How You Can Make the Most of a Bad Economy

What can young college grads do when four years of college and a degree draw next to nothing during a recession? A recent New York Times Fashion and Style article seeks answers. How will this new generation of college graduates make the most of their lives and careers, despite a recession and widespread unemployment?

Unfortunately, the economic recession has limited the career opportunities for many young and talented people. But many of those interviewed haven’t given up on living a fulfilled life. Despite a lack of work, they adapt and make use of their skills as best they can.

As many continue to search the job boards, there are some executive coaching tips which can help.

  • Find meaning in whatever you do. One interviewee graduated college with scant job prospects. While she made the best of a low-end job, she also did volunteer work after hours.
  • Make the most of what you’ve learned. What’s hard about unemployment is the feeling that your talents are being squandered. Many of those interviewed utilize their life skills by joining bands, blogging, and getting involved with their communities. It may take hard work, but finding that balance in your life is always worth it.
  • Talk to a career coach. A coach can help you make sense out of how you will design your next-phase career. They do more then offer you advice, they’ll be involved with helping your look at every option and making the best decision possible for your future.

The worst that can happen to many in this situation is stagnation. Those interviewed may not have the careers they sought in college, but they still continue to do things that matter. Being fulfilled is vital, almost as important as being employed.

 

JS

The Future of Monogamy

With the dust settling over the infidelity of Anthony Weiner and Arnold Schwarzenegger, famed relationship columnist Dan Savage asks if we should prize honesty over monogamy. In a New York Times interview, Savage calls typical modern idea of monogamous relationships skewed and unfair. According to him, honesty and openness should be prized above all, even if we admit to our partners everything from flirting with others to infidelity.

The love sphere is inseparable from the rest of our lives, and it often becomes a focus in coaching. This can lead to a renewed investment in monogamy, an alternative vision of the relationship, or, if it’s best, a break-up.

Where there are problems relationships, I have some some executive coaching advice to keep in mind.

  • Talk to a relationship coach. It takes both partners in a couple to make any meaningful decision. A coach can work with them and help decide what is the best direction for both.
  • Ask yourself and your partner what you both want out of the relationship. Are you looking for something serious and long-term? Are you just looking for fun and like to flirt with others? Does you partner know what you want? Be clear with your partner your intentions in the relationship.
  • Open discussion of issues is the first step. Keeping destructive secrets from loved ones only exacerbates the problem and is a symptom of spinning out of control. Infidelity is damaging enough to the relationship, but denial can make it even worse. Admission allows both parties to move on and attempt to salvage the relationship.

According to Savage, most couples can live happily in monogamously. He asks that couples try to be open, honest and flexible with one another. Executive coaching values the feelings of both members of a couple, and works to make sure any solution to a problem is mutual.

 

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

What Can We Learn From New York’s Gay Marriage Victory?

On June 24, New York became the largest state in the nation to recognize gay marriage. According to a New York Times article, the state government approved it by 33 “for” votes to 29 “against.” Four Republicans ended up becoming the deciding votes by basing their decisions on their personal and professional feelings, rather then voting the party line. Had it not been for them, the vote could have been deadlocked.

Even Senator Mark J. Grisanti from Buffalo chose to remain undeclared after, by his own admission, struggling with his own party and with his personal opinions. He stated that he could not deny a fellow New Yorker the same basic rights he and his wife enjoy.

In executive coaching, it’s important to come to terms with change. What was once taboo can actually be accepted in time. Our values, opinions and goals may evolve. Humility and respect are often integral values involved in personal and professional growth.

New York’s groundbreaking civil-rights breakthrough can teach us a number of executive coaching lessons:

  • Though we may feel offended, or disagree with what’s popular, we must consider respectfully tolerating our differences.
  • For Senators like Grisanti, it became increasingly difficult to find a clear legislative reason to vote against gay marriage. If we don’t like a person, or group of people, it helps to ask why we don’t and if our position is reasonable. Quiet introspection is a very potent coaching tool.
  • According to the article, a statewide poll revealed the proportion of residents in New York supporting gay marriage ballooned from 37% in 2004 to 58% at the start of 2011. Society continues to change and evolve. Accepting changes over time may help us accept those we used to consider so different from us.
  • Lastly, remember legalization of marriage in one state is only one big step on this particular civil-rights front – an important one, but one that needs to become accepted more on a national level to have greater impact on the culture at large. This relates to the concepts of follow-up and maintenance in executive coaching – as you achieve new goals at work and in life, it’s important to stay focused on what’s ahead.

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JS

Hero: Elena Bonner

On June 19 2011, Russian Human Rights activist Elena Bonner passed away at age 88. Her legacy includes a long marriage to the famous Soviet physicist and dissident humanitarian Andrei Sakharov. But she was a force all her own as an activist, fighting for human rights during and after the Soviet Union’s brutal Stalin regime.

