3 Steps to Opt-Out of The Rat Race and Achieve Lasting Fulfillment

So how are you doing with that New Year’s resolution? What’s that you say? You can’t even remember your resolution? If you’re like me, the rat race of life has taken over and you’ve been focused on other things. We aren’t alone. Surveys show that a few days into a new year 22% of people have already broken their resolution, 11% have abandoned them altogether, and only 8% will keep their resolution all year.

It seems as though the rat race wins every time, yet we keep coming back for more. In fact, we seem addicted to the constant pursuit of self-optimization. Notice I didn’t say self-improvement. Our culture has moved beyond the old-school simplicity of improving ourselves through ways like reading a book, taking a class, or developing self-awareness. Instead, we opt for the high-tech version of self-optimization of hacking our way to improved productivity, the monitoring of every possible biochemical process in our bodies to achieve peak performance, and having apps to remind us of how woefully short we’re falling from achieving our goals. We are literally trying to improve ourselves to death.

Ready to Opt Out of the Rat Race?

It’s easy to forget that we are human beings, not human doings. We get so focused on what we’re doing that we forget to just be. We wear our busyness like a badge of honor, when in reality it’s a scarlet letter that shows our priorities are all jacked up. When was the last time you just sat in quiet reflection for any amount of time? No, we tend to eschew self-reflection because it’s easier to stay busy with checking our phone for incoming email, new posts on social media, current news headlines, or the latest celebrity gossip.

But we have a choice. We can choose to focus on being, rather than doing, and I would argue it’s necessary to have a healthy balance of both if we want to live joyful, fulfilling, and contented lives. The rat race isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As Lily Tomlin wisely said, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. ~ Lily Tomlin

So how can we opt out of the rat race? I have three suggestions:

  1. Live for something bigger than yourself. Blaise Pascal had this to say about mankind’s search for ultimate meaning: “This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there, the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” Living for something bigger than yourself means you are clear on your purpose and priorities. If you don’t have a clear sense of living for something bigger that drives your actions, then other people will determine your course for you.
  2. Focus on others, not yourself. It’s a paradoxical truth in life that the more you focus on serving other people, the happier you are with yourself. Serving others brings joy, gratitude, and contentment. Focusing on yourself ultimately brings anxiety, discontent, and loneliness. Life is better lived in community and service with others.
  3. Learn to be content with your limitations. What?! Isn’t that anathema to the current thinking of self-optimization! Yes, it is, but it’s crucial in breaking free from the chains of the rat race. We all like to think we can do anything we set our mind to, and it’s counter-cultural to suggest otherwise. The reality is that we can’t do it all. Those who are happiest in life are those that have learned to accept their strengths and weaknesses for what they are, and to focus their time and energy in areas where they perform best. There’s a tremendous amount of relief that comes from being able to say “You know, I’m not the best at doing that. Why don’t you give someone else the opportunity?”

If you’re disappointed because you abandoned your resolution before January was over, or if you feel the stress and anxiety of trying to keep all the plates spinning, consider these three suggestions. Life is better when we remember we are human beings, not human doings.

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Career Zingers #18: A Hopeful View of Hopelessness

Hope is in the future, experience resides in where we are right now.

Hilton Head Beach (David Zinger, 2018)

I encourage you to be hopeless. I am not talking about depression, anxiety, or dread about the future. You don’t have to abandon hope but I do encourage you to give more attention and awareness to where you are right now. Hope can pull us through tough times but it can also distract us from what we need to do right now. If you want a bountiful garden make sure you plant the seeds, water the plants, and pull the weeds. I hope this advice was helpful without me relying simply on hope that you would get the message.

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Key Employee Engagement Strategies

This is a guest blog from John Hawthorne and it originally appeared in https://www.floship.com/employee-engagement-strategies-2018/ – His points are very similar to my thoughts so I thank him for allowing me to share it with you.

Employee Engagement Strategies

For any business to be successful, it must have three things: a robust overall strategy, exceptional leaders, and engaged employees. This society has moved from an economy driven by the agricultural and manufacturing industries to a service oriented, personally connected economy.

