The Toolbox Archives
Most of us recognize the importance of caring for ourselves Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually in order for us to be at our best. Did you ever consider how your personal finances come into that equation? Think about it. Do you remember the time that your car died beside the road the same week that rent was due? How patient were you with your co-workers that week? Or the year that “vacation” consisted of spending a week with your mother-in-law because you didn’t have the money to take a real break? What impact did that have on your relationships?
We don’t notice it at first glance, and yet the state of your personal finances has a direct impact on your ability to show up as your best self. Let me be very clear here. This is NOT about the AMOUNT of money that you have. Rather, it is about your relationship with money. Are you managing it? Or, is it managing you?
Several years ago I had the privilege of learning T. Harv Eckers’ money management system. I started using his system immediately and found it to be simple and incredibly powerful. I want to share the basics of his system with you here as I also show you how each portion of your paycheck directly impacts your capacity to become a Conscious Leader.
Each time the Conscious Leader is paid, he or she immediately divides the check into separate accounts as follows:
10% Give: This account supports the spiritual aspect of the
Conscious Leader. For some, this money may go to a religious
institution. For others it may go to a charity. The criteria that
I like best is: to be given to any person or institution that
feeds you spiritually. You get to decide. Maybe it’s the extra
tip for the waitress who was so patient with your son tonight.
Maybe it’s a significant donation at the end of the year to the
local animal shelter. You choose. AND you don’t have to know whom you will give it to when you pull it from your check. Set it aside, look for the inspiration, give generously in gratitude when you see it.
10% Future security: Even though government employees have some remaining retirement benefits, those benefits alone are not likely sufficient to allow you to live the same lifestyle that you enjoyed
while working. This portion of your paycheck speaks to both the
physical and emotional aspects of the Conscious Leader. It ensures
that you have means to provide for your physical comfort in later
years as well as feeding the emotional aspect of enjoying your
freedom after formal retirement rather than feeling deprived.
10% Education (YOURS not your kid’s): Continuous education feeds
the mental aspect of the Conscious Leader. When was the last time
you paid to attend a class? Was it when you graduated college? It
doesn’t matter what you learn, nor does it matter if the topic
appears to be directly related to your work. Take dance lessons,
learn to trade stocks, hire a coach. The learning you gain from
continuous education extends far beyond the subject matter of the
topic at hand.
10% Savings for Spending: Otherwise known as the contingency
fund. This account may feed multiple aspects of the Conscious
Leader depending on how it ultimately gets used. If the money goes
to a new refrigerator because the old one died unexpectedly,
perhaps it is the physical aspect that is supported…you can eat
better because you can keep food fresh. Or, perhaps it is the
mental aspect that is supported…you can choose when you want to
replace your aging refrigerator and exactly what model you want to
replace it with because the available funds give you freedom.
***Note: You may find it helpful to sub-divide this category. For
example, 5% for new refrigerator, 5% for kids’ college fund.
5-10% Play: WHAT!?! Yes, PLAY! All work and no play makes Johnny
a very grumpy, narrow-minded, ineffective leader. Whether you
choose to place 5% or 10% of your paycheck in this account depends
on the category we will cover last. For now, the important thing
to realize is that not only must you segregate this money, you must
SPEND THIS MONEY! Spend it on whatever makes your heart
sing…whatever makes you feel rich, special, and ALIVE. It must
be something FUN. Whether you spend this money on a great
vacation, upgrading your plane ticket to business class, or a cup
of tea at the most expensive restaurant in town, take the money and
50-55 % Necessities: This is the portion of the paycheck that
covers all the necessary expenses of daily living: food,
rent/mortgage, transportation, clothes, personal hygiene, medical
expenses. Ideally all the expenses required for daily life should
be covered by 50% of each check. And, in the beginning it may be
necessary to allow the additional 5% to cover the gap while making
adjustments. Some of you are probably surprised that this category
comes last, especially since most of us instinctively think of this
category first. This category maintains all four aspects of the
Conscious Leader (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) AT
THEIR CURRENT LEVELS in the present moment. When we fund this
category first, there is usually little left for the other
categories. There is no capacity to give, to learn, to plan, to
react, or to grow.