Bonner grew up when dissidence and criticism of government was discouraged, to put it mildly. She and her husband’s abandonment of their Soviet government positions turned the KGB against them and led to their banishment from the country. Even in exile, they continued to push for human rights even after the USSR’s collapse.

Bonner stood up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves, even when it lead to scorn, hostility and exile. Her heroic example reinforces a few key executive coaching lessons:

  • Elena Bonner had great respect for people of all religions and faiths. Learning how to practice tolerance and acceptance, and to foster cooperation despite different points of view, is important for those who want to grow as leaders and people.
  • Bonner and her husband took a lot of flack when they fought for human rights. Do what you know is necessary, even if it doesn’t make you popular.
  • No one sphere of life exists independently of the others. Thus, it is important for business leaders to support, and sometimes join, global and local activists who are fighting for positive change.
  • According to Bonner, “The most deplorable teaching is the superiority of any nation over another.” To put it another way, arrogance is a dangerous enemy. If you consider yourself entitled or superior, you lose your true power in negotiations and your actions may make things worse for everyone involved.

We can’t all fundamentally change the course of a nation’s history, but those who fight for humanity and responsible freedom over tyranny are powerful examples for all occasions.

JS
 

Hero: Masao Yoshida

On March 12, as the world watched the unfolding disaster in Japan, a monumental decision was made at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The plant manager, Masao Yoshida, ignored a direct order from his company superiors to stop pumping the sea water that was cooling the reactor. In one act of defiance, Yoshida prevented another plant meltdown, saved thousands of lives, and exposed the troubled relationship between his company Tepco and Japan’s ruling government.

Yoshida’s actions and their aftermath are chronicled in a June 12 article from the New York Times. The piece suggests that the complacency of Tepco and the numerous bureaucrats surrounding the Japanese Prime Minster created a situation that left plant workers to fend for themselves. The move to stop the cooling of the Fukushima plant was not based on reason – it simply had to be done.

Thankfully, Yoshida received only a light verbal reprimand from his superiors. Though they may not admit it, his actions prevented a terrible situation from becoming worse. Masao Yoshida joins the leagues of those who’ve had to disobey in order to do the right thing.

We can learn a lot of useful coaching approaches from Yoshida and from those who came before him. “Deep Throat,” a/k/a W. Mark Felt, helped expose the Watergate scandal by divulging information to the Washington Post. During the reign of the Nazi Party in Germany, many Germans put their lives at risk to help Jews and other minority citizens hide or escape the country. Frederic Whitehurst exposed the inefficiency and lack of investigative rigor in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Today, he oversees the Forensic Justice Project for the National Whistleblower Center.

What can we learn from these defiant heroes? Here are a few takeaway coaching tips:

  • Always do the right thing. Never rationalize destructive or ineffective behavior by claiming, “I did what was asked of me” – that will never be a suitable excuse.
  • If you fear that following your conscience will draw the wrath of your colleagues, consider the consequences of not doing the right thing. Think of how you will feel if you don’t take the risk and stand up for what you believe.
  • Remember that people doing the wrong thing often think they are right. When you follow your conscience, be prepared to face strong opposition with few allies.
  • Doing what you know is right is always, ultimately, its own reward.

When you take responsibility for following your own sense of what’s right, you may save lives or you may simply make things brighter in your own corner of the world. Whomever you are, this challenge is yours to accept.

Understanding Change in Agriculture and Life

To avoid a global food shortage, changes may be coming to agriculture and food production. According to an article in the New York Times‘s environment section, “A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself,” experts in food cultivation and farming warn of dwindling crops due to climate change.

The rise in temperature is hurting agriculture and causing a rise in food prices. Dwindling food stocks also threaten less fortunate countries with starvation. That is, unless the food business and the food itself change with the times.

Farmers and scientists are creating new innovations in developing crops that can handle the rising temperatures and the sudden changes in weather. (For example, the article examines one Indian farmer’s surprise success with a new variety of rice.) But they stress that our habits and our assumptions about how we eat must adapt to avoid high prices and low yields.

Sudden changes can be daunting, but keep in mind some of these coaching techniques:

  • Keep yourself in the loop regarding technology, the environment and the food we will be eating. Read newspapers and news websites to keep yourself current with what’s happening. Keeping current with today can help you prepare for tomorrow.
  • Plan ahead. If the price of food is higher, alter your budget and your shopping habits to meet those changes.
  • Don’t do anything drastic. Recall that in 1999, some were convinced that computers would go haywire on New Year’s Day 2000, sewing mass chaos. In the end, nothing happened to those who spent way too much buying needless supplies.
  • Understand that everything is subject to change. If you feel anxious about something you don’t understand, then research it for yourself. In the online age, there are countless resources dedicated to everything from basic biology to agriculture.
  • Don’t believe everything you read. Some resources are more objective and reliable than others.

