All rights reserved, Pat Lynch