I challenge you to try this system for 3 months. I think you’ll be
surprised at the results.
The core of your Leadership Mindset rests on the four aspects of the human experience: the Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual aspects. When one of those core aspects is weakened, your Leadership Mindset is unable to support the tactics required to accomplish your mission. Remember that day at work when your brain was fried from trying to figure out the new purchasing process, and your direct report wanted to ask for feedback on his performance? Or at home, the day your daughter needed a shoulder to cry on, and you hadn’t eaten all day? I suspect you found it very difficult to deal with either of those situations effectively because some aspect of your core was weakened at the time.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that meeting your own needs is selfish or that you don’t have time to take care of yourself. Yet without this core strength in ALL FOUR ASPECTS, you will not have the balance to sustain your mission for the long haul. Don’t think of it as, “I’ll be OK.” Think of it as, “What do I need to be GREAT?”
With that in mind, here are 12 quick, simple exercises to develop core strength in each aspect so you can be great. As you practice these, you will begin to notice how strength in one area bleeds over into strength in another…a very handy thing to remember on days when one aspect is significantly weaker than the others.
1. Sleep: Ideally 6-8 hours per night regularly. When that isn’t always possible, a 20 minute power nap makes a huge difference.
2. Hydrate: Water serves as the conduit for all of the neurological pathways in your body. It flushes waste from the system and regulates the temperature of the core. Sip water throughout the day BEFORE you feel thirsty.
3. Breathe: Bringing oxygen deep into the cells and expelling carbon dioxide from the body strengthens the muscles and clears the mind. Consciously stop what you are doing and take 3-5 deep whole-body breaths.
4. Look to learn: Exercise your mind by exposing it to something new on a daily basis. It could be a new skill, a new experience, or a new perspective.
5. Problem solve: Focus your mind on the kinds of problems that you love to solve. They could be actual problems at work or crossword puzzles. The important thing is to give your mind a mental challenge.
6. Release focus: Give you mind permission to wander. Great ideas are often born when the mind is left to its own devices.
7. Name your feelings: As you experience an emotion, name it precisely. Are you annoyed, frustrated, angry or infuriated? Do you feel hurt or disrespected? Naming an emotion is the first step to expressing it effectively. The more accurately you can name your feelings, the more equipped you are to manage them.
8. Express emotions effectively: An emotion unexpressed continues to stress the body and mind. An effective expression may include allowing yourself to cry, to laugh, or to scream. It may also include asking for what you need to feel better.
9. Recognize emotions as signals: All emotions are signals. Those emotions that do not feel good to us are signals that we have a need that is not being met. Use the emotion to identify the need.
10. Connect to your purpose: Whether by divine design or random chance, depending on your belief system, each of us is uniquely suited to offer some gift of service to the world. Each day, do at least one thing that connects you with your purpose. Only you can know what that is for you.
11. Expect Abundance: Everything that happens with you, for you, through you, and to you is part of the training program that contributes to your purpose. When things don’t turn out the way you thought they should, deliberately look for the training objective.
12. Practice forgiveness: What if NO ONE is deliberately misbehaving? Including you.
I’m going on a rampage here so get ready. I am SICK of hearing EVERYONE say, “you have to be willing to sacrifice if you want to get ahead.” I hear lots of people in our organizations say, “We are looking for and rewarding those officers who are making the biggest sacrifices.” Well, I say, “That explains a lot.” If you are looking for mediocrity and status quo, asking for “sacrifice” is the surest way to get it. If, however, you are looking for motivated individuals who are ready to take on the toughest challenges for the long haul, what you really want is “Gift.” Here’s why:
Reason 1: “Sacrifice” assumes limited resources!
Sacrifice means giving from a place of limited resources. Therefore, by definition, at some point there will be nothing left to give. Whether you are considering the productivity of a team inside an organization, the emotional resilience of a family unit, or the physical stamina of an individual, at some point the entity will give out. The sacrifice has drained the reserves. There is nothing left to sacrifice.