Fall of a Billionaire

The New York Times ran a story about the FBI’s conviction of Raj Rajaratnam, a billionaire investor and owner of the Galleon Group, one of the world’s largest hedge funds. On May 11 he was found guilty of insider trading with 14 counts of fraud and conspiracy. Even before he was caught, at the height of his success, Raj was already spinning out of control. His abusive business practices were about upend his career and his life.

The case of Raj Rajaratnam shows that spinning can happen to anyone. He’s a business graduate from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His hedge fund once held over $7 billion. He catered to high-profile clients such as the Swiss Bank UBS. Yet this wildly successful investing titan was found guilty of a blatant and serious Wall Street crime.

How can we learn from his example? How can we recognize spinning and stop it before it destroys us?

These important coaching tips may help you stop the spin:

  • Think hard about the consequences of your actions. For example, if you consider breaking a rule or a law, recognize that you would likely be caught and punished. If that occured, what would your life become?
  • Be accountable to colleagues who will remind you to be the person you want to be. Understand that they do so for your benefit.
  • If you are spinning, change your momentum immediately. Talk to a professional counselor, or possibly a lawyer and PR expert. Make amends as necessary and take every action to get your life back on track.
  • Be honest with yourself and with those around you. Denial only worsens the problem.

Raj Rajaratnam made a series of decisions that has cost him his career and years of his life. No one is immune from spinning out of control, but the decision to stop is ultimately your own.

Hero: Elizabeth Taylor

The most recent celebrity death had the silver lining of reminding us of their numerous social and community-oriented accomplishments. The star from the Golden Age of Hollywood Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23 at 79 years old from heart disease. A woman of supreme beauty and grace, Taylor also exhibited enormous philanthropic generosity throughout her life, and is commended as a Full Life Hero for her contributions to both film and society.

Elizabeth Taylor is especially notable for her contributions to AIDS charities, including co-founding the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and for raising more than $270 million for the cause. She was one of the first public figures to speak out against AIDS at a time when many people denied the existence of the disease, and hosting the first AIDS fundraiser in 1984. Taylor also devoted time and money to other philanthropic causes.

What can readers of the Full Life Amplifier Blog learn from Elizabeth Taylor’s life of philanthropy and selflessness?

  • Devote yourself to the causes that have not only personal meaning for you, but also a major impact on others. Taylor first became involved in the fight against AIDS after her friend and frequent costar Rock Hudson announced that he suffered from the disease, but her contributions from this relationship helped more people than she ever knew.
  • All causes deserve attention and effort. Elizabeth Taylor made substantial donations in 2009 to charities for religions other than her own in order to facilitate the education of less-fortunate children. She did not allow differences in religious beliefs to limit her contributions to great causes.
  • Investments and planning can continue your legacy even after your death. Some of Taylor’s jewelry—valued at approximately $150 million—is going to be auctioned off for AIDS charities, continuing her philanthropic streak even after she’s gone.
  • Pay no mind to what the critics may say. Taylor was no stranger to controversy, especially regarding her numerous marriages and extravagant lifestyle. Nevertheless, by all accounts Taylor was happy with her station in life even in her twilight years.

Elizabeth Taylor’s consistent concern with philanthropic endeavors demonstrates her selflessness. She made huge contributions to charities and nonprofits that undoubtedly raised the quality of countless lives. It is a pleasure to honor one of our greatest stars for both her acting and altruistic achievements.

What are your thoughts?

JS

How can we curb the spread of stigma against the overweight?

In a New York Times article called “Spreading Fat Stigma Around the Globe,” it’s being demonstrated that cultural views of obesity are becoming more and more negative. Even in cultures like Puerto Rico where the ideal of beauty has more curves, the tide of public perception about obesity is turning; an increasing number of people are perceiving overweight people as lazy as opposed to being perceived as suffering from a condition resulting from genetic and social circumstances.

It’s easy to be judgmental about an overweight person, especially if their condition is unpleasant or inconvenient for you. But it’s important to remember that genetic factors play an enormous role in a person’s weight, and that losing excess weight takes a great deal of discipline and self-control. Stigmatizing obesity will not help: shame is never a good motivator.

What can you do to avoid developing a judgmental attitude towards the overweight?

  1. Stay respectful towards others by constantly trying to empathize with them. Think about things you’re ashamed of and how mortified you’d be if someone were to draw attention to them. Don’t dwell on this, but at least keep it in mind.
  2. Be polite to overweight people, even if they inconvenience you in some way. For example, many people can recall an occasion where they’ve had to sit next to one on a crowded plane or bus. If your “space” is invaded, consider whether you can politely ask them to move slightly, or if you can discretely ask a flight attendant if you could switch seats. But do not allow yourself to grow rude or impatient as this would further propagate disrespect of the overweight.
  3. Don’t ever draw attention to an obese person’s appearance, which could make the problem worse by raising their levels of self-consciousness.

Resist the temptation to negatively judge others. Obesity is an epidemic, and shaming its victims is counterproductive and belittling. More importantly, it’s never productive to cultivate judgmental attitudes about others, even internally.

What are your thoughts?

JS

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