Weathering The Winds Of Change

Post Date: March 17th, 2010

A Phoenix Business Journal Article

By George Cappannelli

This time of global uncertainty presents those of us in the business community with a significant number challenges and a number of very distinct and valuable opportunities.  From my perspective both require careful consideration of what is best summarized in the phrase – Right Action! 

To find “right action” I believe we need be particularly conscious of the distinct dangers present within the challenges and alert to unique aspects of the opportunities.  Most especially, we need listen a lot less to the noise that passes for advice and counsel in this media mad our world, alot more to the wisdom that comes from that place within us; that source that offers our best and truest guidance.  In fact, I believe there is nothing we can do that is better or more certain as a protection against being overwhelmed by the turbulence of this historical moment, confused by the complexity of shifting events or moved to act hastily by the superficial trends that sweep across our media landscape, trends that often exacerbate the confusions rather than contribute to genuine solutions.

By ‘right action’ I also mean more than supporting an appropriate national or global response against so called ‘foreign enemies’ or some new aspect of the world's economic instability.  Our government is already engaged in doing some of this.  And while there are genuine questions about the validity or effectiveness of this strategy vs. that, the fact is, the decisions are being made by those we have elected and who are, at least some of the time, closer to the situation and in a better position to act than we are.

So what I mean by “right action” is not so much these more global responses to various threat or events, but instead the things that each of us can do each day in both our business and personal lives; things that can contribute to the process of achieving economic, social and political stability.  

As a result of the work I do with a number of leaders and executive teams from a wide range of private and public sector organizations, I realize that since the events of September 11th first reshaped our landscape, many of us allow our responsibilities, fueled by the frustrations and pressures of this complex time, to prompt us to seek solace in what we call “business as usual”.  And while such action may seem to be a good antidote for our anxiety and our restlessness, I do not believe the search for what was will serve us very well over the long run in dealing with what is and what will be.  

In fact, I do not believe the thing called “business as usual” exists any longer.  Instead I believe that we are embarking on a new period in our history as a nation, as individuals and as organizations.  It is a period that requires new levels of courage, patience and discernment; one that calls for the exercise of new skills (particularly right brain skills like imagination, intuition and insight) and new levels of understanding.  It is a period that in which the games is being played by new rules and many of us have new roles.  Above all, it is a game that requires a critical re-examination of our national, organizational and individual visions.  It also calls for a much deeper commitment or recommitment to the core values that support these actions.  

With this in mind, I offer a few thoughts regarding the public conversation that I believe must take place in all corners of this country and in every business and family if we hope to emerge from this and other challenges stronger and more renewed, clearer and with a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

Deal With What Is & Not With What Was
No matter how resilient you believe the people in your organization are, please remember that life as we know it will not go back to normal.  “Normal” is in the process of being redefined.  Keeping this awareness present and allowing it to shape your organization’s current business practices and future strategies will be very important.    