Gift, on the other hand, assumes giving from a place of abundance, of overflow, of extra. By definition, the overflow does not get depleted. Every person has their own GIFTS, that collection of knowledge, skills, abilities, talents, desires, experiences and quirks that are unique to them. When each person uses their GIFTS, the supply is constantly renewed. It does not end.
Reason 2: “Sacrifice” hurts!
Sacrificing is painful, stressful, uncomfortable, and difficult. Therefore, people must be “convinced” to sacrifice. The perceived reward must be sufficient to warrant the discomfort and pain associated with the sacrifice. Unfortunately, no outside party can quantify the pain level of a given sacrifice so the “reward” is never enough. In short order, the one making the sacrifice begins to feel unappreciated, unrecognized, and resentful. They will certainly not entertain the notion of sacrificing a second time. “Find some other sucker!”
Giving does not hurt. In fact, it feels AMAZING! It’s like a drug. When a person uses his natural GIFTS, he does not need any outside reward. The reward comes in the true satisfaction and fulfillment of authentically being in service to the world. I once had an interview where I was asked, “Have you ever made any sacrifices in your life?” I thought for a long moment before I answered the question. What I said was, “Yes, I’m sure I did. But it didn’t feel like it at the time.” I realize now that I had NOT sacrificed. I had GIVEN freely and generously. And was eager to do so again.
Because sacrifice depletes resources, when the well is empty, it requires time to refill and recharge. The amount of time and resources required to refill the well varies depending on the nature of the sacrifice and how many times it has been drained dry in the past.
Given the challenges and responsibilities facing our public institutions today, THERE IS NO TIME to recharge. We must continue moving forward as fast as we can just to keep up.
Because giving does not deplete resources, it does not require recharging. The act of giving is inherently self-sustaining, as the reward comes in the act itself. Some people will read this statement and think, “Well, if we operate this way, no one will ever do the hard jobs or take the tough assignments.” What those people don’t realize is that the “hard job” is NOT HARD for the one ideally suited to fill it. For every assignment there is someone for whom the assignment is IDEAL. ALWAYS. Here is the key: Only the one GIFTed for the role knows that it is IDEAL for them. No other outside party can make that determination.
A Final consideration:
We’ve been conditioned to believe that the value of a contribution is directly related to the level of pain (sacrifice) involved in making the contribution. Viewed from the above perspective, the opposite is true. For one week, try shifting the mindset to: the value of a contribution is directly related to the level of satisfaction (gift) it provides both the giver and receiver. Notice what happens.
You don’t have to travel the world to learn lessons that will take your leadership to the next level…BUT it certainly helps. How many of these are you ready to take on?
The sum total of all your talents, skills, abilities, experiences, desires, quirks (or “flaws”), and physical attributes are what I call your “GIFTS.” Each of us has a different set of GIFTS and those GIFTS are what make us ideally suited to fill some role in the world.
Each of the women in this photograph is a successful leader in her field. Yet as you can see by the expressions on our faces, basket weaving is a real challenge for us. We worked for almost two hours on our little baskets and none of us managed to weave more than about half of a rough, bumpy, less-than-beautiful inch. Clearly basket weaving is not our GIFT. When we choose to recognize and work within the field that is our GIFT, we love what we do, we easily generate success, impact, and income, and therefore have more to share with the world.
Whatever you were or were not in your past does NOT have to determine what you will be in the future. The past will certainly influence your future. After all, those past experiences are part of what comprises your GIFTS. Nevertheless, you get to decide what the future looks like.
The mass grave shown in this photo represents what was true (civil war, disease, and poverty) in the past for the people of this village in Uganda. They decided it would NOT represent their future. The families of the village came together to focus on education, health, and self-sustainability to create a different future for themselves and their children. When they started they didn’t know “how” to accomplish their vision with no resources, they only knew “what” they wanted to accomplish. That is the first step. Once they committed to the “what” and focused their attention on it, the “how” began to show up.
I love this photo! Every face in this photo represents a role in creating a better world. If you look closely you will see a nun, a multiple 7-figure business owner, a dairy goat farmer, an HIV+ mother, a widow, a former Peace Corp volunteer, a JLMC foundation program director, a trainer, and a child. And if you look even more closely you will see that every face is clearly filled with JOY!
