Hero: Jerry Ragovoy

Songwriter Jerry Ragovoy passed away on Wednesday, July 13 at age 80. Ragovoy leaves behind the legacy of hit songs performed by the Rolling Stones (“Time Is On My Side”), Janis Joplin (“Piece of My Heart”), Jimi Hendrix (“Stop”) and numerous others. A memorial piece in The New York Times shows Ragovoy’s career as a songwriter was just as intriguing as the hit songs he’s written.

Ragovoy began his career as a music buyer for a department store in Philadelphia. Though he started his own record company, Ragovoy had is sights set on being a songwriter for Broadway.

In New York, in 1962, he found his career taking a different turn. He started writing a number of songs for groups like The Majors and Garnet Mimmis and the Enchanters. His song “Time On My Side” was adapted and made into a hit by the Rolling Stones. By 1966, Ragovoy was the head of artists and repertory at Warner Bros Records and in 1969 he founded a new record company, The Hit Factory.

Jerry Ragovoy sought to work on Broadway, but ended up getting famous for writing hit songs for classic artists, earning praise from his contemporaries for his mastery of the R&B idiom. Because he was willing to put his theatrical plans on hold, he ended up taking his life in directions few get to tread.

What executive coaching lessons can we glean from this man and his remarkable career trajectory?

  • Your career path may allow you to expand, shift your focus, and even change your direction entirely. Opportunities in slightly different fields may be offered to you. If you’re interested, you may find yourself excelling in something new and unexpected.
  • Ragovoy “shelved” his plans for Broadway to write for musicians. You may have a specific dream or goal in mind – don’t let it close you off to new experiences that may become new realities. Be prepared to adapt.

JS

How to Beat Burnout

No matter what field you are in or whether your business has managed to stay prosperous despite the economic recession, your team members may experience fatigue and burnout. If your business has fallen on tough times and has faced downsizing, burnout will most likely surface in some form.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) studied how fatigue currently plagues the American workforce: the prevalence of fatigue in the US is as high as 37.9%, with 65.7% of these fatigued workers reporting their productivity was severely hindered. This loss of productivity and weak performance is said to cost employers $136.4 billion annually. As the economic climate remains on edge, organizational leaders must do something to curb fatigue or risk dealing with its much more severe and costly counterpart, burnout.

Organizations must make preventing burnout and fatigue a priority. While fatigue may surface as exhaustion or a “funk” caused by stress, burnout is a syndrome with more troubling symptoms. These include:

  • Insomnia
  • Loss of interest in work and hobbies
  • Absenteeism and low performance
  • Low or levels of confidence, energy and concentration
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Fatigue left unchecked can kindle into burnout – it must be caught and corrected as early as possible. If you see symptoms of burnout in yourself or your coworkers, be sure to consider the following in order to address the situation:

  • Offer encouragement and ask how you can be of assistance.
  • Identify and empathize with their distress. Do not pass judgment.
  • Mention existing employee assistance programs and other referral options, such as executive coaching.

Learning to prevent burnout in your team or organization is paramount to your continued success. If you notice potential problems in your team members, don’t be afraid to suggest the following steps to avoid burnout or fatigue.

  • Identify and eliminate sources of significant stress.
  • Pay special attention to your physical well being.
  • Be vigilant of all your various responsibilities in life, not just work-related duties.
  • Recall what makes you passionate about your work and why it matters.

Executive coaching can help you assess your priorities and keep burnout at bay. To learn more, get in touch today.

JS

Entepreneurial Solution to Job Shortages

If you’re like millions of new college graduates, you’re having a very hard time finding a job now that you’re out of school. Unemployment is high, and competition for the few open entry-level positions is fierce. Is there a better way?

This Sunday’s New York Times article “No Jobs? Young Graduates Make There Own” explores and often-overlooked option: entrepreneurialism. More and more college graduates are starting their own entrepreneurial projects and taking advantage of specific market niches. This is made possible by the internet, which has made starting a business cheaper than ever before.