Allow Time To Find Your Center
It is the American way to get up and get going.  It is part of our strength, but the process of healing after any time of crisis has four or five stages and a timing all its own.  Denial, anger, sadness, sometimes depression and finally, acceptance are the precursors to healing.  So encourage people in your organization to gather together to talk about their feelings, explore their concerns and participate in various forms of ritual, team and community building.  In short, if you want your organization to emerge from this time of challenge with real strength, pay attention to the rules of healing.
Align Your Vision and Values
Clearly the turbulence we are passing through is a wakeup call for each of us. Those of us who use this opportunity to redefine what is important to us, to sharpen our awareness of our interdependence as members of this business community and to examine the relevance of our policies, products, services and our values, will gain significantly.  So revisit your company vision, evaluate its relevance in the face of this changing world and then refine and readjust it if and as necessary.  It is equally essential to review core values and evaluate if they are as powerful and relevant as they need to be.  
Support Teaming At All Levels
There has never been a time when teaming has not been critical to our success but, as a result of the shifting events in our world, teaming – at all levels – is even more essential.  Like oxygen, it is the fuel that will help our companies weather the current challenges and build more sustainable, powerful and productive platforms for the future.  Teaming will increase communication, enhance performance and increase productivity.   It will dramatically improve collaboration, cooperation, and resource and information sharing at all levels.  
Re-size Your Organization With Caring & Consciousness
In this time many of organizations will need to do the same or even more work with fewer people.  The manner in which your organization executes this reorganization will, however, have enormous long-term impact on the well being of the organization, on the psychological and emotional stability of the people who remain, and most clearly, on the lives of those who leave.  While there is no magic formula for this always-challenging task, your organization would be wise to take great care in this process.  If your union rules allow it, asking everyone to tighten their belts may make it possible for a larger number of people to stay.  Where downsizing is essential, go beyond the usual policies and guidelines for separation.  Provide people with increased severance packages, offer increased professional support services and, where possible, personalized interaction with whoever is responsible for their separation. 
Rely On Strategic Planning, Group Brainstorming  & Out of The Box Thinking. 
The well being of your organization is always dependent on strategic planning, collaborative brainstorming and out of the box thinking.  But in this time these tools will be more than essential.  Take full advantage of the collective wisdom present at all levels of your organization to identify new lines of business, new services, strategic partnerships with your customers and even your competitors, new uses for your products and services, new definitions of roles and work flow, new ways of outsourcing and more.

Utilize Both Right And Left Brain Competencies

Our world has changed.  As a result the skills and competencies needed to survive and prosper will also be different.  Reason, logic, analysis and planning skills will continue to be valuable.  However, at every level of your organization, there will also be a greater need for right brain skills – insight, intuition, imagination, creativity and more.  To gain access to these skills it is helpful to remember that doing is not as important as not doing, talking is less effective then listening, and noise is less valuable than silence.   
Invest In Continuous Improvement & Learning 

In challenging times the tendency is to revert to managing by the numbers.   While fiscal responsibility is always valuable and essential, managing by the numbers is always a limited and short sighted practice.  Your organization’s vital health and stability requires a constant and continuous investment in continuous improvement and learning.  This has never been more true than at this time in our history when we sorely need new skills and new levels of motivation to refocus, rebalance and re-new.   

Seek A Balance Between Your Personal And Your Professional Life

In times like these, it is easy to forget that beyond the walls of your office, you have a family, friends and a community that require your engagement, attention and caring.   Focus on the inside as well as outside, on your physical, emotional and spiritual health as well as your mental acuity, on your personal as well as your professional relationships, on your personal well being as well as your corporate bottom line.  

I hope these reminders are of some help during this very challenging time.  I leave you with a quote by Peter Drucker that inspires much of our work – “If you want to know the future, invent it!”

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The Art of Building & Maintaining An Effective Workforce

Post Date: March 16th, 2010

A Phoenix Business Journal Article

By George Cappannelli  

Starting In The Right Place – Building and maintaining an effective workforce is not an easy job, especially in these complex times when the composition of the workforce has changed so dramatically and so many of the rules of doing business are in a state of flux.   Still, easy or not, a large number of individuals in this workforce – from CEO’s to line personnel – recognize that a well functioning workforce is both a critical and an essential factor in the success of any business. 

If this is the case, why do so many organizations make the same costly mistakes over and over again in this critical area?  The first and perhaps most costly is that a lot of organizations have gotten into the habit of viewing their workforce through the same eyes and utilizing the same measurements they apply to their physical plant, inventory, materials, etc.  While this may make sense from an accounting standpoint, in the end it makes little or no sense from a productivity and performance standpoint.  A workforce is comprised of people, and people, fortunately for us and unfortunately for accountants, do not fit into neat little columns.

As obvious as this might be, too many organizations do not understand this fact.  Nor do they demonstrate an understanding of a couple of other essential elements.  Too often they forget that the primary reason they exist is to serve the genuine needs of their customers, clients and their people.   What about profitability?  Yes, it’s essential, but it is only one of criteria we should be using to measure an organization’s success.  

What’s so earthshaking about this awareness?  Everything.  If your organization wants to build and maintain an effective workforce it cannot afford to view or treat people as a commodity.  It cannot try to get by doing only what is minimal or necessary to support them.   It cannot forget that the process of developing people requires time, energy and investment.