One hundred years ago, employees were tasked with manual labor and had no vested interest in the business that employed them.

In 2018, with high paying jobs hard to come by, it is essential for employers and leaders to engage their employees and make them feel as if they are an integral part of the business.

How can they do that? In this article, we’re going to lay out the what, why, and how of employee engagement.

Employee Engagement Most Recent Data

In 2017, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report revealed that only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs – meaning that they are emotionally invested in committing their time, talent, and energy to adding value to their team and advancing the organization’s initiatives.

This means that the majority of employees show low overall engagement. Workplace productivity was low and employees and organizations are not keeping up with workplace demands fast enough.

More Gallup research shows that employee disengagement costs the United States upwards of $550 billion a year in lost productivity. As employee engagement strategies become more commonplace, there is an amazing opportunity for companies that learn to master the art of engagement.

Jacob Shriar, in a piece on OfficeVibe, tells us that

  • Disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually.
  • Highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability.
  • Highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity.
  • Highly engaged business units achieve a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales.
  •  Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%.
  • Customer retention rates are 18% higher on average when employees are highly engaged.

These statistics are just the beginning of why employee engagement is so important.

Why Is Employee Engagement So Important?

Employee Engagement

The term “engagement” has been used so often and in so many different situations that it’s become hard to define. Many people think it means happiness or satisfaction, but it’s much more than that.

According to Gallup, who has been collecting and measuring employee engagement data for nearly 20 years: “Though there have been some slight ebbs and flows, less than one-third of U.S. employees have been engaged in their jobs and workplaces.”

Imagine if every employee was passionate about seeing the company and its customers succeed. The only true way to ensure that your customers are well taken care of is by taking care of your employees. This is known as the service-profit chain, a concept first introduced by Harvard Business Review in 1998. It’s still as relevant today as it was then.

Profit and growth are stimulated primarily by customer loyalty. Loyalty is a direct result of customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is largely influenced by the value of services provided to customers. Value is created by satisfied, loyal, and productive employees. Employee satisfaction, in turn, results primarily from high-quality support services and policies that enable employees to deliver results to customers.

The service-profit chain is the flow from the culture you create to the profits you generate and every step in between. The key is to start internally. When you create an environment where employees are happy, productive, autonomous, and passionate about what they do, they’ll provide better service to your customers.

That amazing service will create many loyal customers, leading to sustainable growth and profits. That’s why it’s important for every leader in an organization to understand the service-profit chain and how each step impacts the other.

Key Employee Engagement Strategies

Employee Engagement Strategies

Organizations need to pay attention to specific priorities to engage employees. Employees are more likely to become truly engaged and involved in their work if your workplace provides these factors.

Employee engagement must be a business strategy that focuses on finding engaged employees, then keeping the employee engaged throughout the whole employment relationship. Employee engagement must focus on business results. Employees are most engaged when they are accountable, and can see and measure the outcomes of their performance.

Employee engagement occurs when the goals of the business are aligned with the employee’s goals and how the employee spends his or her time.

The glue that holds the strategic objectives of the employee and the business together is frequent, effective communication that reaches and informs the employee at the level and practice of his or her job.

Engaged employees have the information that they need to understand exactly and precisely how what they do at work every day affects the company’s business goals and priorities. (These goals and measurements relate to the Human Resources department, but every department should have a set of metrics.)

Employee engagement exists when organizations are committed to management and leadership development in performance development plans that are performance-driven and provide clear succession plans.

When businesses actively pursue employee engagement through these factors, employee engagement soars to a ratio of 9:1 employees from 2:1 employees with concurrent improvements in the business success.

Employee Engagement Examples

There are of course many ways to show your employees they are valued, and to keep them focused and engaged on company success. According to Forbes, there are certain items in the benefit package that will help in creating employee engagement:

  • Health Insurance
  •  Company Parties (social engagement)
  • Gifts (new babies, appreciation luncheons)

Employees go home to different roles–parent, caregiver to a loved one, a church or civic leader, spouse, bandmate, freelancer, artist, neighbor–and the people they are closest to impact their lives and perspectives about work in meaningful ways. Acknowledging those relationships and showing they are a priority will increase employee engagement.