Actually, I think this is a great idea for all people having trouble finding a more conventional job. As an entrepreneur myself, I can speak to how rewarding the undertaking is if it’s managed right. Here are some of my tips to potential entrepreneurs just getting their start:

  1. Plan on something simple with high demand for your products or services in the marketplace.
  2. If you don’t have an idea already, start brainstorming with what you know.
  3. Use a shoestring budget to make the most of your limited resources. Save money wherever you can.
  4. Take advantage of all shared or open resources afforded to you, including the Young Entrepreneurial Council started by the entrepreneur at the center of the NYT article.
  5. Do as much of the work needed by your company by yourself. Use open-source software and anything free to save money. The article mentions entrepreneurs teaching themselves HTML and using free online resources so that they could design their websites themselves without hiring a web designer.
  6. Set up a professional “front’ office by using a hourly office service. This is especially useful for startups, especially since they have hourly rates for conference rooms and phone answering services. Most major cities have services like this, including New York City and Chicago.

Though entrepreneurialism is always a risky enterprise, now is the time to take a shot if you’re young and serious about your idea. It’s a difficult way of life, but the best if you learn to love it.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Simplify and De-clutter Your Life

An exchange variously attributed to an interviewer and either John D. Rockefeller or J. Paul Getty—both astronomically wealthy oil tycoons—goes like this: A reporter asks the interviewee how much money is enough, and the response comes: “Just one dollar more.” Indeed, mankind has grown more and more materialistic and possession-motivated in the last century. A new movement resisting this notion is gathering steam, however, claiming that people might be happier once they actively limit their possessions and focus on relationships with those close to them.

An article in the New York Times called “But Will It Make You Happy?” contains an overview of the movement. Most commonly, websites that support the minimalist philosophy gauge the metrics of how simplified your life is by counting your possessions. The blog Stuck in Stuff has a number of articles about limiting what you own to 100 items, and it’s this type of site that inspires the people discussed in the NYT article. 100 items is an extreme, but we all have something to incorporate regarding simplification.

The effect of cutting off superfluous attachments is to drastically simplify your life and eventually allow you to focus on being happy. It works like this: as you limit your possessions, you need less space and less transportation to go about your everyday life. This means you spend less money on smaller apartments and transportation, which means you can work to earn money to support yourself, not your possessions.

An unhappy worker is unproductive, no matter the industry. Cutting ties to possessions and trimming fat can be a very liberating action, and can contribute to happiness. If you feel like you’re working for those around you and to support your habits, not your choices, maybe simplifying your lifestyle is a good idea.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Habits: Challenging How We Think About Study Habits

A terrific article describes groundbreaking effective study strategies in “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits,” informing us about new cognitive research that challenges conventional ideas about the best ways to learn and study. I have never identified with boring and repetitive study habits, and instead have found that mixing up and varying one’s approach is the way to go when it comes to effective studying or work output. I was intrigued to find that this research confirms my own preferences and the methods I teach to Full Life clients.

There are two main ideas that the article takes issue with: first was the idea that students should have a set place where they always study. Actually, as I’ve found and as the article reports, it’s better to learn and work from a variety of different locations. The article explains that we make numerous subtle associations between the subject we’re studying and our surroundings while we study it; and by changing our location, we force the brain to make multiple associations to increase retention. I noticed this practice helped me greatly when I was writing my book, Fire Your Therapist, which I wrote in many different places: one day I would work from home, one day from the office, another day from Starbucks, then in Florida. This kind of alternating also helps you from getting fatigued: by varying your surroundings, changing the background “noise” and keeping the routine from getting boring.

The second convention that the article challenges is the idea that the best way to learn large amounts of new material is immersion in each separate subject. I’ve found that it helps more to turn studying into something of an exercise regiment—just as you vary speed, weight, and power training in a workout, you might consider sampling different kinds of subject matter in each study session to build mental connections between the different subjects, thereby replicating a multitasking testing experience while you study. Immersion may still have a place in a study regiment, but it’s good to see it supplemented with more innovative and effective study methods.