With time at such a premium, manpower at reduced levels and the chart of accounts the primary tracking system, remembering these things is not easy.   However, calling upon the Director of Human Resources or Organizational Development to find ways to increase efficiency and profitability and then giving them a ridiculously low budget and far too few resources will not get the job done.  

Even in a world as complex and economically challenged as ours, organizations have to take the time to map workforce development against company vision, to articulate effective and realistic training and career path goals – goals that are relevant to human beings not to physical plant and materials.   Even in a business climate as competitive as this, organizations have to take the time to establish best practices and develop policies and procedures that actually support people in building strong interpersonal relationships, communicating effectively, and contributing meaningfully to the goals of the organization.  This is not “touchy feely stuff.”  This is bottom line stuff!

Who has the time and money for this?   Whoever wants an effective workforce!   In the language of navigation this means an organization has to decide on its destination, chart its course and remember why it is taking the journey.  It means the organization has to keep its eyes on the “real” bottom line by remembering that building true teaming, ensuring good working conditions, providing excellent benefits, instituting strong training and career development programs, and encouraging sufficient balance between personal and professional lives are not perks.  They are the direct correlates to profitability, productivity, performance and employee job satisfaction.   

Success Is No Accident – So if you want your organization to navigate the often turbulent currents of today’s complex business environments; if you want to create a workforce that is loyal and committed to the best and highest goals of your organization remember –  people are your greatest asset; the source of your intellectual capital, innovation, and new product and service development.   People are the means by which the needs of customers and clients are satisfied.  They are the engine that drives process improvement, new skill development and the smooth and effective implementation of change.  On the other side of the coin, organizations that fail to remember this point inherit a number of ills. They lose good people, experience low levels of trust, poor communications, poor customer service, reduced performance and decreasing profit margins.  

Let’s recap a few simple rules about effective workforce development.  

Put people first
Invest in the solid training and development programs
Include people at all levels in the decision making process
Keep communication channels open up and down the organization
Provide sufficient challenge and responsibility
Encourage and reward risk
Provide excellent benefits
Support a balanced lifestyle

Other Things You Can Do 

Ask your people what contributes most to their performance.
Include members of the workforce in all workforce design & policy issues.
Benchmark & implement the best practices in workforce development
Keep your programs as simple and relevant as possible.
Treat change and continuous improvement as your allies.
Celebrate and acknowledge people continually at all levels.

What’s the bottom line?  If you want to have a dynamic, powerful, effective and profitable workforce, start treating people as if they are your most valued customers.   And commit this old adage to memory – If you think education (workforce development) is expensive, try ignorance!”

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By The Numbers – Management Strategies That Don’t Add Up

Post Date: March 15th, 2010

A Phoenix Business Journal Article

By George Cappannelli

Obsessive! Compulsive! Excessive!  These three words describe what has become our all-pervasive addiction to leading by the numbers.   Yes, we are experiencing a crisis of confidence as a result of some shoddy accounting practices exercised in some companies.  Yes, Wall Street is cutting less slack than usual to those who falter.  In fact, the slightest dip in any of the half dozen indicators that the money boys use to evaluate an organization’s strength and you could be in trouble.  But no matter how great the challenges, no matter how difficult the times, our myopic focus on leading by the numbers still doesn’t lead us to healthy, profitable organizations.  

Numbers give us valuable short-term feedback.  They track sales, evaluate the cost of goods and services, identify trends in production and delivery cycles, and anomalies in the market.  So I am not against numbers.  It’s just that my experience over the last 25 years with a number of the leading Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and national associations and the people who run them has demonstrated that numbers do not give us an accurate reading of many of the essential factors that determine an organization’s success.

When Seneca, The Roman, said, “If you don’t know the harbor you are heading for, no wind is the right wind,” he was telling us that having a clear sense of one’s destination (what we today call ‘a well defined vision/purpose’) is necessary if one wants to avoid the obstacles and take advantage of the opportunities along the way. 