The individual monthly income for the adults on the bus ranges from less than USD $10/month to more than USD $50K/month. It can be easy to think, “I can’t make a difference. I’m just a _______. I don’t have anything to give.” Yet every face in this group is making a difference and is directly responsible for saving lives.
Because of all of them, villagers now have the education to generate income, the income to acquire HIV treatments, the HIV treatments to improve their health and physical well-being, and the physical well-being to provide education for someone else in the village. Because each person contributed their GIFTS, the process comes full circle.
True leadership is not about authority handed down in a position or a title. Nor is it about “getting everyone to like you” so they will do what you want. True leadership is about vision, purpose, commitment, and JOY.
Just Like My Child Foundation™ founder Vivian Glyck is adamant about this last lesson. When an individual or a community receives a blatant handout, they have “no skin in the game.” They are ill-equipped to capitalize on the handout and are then condemned to continue begging for handouts. By the same token, the donor feels that their offering was not appreciated and, over time, can begin to resent the very souls they intended to help. With a handout, there is no vision, no purpose, no commitment and certainly no JOY.
JLMC operates on a different premise. The community or individual is required to craft their own vision and the rough beginnings of a plan. With this vision in play, JLMC offers training in everything from “goal-setting” to “business-planning” with input from the local community so the “lessons” are truly applicable in the local context. Once the recipient has demonstrated that she is ready to receive assistance, JLMC provides the assistance and the support to insure that she not only has everything she needs to make her plan work, but also has the “wider vision” and long-term commitment to pay her success forward on purpose. The recipient becomes a Leader. The JOY of success? Well, that’s contagious!
AT JLMC it’s a HAND UP! Not a HAND OUT!
To see how you can support Just Like My Child, visit www.justlikemychild.org
For many agencies April signaled the start of harsh budget cuts across the board including cuts to pay and benefits. For many state and local level agencies, those harsh cuts began last year. Regardless of when the cuts began, many employees find themselves in an uncomfortable situation with more time on their hands than they had originally planned, whether through furlough, reduced hours or eliminated positions. At first blush, the situation sounds pretty dire and unsettling as employees consider the impact of these cuts on their personal financial situations.
If you are one of the employees in this situation, I respect the challenge that you are currently facing and recognize that it can be absolutely terrifying. And, what if you chose to view this situation as a Golden opportunity, a giant RESET button, where you design, create, and build the career you intended to have all along. What might be possible for you?
Many years ago, my uncle worked for Piedmont Airlines. He’d been with the airline for well over 30 years. Over the years, he had become quite accustomed to, and frustrated with, the bureaucracy and politics of the airline industry. AND, he had grown accustomed to receiving his regular paycheck. One day he walked in to work to learn that Piedmont had declared bankruptcy, and he had just been laid off. He had a stay-at-home wife, a son, a mortgage payment, and NO paycheck.
My uncle realized that he had a choice to make. He could choose to see the situation as a violation of trust, a betrayal, and a disaster, OR he could choose to see it as an opportunity that he didn’t quite understand yet. Taking a deep breath, he chose the opportunity. He began to identify what things mattered most to him. Then he invested in himself, even in the lean financial times, to hone skills that he never thought he’d need at work, and ultimately he started his own business. Within three years he had built a very successful business and repeatedly stated that getting laid off was the greatest gift he had ever received.
Now I’m not saying that you ought to trot off and start your own business. I am saying that the extra time you have on your hands offers a perfect opportunity to take stock of your career so far. Is it everything you always dreamed it would be? If not, use this opportunity to see what’s missing. If so, what one thing would make it even MORE of what you imagined? Use the time to invest in yourself. Whether you finally take control of your health by taking a nutrition class and learning to cook, or walking 3 miles a day like you said you would “when you have time,” or working with a coach that YOU hire for YOUR OWN personal development, now is the time.