So new study approaches include:
1. Vary study locations
2. Vary background noise/music
3. Vary light, temperature, smells, tastes
4. Study by sampling and limit immersion

It’s always difficult to disregard conventional thinking, even in the face of empirical research. This has always been evident, and we can see it in the article: the research that led to claims that alternating a study space is helpful comes from 1978, yet students are still widely told to set aside a dedicated study space and stick to it. In fact, there are more conventional beliefs about learning that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Study habits are widely stuck in antiquated ruts, and need to be supplemented with modern innovations.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Possibility: 40 Years of Talk or Getting Results

Daphne Merkin’s August 8, 2010 article My Life in Therapy demonstrates how a long-term patient can become disillusioned with therapy, in part due to the discipline’s top-down and judgmental approach. Unfortunately, therapy is often more concerned with the therapist’s interests, not with your desired outcomes. Whether or not we want to admit it, the history of therapy has involved judgment, where the therapist interprets your ambitions and issues as problems or mental disorders. Also, for this reason, many minorities avoided therapy since the word spread that people were often more hurt than helped. What is needed now is a time-efficient and respectful multi-cultural approach for all clients to both manage issues and achieve goals, while implementing their own ideas of the life you want.

Like a lot of other people, Merkin’s article speaks of growing disillusionment with therapy, in part due to how the discipline is often therapist-centric, as opposed to chiefly concerned with your well-being.

Coaching is actually an “architectural” and design-oriented process with problem solving and goal-setting technologies for clients to utilize. Therapists have historically been called shrinks, and the new generation of coaches (ideally with clinical training as their foundation) are better described as “expanders”. Coaching helps you construct your career and life in order to achieve greater satisfaction and even “optimal performance”. It’s an exciting time, as coaching can combine the effective aspects of therapy with pursuit of your vision and goals. People are growing frustrated with the frequently narrow and “pathologizing” therapy process. Clients yearn for useful tools to survive in this increasingly competitive world. As the paradigm of therapy wanes, coaching provides an exciting client-centric alternative.


JS

Possibility: Hillary

Ok, I decided I would write you again on the eve of Labor Day 2010. Not an easy time for Labor these days….

But, sitting here with the real-time, real-paper (not my laptop, Kindle or iPad versions), I lay the New York Times in front of me on this fine Sunday, and I smiled as I read the words, “It may prove the greatest test yet for Mrs. Clinton, one that could cement her legacy as a diplomat if she solves the riddle that foiled even her husband….”

OMG, what an amazing lesson for all regarding the business power of persistence and diversity, which I will be writing a lot about in the future. It seems like yesterday (about seventeen years ago) when Hillary Clinton was the punching bag for leading the health care initiative over ten years ago. Partisan politics aside, look where she is now, the odds on favorite for brokering the major mid-east deal that no one else has accomplished.

This is an amazing position to be in. This is a Leader who gets better at what she does and never gives up. Hillary, thanks for reminding us of what each of us have to do and do again.

Enjoy your Labor Day holiday and visualize how you want to express your labor in the coming year.

JS

Follow-up

As you walk out of the office or home for your weekend holiday, I want to give you some food for thought.

As Labor Day celebrates the return to labor after summer (even though we all know, in these times, many of us either never stopped laboring or are unemployed) I was struck by George Clooney’s humble words as he won the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for his work in disaster relief at the Emmys last Sunday evening:

“The hard part is seven months later, five years later, when we’re on to a new story. Honestly, we fail at that, most of the time. That’s the facts. I fail at that,” Clooney added. “So here’s hoping that some very bright person right here in the room or at home watching can help find a way to keep the spotlight burning on these heartbreaking situations that continue to be heartbreaking long after the cameras go away. That would be an impressive accomplishment. Thank you.”

It made me think about how in our businesses and lives, we also get caught up in new priorities and we let older programs we have implemented get sloppy or die.

That is why when I teach implementation of the five steps of dealing with a crisis or of starting a new program, I include the 5th step below about follow-up.

When you start a new program, follow these 5 steps:

1. INVESTIGATE fully what going on

2. Make accurate CONCLUSIONS

3. Make RECOMMENDATIONS to others

4. Take the appropriate ACTIONS

5. DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW-UP after it’s all in place

Follow-up is one of the greatest challenges of the human race at this time. As things get more and more complicated, there is a need for more solutions. But if we forget that we have to maintain what we have put in place, then nothing will get better at work or in the world. Whether it is learning that if we have an egg-producing chicken operation, it has to be impeccably clean; or if we ask something of our valued employees we have to bother to see how old systems are still working.

So after labor day, take a moment to ask the key people in your family, work place, and community activities, “So, how’s that great program we implemented doing?”. Make a list of all the important systems in your life that you have put in place, and take a moment to check on how they are doing!