What has this got to do with the contention that leading by the numbers doesn’t get the job done?  Well, if a captain of a ship were to only pay attention to the numbers in a course heading, we can be sure they will have a lot of challenges at sea. If, however, a captain considers weather conditions, the direction of the current, the movement of other ships, the readiness of various onboard departments and, above all, the morale of the crew, their voyage has a much larger possibility of being successful.  Can a business succeed without paying attention to these factors?  Occasionally.  But under these conditions, the outcome will rest primarily in the hands of Fate and Luck – two allies one is always grateful for but rarely what one wants to bet the farm on.

What are the elements – in addition to numbers – you need to pay attention to in evaluating your organization’s viability?  In our new book, Say Yes To Change, we identify a number of factors.  Here are 10 we think are particularly important:

1.  Organization-wide understanding and alignment on vision and purpose.  
2.  Trust between leadership and employees.  
3.  Effective communication between all stakeholders within the organization. 
4.  Receptivity to learning – including openness to new technologies and new methodologies.  
5.  Constant acknowledgement and celebration at all levels.  
6.  Effective teaming at every level of the organization.  
7.  Sufficient investment in skill development and training. 
8.  Clearly defined roles and responsibilities.  
9.  A good balance between professional and personal lives.    
10. And above all! A deep commitment to continuous improvement that focuses on providing customers with unique value at appropriate and reasonable costs.  

How can your organization shift its focus from leading exclusively by the numbers to leading by these 10 factors?   Step One – utilize your love of numbers to evaluate how your organization is doing in each of these areas by giving each a score on a scale of 1 to 10.  Where your score is 8 or below, you have some work to do!

What kind of work?  Brainstorm for solutions with your team in each area where your score is low.   Invite the input of people at other levels of the organization as well. Remember, there is no problem you face that the ‘collective wisdom’ in your organization cannot solve. Invest in training and education.  Benchmark the best organizations in your field.  Be open to new methods and answers (even those that are not your idea). Assemble cross-functional teams to identify problems and develop new solutions.   Implement continuous improvement strategies.  Hire consultants who have solid track records and avoid those who want to ride off into the sunset before the doing gets done.  

What else?  Demonstrate courage when confronted with impatience from your senior management, stockholders or board.  Remind them and your people that it takes time for a ship to come to a new course after the orders are given.  In short, avoid changing directions so often that you leave a wake behind your ship that looks like the meandering of a drunken mariner.  That means putting long-term as well as short-term criteria for success in your organization’s playbook.   It also means remembering that leading by the numbers might make your company look good -for a quarter or two; it might even help you personally to chalk up enough points to get a lucrative new job offer – before the proverbial “stuff” hits the fan.   But in the end numbers, by themselves, just don’t add up to long-term productivity and profitability and, above all, to a legacy that you will be proud of!

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Change – Adversary Or Ally?

Post Date: March 14th, 2010

An Inspiration Magazine Article

By George Cappannelli                      

Change?  You bet! A lot of it! Each day, at work, at home and in the world around us, we are being asked to juggle increasingly complex demands – the challenges of our jobs, the needs of our families, the demands of our communities, and the desires that issue from the depths of our own souls. Often this juggling act can feel like it is being performed on a tight rope high above the ground and without a net.  Here in this turbulent atmosphere we must contend with the cross currents of unprecedented technological development, rapidly shifting social and political structures, new roles and rules and, of course, with the many other challenges and opportunities that life brings our way each day.

The result?  Many of us risk losing not only our footing, but our ability to focus effectively on our work, to relate constructively to our loved ones and to give adequate attention to our own physical and emotional health. Of particular consequence, many of us risk losing touch with our passion for the dreams we have come here to accomplish. And where we don’t risk losing our balance because of these challenges and changes, we risk losing it because of our resistance to them.

Do we have to lose our balance? No.  There are other choices we can make—more constructive, empowering choices.  In fact, not only is it possible to maintain our balance, it is essential.   Our success depends on our ability to welcome rather than resist change, to look upon it as an opportunity to master new skills and gain new levels of understanding and experience.  Our success depends on our willingness to view change as a guest who arrives bearing the gifts of opportunity, discovery and understanding, not as a dreaded specter that has come to disrupt our lives.