How to Improve Employee Engagement

Employee satisfaction

In a recent article in Forbes, Brent Gleeson, a former navy seal and successful businessman, gives solid advice on ways to improve employee engagement.

When managers are engaged, their team members can confidently state the following:

  • I know what is expected of me and my work quality.
  • I have the resources and training to thrive in my role.
  • I have the opportunity to do what I do best – every day.
  • I frequently receive recognition, praise and constructive criticism.
  • I trust my manager and believe they have my best interests in mind.
  • My voice is heard and valued.
  • I clearly understand the mission and purpose and how I contribute to each.
  • I have opportunities to learn and grow both personally and professionally.

The steps for improving engagement aren’t complex, they simply must be prioritized. This means engagement must be a core function of the manager’s role. The following steps can help the manager to accomplish this.

Step 1 – Put Everyone in the Right Role

Again, get the right people on the bus and make sure they are in the right roles. This means that all talent acquisition and retention strategies have to be aligned with meeting company goals.

Step 2 – Give Them the Training

No manager or leader can expect to build a culture of trust and accountability — and much less improve engagement —without setting the team up for success. This means providing the proper training and development while removing obstacles.

Step 3 – Task Meaningful Work

Engaged employees are doing meaningful work and have a clear understanding of how they contribute to the company’s mission, purpose and strategic objectives. Again, this is why they first have to be placed in the right role. I’ve made the mistake of hiring great talent just to get them in the door – but didn’t have a clear career path or role for them. If you don’t sort those details out quickly, they will leave.

Step 4 – Check in Often

The days of simply relying on mid-year reviews for providing feedback are long gone. Today’s workforce craves regular feedback — which of course leads to faster course correction and reduces waste. Use both formal and informal check-in strategies — and use them every week.

Step 5 – Frequently Discuss Engagement

Successful managers are transparent in their approach to improving engagement — they talk about it with their teams all the time. They hold “state of engagement” meetings and “engage” everyone in the discussion — and solutions.

Again, these principles are not complex, but must be prioritized. Companies that get this right will drive greater financial returns, surpass their competitors, and easily climb to the top of “the best places to work” lists.

Are Your Employees Engaged?

Employee engagement is critical to the success of any business. When a business has engaged and invested employees, it is in their best interest to protect the productivity and profitability of the business, and the image the business has in the community. Engagement also results in employee retention, which saves the business money in turnover and training. There is no downside to getting your employees engaged and invested in your business.

The Leader is the Topic of Dinner Conversation – What is Your Team Saying About You?

As a leader, have you ever considered that you are often the topic of dinner conversations of your employees?

Think about it for a second in relation to your own life. How often do you find yourself talking to your spouse or family members over a meal about things that happened at work and how your boss treated you? It happens quite a bit, doesn’t it? So why wouldn’t your employees be doing the same thing in relation to you?

Viewing the impact of your leadership through the eyes of how your employees describe their workday can profoundly shape your leadership style and practices.

When your team members have dinner with their families, are they talking about:

  • How you micromanaged them to the point where they question their own competence and believe you must think they are idiots?
  • The only time you interact with them is when you find fault with something or have negative feedback to deliver?
  • How you only care about yourself and impressing your own boss?
  • You not having a clue about their jobs because you never took the time to learn what they do?
  • How untrustworthy you are because you frequently break your commitments?

Or does the dinner conversation of your team members center around:

  • How good you made them feel when you praised them for a job well done?
  • The faith you showed in them by giving them a challenging new project?
  • How you built trust by admitting your mistake in front of the team and apologizing for your behavior?
  • How you went to bat for your team by advocating for their needs with senior leadership?
  • The great example you set by jumping in to help the team meet a critical deadline?

I’m not suggesting the goal of your leadership style should be to make your employees your best buddies or send them home with warm fuzzies at night because you’re such a nice guy. We all know leadership is a tough gig. It’s not unicorns and rainbows every day.