Have a great labor day weekend and safe travels!

JS

Get It Going

Today I feel like talking about MOMENTUM.

In the blog series introduction I described momentum as:

MOMENTUM: What allows us to get unstuck? How can you become a person who sees what’s next and JUMPS into the opportunity with full force? We will discuss the Full Life Achilles® Plan which gives you a method to advance your goals in an organized, energized, and incremental fashion.

It is a pleasure for me to see a new coaching client who comes in determined to start planning and implementing the next phase of their career or life.

I think people turn to coaching when they have had it with feeling “stuck” in some aspect of career or life. “Hitting bottom” is when they are finally determined to move forward in their life. Bottom, however, is different for each person. One person’s bottom is not enough for another person to engage. Another common situation I see is when a client knows exactly what they want to do and they can’t seem to implement their next step goals (which I call their Achilles Plan). So we try to figure out what is blocking their pursuit of their vision. Together, we investigate what is holding them back. Is it fear of the unfamiliar or the new? Or just unexplainable inertia…? Sometimes they find it difficult to implement their vision of the career they deeply want; dating with the intention of a great relationship; or making a relationship a vibrant one instead of a mediocre one. One of my clients told me to add that sometimes there is resistance because one is not sure getting their goal is really going to make a big difference anyway. Pessimism she says needs to be managed as well, if it is a bad habit.

Once we make a hypothesis regarding why a client is blocked from reaching his or her next step, we use the Achilles plan to invigorate their goal implementation by:

1. Changing some environmental factor which gets them to go for new goals. For example, sometimes a 3-day vacation can inspire someone to move forward;

2. We break all goals down to smaller doable goals;

3. We simply wait for the client to go for the next step and encourage him or her to reach out for the goal they seek.

When I need more momentum in some area of work or life, I think about what is holding me back, and then make a plan to stimulate my pressing onward. It could be talking to a friend, a mentor, taking a course, reading a book, going for a bike ride, watching a great movie, working out, or putting something in place that encourages me to move forward. For example, an accountability step, like telling someone I know what I seek to do and asking them to follow-up with me and see if I did it. Another client mentioned that they find brief goal list left on the breakfast table and in the car are really helpful ways of staying focused on what you want.

OK…so take action right now in charging up your momentum with one of the tips discussed here.

How about you? In what ways do you create or maintain momentum that you can share below with others?

JS

You Can’t Prevent Disappointment

Nobody likes being disappointed. It sucks. Whether at work or in life.

During the past few days, Tony Robbins, the virtual god of coaching, was suddenly dropped by NBC, canceling his new television show after only 2 episodes. The news was unexpected for a man who takes pride in his effectiveness in helping others be successful. Suddenly, many American people were not interested in viewing the show. Yet he models resilience by still taking pride in the show: “I am grateful for the reach and experience that the specials created.”NYTimes

If you bravely open your eyes, disappointment strikes multiple times every day. It can be when you are let down by a colleague, a customer, a vendor, or yourself. It can be a sale that doesn’t close; a business plan that does not pan; a talk you give that fails to inspire.

I get disappointed all the time as an entrepreneur. For example, when my book was published this past year, with the launch parties and press, I thought that EVERYONE would get interested in coaching. Instead I found that the smaller but steady flow of clients still allowed Full Life to thrive. Also, when I opened the center 8 years ago, I thought thousands would come for coaching. Many did, but it is common for a business person to think huge things may happen right away. My experience is that usually incremental steps do occur. I never like disappointments, but I have learned to see and feel them, and then go on with a great attitude.

Many clients wonder how to develop a thicker skin. You might consider the following steps of how to modify your thinking in order to build resilience:

1. Expect disappointments and failures so you are not surprised when they occur;

2. Pursue life balance so your confidence is not based only at work;

3. Live for your passion and do the things at work you love;

4. Let the warrior in you come out so no one can bring you down; and

5. Persist, persist, persist.

So remember to take pride in all you do and weather the disappointments with courage and conviction. Don’t try to control everything. Keep going and dare to be disappointed and sometimes fail multiple times, tomorrow, and every day.

Let me know your thoughts about disappointment and share this with friends and colleagues who would be interested in this dialogue.

JS

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