How Do We Accept Change?

Even if the change we face is one that we define as negative, the answer is simple.  And my answer does not mean we have to start doing a lot of new things.  Instead we need to first stop doing some of the things that we are now doing that limit and obstruct us. And one of these things is called ‘resisting change’.

You see, although many of us want to believe that it is possible to keep things the way they are, stasis is an illusion. Nothing in the physical universe stays the same.  As a result, our efforts to resistance to change are unnatural, as are our inclination to tense up, close down, hold back, project negative consequences, worry, doubt or cling to what the way we have done things in the past.  Please notice that none of the things on this list are pleasant to do.  They require a great deal of time, effort and energy, and none of them have ever gotten the job done for you.

But don’t take my word for it.  Conduct a quick mental tour of your world. Chances are you’ll discover that you and a number of people around you hold some outdated beliefs and practice some pretty limiting behaviors.  Not out of malevolence, we might add, but out of habit.  Yes, in far too many instances the first and the last thing most of us do when confronted with change is say No rather than Yes.  We try to hold back the new and different.  We deny and avoid the change for as long as possible. And yet, as we’ve pointed out, these behaviors don’t help us or our organizations become successful.  In fact, in the end, resistance to change isn’t even possible because change is unavoidable.

25 Keys To Making Change Work For You

So if you’re responsible for a business or just for yourself; if you are developing a new product or service or trying to make your current one better; if you’re trying to improve workflow, team performance or even just deal with your own, change can be your best ally rather than your adversary.  

The same is true in your personal life.  Holding on to old beliefs and limited behaviors will not lead you to greater intimacy, provide you with greater competency or success.   Nor will limited beliefs, old personal history or rigid rules that no long apply will lead you to the best and highest game in town—greater connection with and knowledge of yourself and true connection with others.

So my recommendation is – Make change your ally!  Welcome it into your world.  Be willing to experiment with new behaviors and beliefs.  Try these tips and some of the other 25 Keys To Making Change Work For You.  In short, learn to say yes to change and to life!

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These Awkward Times!

Post Date: March 13th, 2010

A Sphere’s Magazine Article

By George Cappannelli

Frankly there does not seem to be much to celebrate these days! Aggressive/Depressives are running the show in Washington and in other world capitals.  They are squandering our precious financial, physical, emotional and spiritual resources, abusing our planet, turning their backs on genocide, denying the real challenges and missing the true opportunities of our time.  There is also so much media madness that feeds our obsessive compulsive focus on war, possible pandemics, and violence while offering us trivialized forms of entertainment called ‘reality shows.’  There is a national debt large enough to sink the planet, and speaking of the planet, changes in temperatures and global weather patterns caused largely by human ignorance, greed and,  in some cases, indifference that threaten the very stability of our habitat.  Couple this with escalating divisiveness between political parties, religious groups and nation states, unprecedented hedonism and myopia and the loss of both our individual and collective sense of meaning and the picture  isn’t very pretty.

All of this leaves me struggling with a sense of sadness and despair that threatens, at times, to overwhelm me.  So when this subject of celebration was offered as the theme for this issue of Spheres, I found myself focusing on other project deadlines and doing a number of other things – in fact almost anything – to avoid dealing with the writing of this article.  In fact, it was only when the moment arrived that I had to either get to it or throw in the towel that the power of this topic hit me.  That’s when I understood that unless I am willing to deal with my despair and admit the absence of celebration in my life, I will not only continue to slide deeper into this emotional muck and mire that confounds much of the world today, but I will also continue contributing to the conditions that are causing it.  

So I took a step back and asked myself whether this age that I am living in is really so much worse than other historical periods.  For example, if I was living in Poland in the late 1930’s or in this country in the early 1860’s, what would my life be like?  If I was living in Spain during the Inquisition or in Rome during its decline would my life be free of war, pestilence, greed, selfishness, divisiveness and struggle?   You see, if I am honest with myself, these factors have played a significant part in the history of our species on this planet in every age. 

