Some time back I was working with a leader who was having difficulty with his employees feeling empowered in their work. Ned (not his real name) was frustrated. "I don't understand it!" he stammered. "I assign tasks out, stay out of their way while they're completing the tasks, hold them accountable to dates, and praise them when the task is done well. I do all this yet my employees tell me I don't empower them. I'm ready to pull my hair out (ironically he was folically challenged)".
Recently Patty and I met up with our financial advisor to walk through our long-term finances. A key component of that discussion was about our net worth, defined as assets minus liabilities. While we had a very fruitful discussion that resulted in some great take-aways, it got me to thinking about how easy it is to focus on a single aspect of one's life and derive how good (or bad) one might be doing based on that aspect. Don't get me wrong; one's net worth is certainly an important measure that needs to be tended to. My point is that there is more to life than net worth when looking at your overall contentment. This hit home for me with the suicides of famous figures Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and others. These are people who appeared to have it all but to them something was so missing that it caused them to commit a horribly sad act. Lives ended too early; my prayers go to their loved ones.
In thinking about contentment, I looked hard at what, to me, are the most important driving factors behind contentment. Keep in mind my analysis is not from a point of scientific expertise; rather it is from a point of practicality as to what I think are the most important drivers. I've honed my list to 8:
Now I completely realize that some of these above drivers are extremely important to some or not at all important. My point is not to second guess your importance level; what I do believe necessary is to decide how important each of the above drivers are to you. If something is not at all important to you then that is certainly your choice. Just be mindful of avoiding something that could adversely impact you later. As example, if you say financial contentment is not at all important and you decide not to financially plan for the future then you might be creating a problem for yourself later in life.
So what now? I put together a simple excel spreadsheet which allows you to assess, for each of the contentment drivers, how important it is to you, what makes you content, and how you could be more content. I think it's important to articulate both what makes you content and how you could be more content for a couple of reasons. First, it allows you to celebrate things you are already happy with. Second, it enables you to improve on some things which you may already be doing well.
If you find this helpful, you can download the excel template to help you self-assess yourself based on the 8 drivers. Download it here.
As always, would love to hear what you think. let me know your thoughts in below comments.
Several years back I conceived and funded a small business. My partner and I were very excited about the concept and had sky-high aspirations about the prospects of the business. While the idea was great, I ultimately decided to shut the business down as I felt the cost of keeping the business afloat would continue to outstrip the revenue. I'm not going to bore you with the details of the business; what I do want to do is talk with you about the decision process I went through and how the "morning after" decision making process tipped the scales for me.
Some time back I did an interview on the importance of dinnertime. It reminded me of the importance of eating dinner as a family in the work/life balance equation so I thought I would post it here as well:
In your view, why aren't families sitting down to the dinner table like they did in the 1950s?
Simple; families have allowed themselves to get so busy that they have come to accept that sitting down together for dinner isn't a necessity. It all starts with the parents; if they don't sit down together or enforce that the family will be eating together, the family won't do it. Make sitting down together the rule and not doing so the exception.
Some time back I was talking with a fellow project manager about a difficult issue he was having with his new boss. The thumbnail summary of the discussion was that the project manager was feeling overly scrutinized and micro-managed. Now I knew the project manager to be a capable professional who could confidently handle the work assigned to him. Yet his boss insisted on managing every detailed aspect of his work. More so, his boss was very critical of the work being done even though it was performed to professionally acceptable standard. The situation became unbearable for the project manager; he ultimately left the organization.
So maybe you think you're all that and a bag of chips and that you can get more things done than most people in your organization. As managers, though, it's not just about you getting things done on your own; it's about you getting your team to be as effective (or more) as you.
I deliberately use the term effective versus efficient. For me, there is a very clear distinction which I believe is crucial in driving results.
In an earlier leadership role I had been striving to create focus and accountability within each of our major work areas. The team responded beautifully with doing their best to adjust to roles, to stay focused on their areas, and to minimize confusion by stepping across boundaries. They did exactly as I asked.
We were in a team meeting and I could see that there was erupting confusion around contacting customers in an effort to close some sales. There was a lot of respect for my sales & marketing manager in not stepping in on her turf when it came to customers. Where the problem arose, though, was in the fact that the team was confused as to who was supposed to be following up on some key sales activity that had begun prior to our organizational re-alignment.
So let’s talk about over-used terms for a minute.
If you’ve been in the business world for any length of time you’ve likely heard your management espouse the desire for employees to achieve greater work/life balance. Many U.S. companies have adopted programs to help employees strike a better life balance by providing health club benefits, entertainment discount programs, and additional time off for events such as the birth of a child. Despite all this, Americans are of the most overworked and flat-out busy people on earth, recently surpassing the Japanese and long surpassing the Europeans. With all this discussion of work/life balance, how can we in the U.S. also be of the most overworked people in the world? The answer is pretty simple; many of us talk work/life balance, but don’t live work/life balance primarily because we don’t know how to do it.
Colleagues - I just created a daily calendar for dads using our Six-Word Lessons format. Each month I focus on a specific topic, such as "Planning for the Future", "Balancing it All", "Managing Your Career", etc. Every day I send out a Six-Word Lesson for that topic (see samples above). To avoid flooding inboxes with daily emails, I am doing only through social media. If you would like to get these lessons in your social media feed click on one of the below social media buttons and follow me. I also appreciate you sharing the lessons in your social media feed :-).
As always would love your feedback. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me.
Bud was one of the most brilliant people in his organization. Only in his mid-thirties, Bud amazed his senior managers with his ability to grasp problems and develop innovative and effective solutions to those problems. He was highly sought after as a "go-to" guy and would consistently come up with creative approaches. His management decided to give him a thorny project with a team of over 100 professionals. "This is my chance to really prove I can deliver", Bud thought as he willingly accepted the project.
Bud wasted no time in coming up with some great solutions which his management thought were brilliant. Expectations were sky-high and Bud was on a project high. Then the problems started.
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