Inside the walls of our respective bureaucracies, it is easy to fall into the trap of “if my organization wanted me to know X, they’d teach it to me.” While the programs offered to us are outstanding, they can only take you to a certain point in your personal and professional development. If you want more, you must become more. The most successful people in the world, including those in our own organizations, did not wait for someone else to provide them the class, the experience or the coach. They sought out the learning for themselves. As they invested in themselves to a greater level, their organizations also became willing to invest in them. Deciding to invest in yourself on a regular basis very quickly creates an upward spiral in all areas of your life, including your career.
Regardless of how sequestration shows up for you, you have the ability to decide what impact it will have. Are you ready to turn sequestration into your greatest opportunity? If so, I have a short quiz that will show you what areas need your attention most and also a monthly newsletter containing valuable leadership tips and strategies to get you on your way. To get your hands on these great resources, enter your name and email address at www.consciousleadershipblueprint.com
Brought to you by Martha Austin, Leadership Engineer and Personal Career Architect. Dedicated to inspiring prosperous service.
For those of you who are familiar with my work, you know that I focus on the idea that when you are doing the work that you are ideally suited to do, the work that takes advantage of your highest “gifts,” (skills, abilities, talents, experiences and desires) your unique natural leadership abilities will come out on their own to be gently tweaked and refined according to the needs of your role and your mission. Well, I confess, recently I was having a hard time believing what I teach. In one instance I’d worked for hours on a project only to have it completely ignored. When I approached my supervisor to ask if he had questions or concerns because he hadn’t moved it along, he simply said, “it isn’t on my priority list right now.” About the same time I learned that my organization had recently changed their policy on tour extensions (something they frequently do but usually provide some generous loopholes), and this time there would be no consideration for extensions and no opportunity for discussion. These highlights were cherries on top of a new unit chief who was “in the shorts” of the first line managers to the point that they were refusing to exercise any initiative without specific instruction for fear of being reprimanded or second-guessed. (Does this sound familiar to any of you, or am I the only one who ever experiences this?)
At the same time that I am feeling all of the frustration, disappointment, anger, physical fatigue, headache and muscle tension of working in that situation, I was also coaching clients. Specifically encouraging them to notice how they were feeling (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually) because those feelings were indicators of alignment and clues to their best next steps. Yet I couldn’t seem to do it for myself. I felt like a hypocrite, a liar, and a fraud. (Not a really good operating place for a leader, an employee, or a coach.)
That said, there are a few things I know without question:
- Life, especially the Conscious Leader’s life, is not a flat road. Frankly, it is a road through the Himalayas. There are awe-inspiring peaks and deep, dark, cold valleys. You can’t have one without the other.
- Every truly successful leader has a coach through whom the leader has committed to invest in himself. Sometimes the coach GUIDES the leader through the Himalayas, and sometimes the coach ALLOWS the leader to find her own way.
- Not every problem can or should be FIXED. Some problems, much like a virus, just need to run their course.
My coach was deliberately “allowing” me to find my own way through an unrelated problem when I suddenly realized that I had the solution to both problems. The solution was the one leadership tool that most leaders are scared…absolutely terrified…to use. The tool is called Stop Pushing. Just stop.
Throughout our careers we’ve been taught that influencing others and having an impact on the mission is the hallmark of our success. We go to classes to learn to set goals and develop action plans to achieve those goals. We then take additional classes to learn to manage our time and increase our productivity. In a different venue we learn that we should be happy and positive all the time so when we don’t feel that way, we push ourselves to “fix our attitude.” We learn to push and push and PUSH. The one thing that we don’t learn is WHEN TO STOP PUSHING! What is astounding is that when we strategically learn to STOP PUSHING and allow ourselves to be PULLED, potentially in a direction that we might have initially judged as inappropriate, we see opportunities that never existed before. Instead of resisting our efforts, exactly the right people become our partners, and everything that was impossible before becomes easy.
I should warn you that this is an advanced level tool. That’s why most leaders are too scared to use it. There is a big difference between abdicating your responsibility or “selling your soul to the devil” and strategically choosing to allow yourself to be pulled. The art comes in knowing exactly what that difference is and when to use the tool. These past few weeks were the reminder that I needed to take my own medicine and STOP PUSHING.