Of course, I could argue that the weight of the world’s exploding population, both the pace and misuse of contemporary science and technology and the often absurd focus of a Fourth Estate on steroids makes our impact on the Earth much more immediate and global in nature, but then again, in doing so I’d only be giving in to the tendency to overly dramatize and inflate the self importance of this age.  Instead I only need to reflect on other geological ages when cause and effect relationships, more organic than human, turned our planet into vast expanses of desolate waste or frozen landscapes incapable of supporting most forms of life, to regain my perspective.

So the bottom line is that life here on Planet Earth has always been a pretty challenging and risky affair and what should be obvious to me by now is that if I continue to focus on and wait for external events to improve or circumstances to change before I celebrate my life, there is a very good chance I never will.

What’s the alternative?   First and foremost I need to regain my footing by unplugging from the noise of the world and the reported folly of those whose consciousness has yet to evolve above the lower rungs of Maslow’s Pyramid.   I need, in the words of Michael Brown, author of The Presence Process, to take a ‘mind fast’ and cleanse myself of the disturbing and disruptive messages of fear and worry that have built up such toxicity within me.  In short, I need to put myself on a diet of sanity and stillness.  

There are some other things I also need to do.  When the chance arises I need to exercise my voting rights and throw the bums out!  I have to pay more attention to exercise, eating the right foods and getting a requisite amount of sleep so I can keep this physical instrument tuned sufficiently to take advantage of whatever capabilities the random draw of DNA allows me.  I also have to start focusing a whole lot more on my immediate surroundings and ask myself some vital and ruthlessly honest questions.  For example, even with all of the tumult and turmoil happening in the world around me, is my life in this very moment actually threatened by the folly of those who believe they are in control of the world stage?  Do I really need to let their messages of fear, divisiveness and lack to impede my ability in this moment to pray, to laugh, to make love, to wonder, to dance, to be kind, to speak my truth or to listen to the wisdom that awaits me in the quiet?  

You see, the more I am willing to ask myself these kinds of questions, the more I find that there actually is a lot more to celebrate than I am, at first, willing to admit.  I have a wonderful wife and companion to walk this life path with.  It is a relationship filled all of the challenges that learning, grace, intimacy and love offer.  There are other people in my life who I love or, at the very least, care about from whom I learn a great deal and with whom I share a lot on this journey.  There is my family with all of the challenges and opportunities for deeper growth and greater connections that families provide. There are friends and colleagues and especially the four leggeds, as the Native Americans say, who bring so much joy into my life each day.  I have a really decent and safe place to live, more than enough food each day to eat, good health, a clear mind, the opportunity to contribute to the lives of others, the chance to earn a living, the talent to write and sculpt and the will and capacity to seek higher levels of consciousness.  Is my life ideal or perfect?  Can’t say that it is, but when I stop and truly experience this moment, this breath, this right here and now, I have to acknowledge that I have an awful lot to celebrate.  I also have to admit that if I truly believe in the existence of a unifying and central force of the Universe, then I must also believe, as Dr. David Hawkins points out in Power vs. Force, that the consciousness of one individual – it could be me – vibrating above the frequency of courage can counterbalance the impact of over 90,000 individuals vibrating at lower frequencies.  

So if I believe these things to be true then the choice becomes pretty clear.  I can give in to my fears, my doubts and confusions, lower the frequency of my vibration, and spend the moments of my life dangling on the end of the string of despair.  Or I can chose to learn to stay present in this moment and focus on the life I have been gifted to live.  

Is it easy?  No, at least it’s not for me.  It is a moment by moment kind of thing.  One moment slipping and sliding backward into the muck and mire and then the next struggling to pull myself up by my bootstraps.  But frankly, this push and pull just seems to be part of my challenge as a human being – at least for now – and if I do not want to waste the moments of my life in dread and depression, then I have to choose to focus on grace and gratitude.  Indeed, if I do not want to let the fool within me or the fools around me win, then the only choice I have is to remember and practice Meister Eckhart’s sage advice.   “If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, it will be enough.”