What I am suggesting, however, is to view the ultimate impact of your leadership through the eyes of your employees. Start with the end in mind. What is the legacy you want to leave? What do you want team members saying about the impact of your leadership long after you no longer work together?

You know your team members will be talking about you over dinner. What do you want them to say?

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The 1 Thing That Provides “Overdraft” Protection for Your Relationship Bank Accounts

Insufficient Funds—Maybe you’ve had that awkward experience when you’ve reviewed your bank account statement and discovered you made a purchase but didn’t actually have enough money in your account to cover it. Most likely you had overdraft protection on your account. That’s where the bank will advance you the money, allow the payment to be processed, but charge you an extra fee for covering your indiscretion. Overdraft protection is valuable insurance, because even though you may not intend to spend money you don’t have, sometimes you overdraw your account by mistake.

Sometimes we overdraw our relational bank accounts too. Careless words that hurt feelings, angry reactions that leave emotional scars, or broken promises that lead to disappointment…all examples of an overdrawn relational bank account.

Fortunately, we have overdraft protection for relationships and it’s called trust. I experienced this overdraft protection recently with a colleague at work. My coworker unintentionally said some things about me that were hurtful and not true, but since we had the overdraft protection of a high level of trust in our relationship, we were able to:

  • Address the issue directly – I confronted my colleague about what she said and was able to honestly share my feelings with the confidence it would lead to productively repairing the situation rather than making it worse.
  • Discuss the issue openly and honestly – Trust allowed us to talk about the issue objectively and without fear of reprisal. Our history of trust had demonstrated we were both committed to the value of the relationship and were willing to discuss the hard issues in a way that was respectful and honoring to each other.
  • Hear each other – It’s one thing to listen, it’s another to actually hear what’s being said. The trust we have in our relationship allowed us to hear one another. My colleague was able to hear how I felt about what she said and I was able to hear about what the intentions were behind her words.

Trust serves many purposes in a relationship. It’s the foundation of all successful, healthy relationships, and it’s also the fuel that powers relationships to higher levels of growth and intimacy. Trust is the lubrication that keeps relationships functioning smoothly, and thankfully, it’s the overdraft protection when relationships get overdrawn.

Leave a comment and feel free to share about your own experiences where trust has provided overdraft protection in your relationships.

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Want to Attract Top Talent? Tell The Story!

Enjoy this guest post by Mark Miller

When working on the research and the book, Talent Magnet, I was intrigued by the formula representing the strength of an actual magnet:

B2A

The B refers to the strength of the magnetic field and the A is the Area (size of the surface).

Although all of this is applicable, I think many organizations are missing out on the A, or size of their magnet. Let me explain…

For our purposes, let’s transform the A from area to Awareness. Just like a magnet with a small surface area has limited pull, an organization with little Awareness of the employee value proposition has little drawing power. The bottom line: assuming you have a message worth sharing (B), you must Tell the Story! The better you do, the larger the Awareness and awareness always precedes attraction!

Unless there is awareness of the organization’s most desirable attributes outside your current employees, there is little chance Top Talent will wander in the door hoping to find a job. Organizations who consistently attract Top Talent excel in their ability to Tell the Story.

Leaders sometimes are deceived into thinking orientation is the place to Tell the Story. Orientation is too late. By then you have a room full of people who may or may not qualify as Top Talent. If you truly want to attract great people, you must proactively spread the word your business is a place where leaders are engaged, there is a path for people to grow, and there is a compelling vision that reaches beyond the four walls of the workplace.

There are many ways and many places to Tell the Story. Leaders must identify where Top Talent is likely to be and make sure the story spreads to those places. No matter how good you are, without creating awareness of what is going on in your organization, you receive no credit for your efforts.

Make the promise Top Talent wants to hear, keep it, and then make sure the people you are looking for know what they will get if they join your team. A magnet with a small surface area is weak, and your ability to attract Top Talent will be also, unless you find new and creative ways to continually Tell the Story.

About Mark Miller

Mark Miller is the best-selling author of seven books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People, unveils the three critical aspects of a true talent magnet, and explores the deeper meaning of each in a clever and entertaining business fable.

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