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Tips and Tools For Companies & Individuals Committed To Success

Post Date: March 12th, 2010

A Phoenix Business Journal Article

By George Cappannelli

Few among us dispute the value of having a healthy body, a clear, active and curious mind and positive emotions.  Nor do we underestimate the importance of having a sound organizational vision, a clear strategic plan and a stable financial base.  These ingredients contribute to balance and are essential for those who want to achieve and sustain optimum levels of professional and personal performance.  And yet with all of the daily pushes and pulls at work and at home, and with the many demands and constraints placed upon us in these troubled economic times, it is easy to find a reason to not do the things that we need to do to maintain balance and well-being – our own and our company’s.  Yes, it’s easy to become captives of short run thinking and hope that something will rescue us or that we will change our ways before the bill comes due.  

Unfortunately, the tale of the tape tells a different story.   Failure to maintain balance, not only depletes reserves and resources, but also results in an enormous price.   Lower productivity, absenteeism, health and stress related performance issues, accidents on the job, and eventually, of course, attrition.  These conditions cost the business community billions of dollars each year.   And this number does not include costs that are beyond our calculation – troubled marriages, divorce, failed relationships with our children, loss of life direction and passion and on and on.

So let’s not kid ourselves.  This is not a small problem and it is not something that will go away on its own.   In fact, our experience indicates that lack of attention in these areas results in significantly increased challenges and dramatically escalating costs.   There is, of course, some good news here as well.  This same experience suggests that for every hour and dollar companies and individuals invest developing, supporting and maintaining balance, the return is enormous.

So how do we create greater balance and well-being?  The first step is our awareness that we are resisting dealing with the problem.  The second, our acceptance that changes are needed.  And then, of course, comes action.  What kind of action?   There is no substitute for a little old fashioned hard work.  You know that condition in which you sweat and your muscles get sore; where you push through your usual lethargy and resistance and get healthy.  

We’re talking about establishing a physical exercise program that includes the right exercises for your body type and level of conditioning.     We’re talking about eating the right foods in the right amount that help you to stay energized and mentally alert.   We’re talking about taking enough breaks to keep your mind sharp and your energy high.  We are talking about doing things that stimulate your creativity and increase your self-awareness and self-discipline.  We are also talking about identifying beliefs that limit you and replacing them with beliefs that allow you inherit more of your energy, joy, creativity and talent.

If you lead a company or a team at work, your challenge is to create an environment that encourages your people to achieve greater well-being and balance.  Yes, we know these are tough times and that you are being asked to get maximum performance from fewer people.  At the same time, if you do not make enough of a commitment to balance and well-being you will loose the greatest asset you have – the people who make your company successful.  

How do you do that?  Set some standards.  Model the results you want to achieve.   Provide information.  Invest in training and, above all, find ways –they do not have to be expensive – to reward those willing to get with the program.

As an individual, you have a different accountability.  Here are a few reminders to help you to fulfill it.   Begin by evaluating the physical, intellectual and emotional areas of your life. It’s easy to do.  Just give yourself a score on a scale of one to ten (one being low, ten high) in these three areas.   

High scores mean you are currently doing a lot of the right things.  Moderate to low scores suggest that you have some work to do.  Your task then is to decide exactly what you are willing to do.  If you need motivation or direction get a coach.  Read up on the subject.  Go to a gym.  Take a class.  See a specialist or therapist.  You get the picture.  Above all, remember action creates habit, habit creates character and character creates destiny.

What else?   If you and your company want to really be successful, there is no substitute for a strong focus on spiritual well-being.   This includes paying attention to those “still small voices within” that encourage us toward greater awareness, compassion, cooperation, harmony and, above all, greater expression of feelings.  So encourage reflection, prayer, meditation or even just a little time spent in silence each day.  These practices make a huge difference.  

The bottom line – invest in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance –your own and your company’s.  Your professional and personal success depends upon it, as does your company’s productivity, performance and profitability.   

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Taming The Eight Hundred Pound Healthcare Gorilla

Post Date: March 11th, 2010

A Phoenix Business Journal Article

By George A. Cappannelli

Healthcare costs are going through the roof.   No one disputes it nor are any of us immune to the long-term implications of this trend.  It spells increasing challenges for every business, small or large, start-up or multi–national, and for every individual whether unemployed, self-employed, part of the workforce or involved in ownership.  Indeed, we – that amorphous cluster of consumers, providers, insurers, politicians and theoreticians – have painted ourselves into a corner where we must pay for health care coverage that offers us less and less coverage for higher and higher premiums.   And this conundrum, at least the part that I have described here, does not yet include Pandora’s other box – the one that contains those who fall through the COBRA cracks and those who cannot qualify for and/or cannot afford healthcare protection.

The purpose of this article, however, is not to belabor the obvious.  Instead, my purpose here is to identify some of the trends – both negative and positive – that I believe we would be wise to track, especially if we want to ever dig ourselves out of this mess.

First trend to watch is that no matter how high or low healthcare costs, our current system continues to be, at it’s very best, primarily reactive.  From the service provider, insurer and the patient/customer standpoints, this system is designed to deal with effects and not causes.  In short, something happens, we go to a doctor or a hospital or some other approved medical or psychological facility, we get fixed or we don’t, and then our insurance company gets to decide to pay or not pay all or some portion of the costs associated with treating our accident or illness.   

What’s wrong with this trend?  Not everything, but a lot!  The ‘not everything’ includes the fact that as long as we are alive physical “stuff” happens and therefore it is essential to have a system that helps us deal with it.    Beyond this necessary service, however, there’s a lot wrong.  For example, our current healthcare strategies address the effects of accidents and illnesses at their most challenging and costly junctures.   As a result, the system perpetuates itself and ensures – no pun intended – that the same circumstances will keep occurring over and over again. In short, as long as we allow our current healthcare system to focus on providing services that deal with effects rather than causes, we will face the same consequences  – reduced coverage and escalating healthcare costs that place an increasingly larger burden on organizations and individuals and drive larger numbers of both out of the system.

So that’s the bad news.  Is there any good news?  Yes, this unpleasant circumstance is forcing more organizations and individuals to take a much harder, closer look at the whole system.  This is a very positive trend.  In addition to making health care providers and insurance companies more accountable, rising costs are prompting more of us as ‘care receivers’ to become better educated on options and better informed on alternative medicines and procedures and their ramifications.

Today’s healthcare costs are also prompting another trend.  More of us are paying more attention to our well-being at the preventative rather than the critical or repair stage.  As a result, we are discovering that good maintenance and early intervention promotes better results and much lower physical, emotional and financial costs.  In addition, this healthcare crisis is forcing more individuals and companies to do more than pay lip service to nutrition, exercise regimens, early detection practices and stress reduction strategies and technologies.  Finally, the healthcare dilemma is forcing us to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about our lifestyles, about our pace, purpose and whether or not we have enough balance between our professional and personal lives.  

What are some of the trends that relate to early detection practices and stress reduction strategies?   Well, the study of stress reduction has progressed light years in just the last several years.  We’ve known for a while, of course, that good foods, the right amount of exercise, enough rest, good emotional balance, play, a passion for what we do and a sufficient amount of love and intimacy in our lives go a long way toward ensuring better health.  In the last few years we have also learned a number of other important things.  Gene tagging has taught us that even with a good health consciousness some of us are more genetically disposed than others to certain illnesses and diseases.   As a result, these early warning sciences and technologies are providing greater numbers of us with the opportunity to take preventative measures to avoid or reduce debilitating disease and illness.  Of course, if we are not careful, these same technologies will be used to raise our rates or run us out of the system.  So we have to stay on our toes.  However, if properly used, where medical cures are not yet available, these advance warning systems can provide us with the option of adjusting our lifestyles to minimize our risks and maximize our potential.

In addition, groundbreaking research on stress reduction has begun to confirm a long held supposition – that the body actually has two brains – the one brain in our head and a second in our chest.  Indeed, scientists now verify that the heart is the seat of a significant amount of wisdom – and not just in an allegorical sense – and that when we listen to our “heart’s brain”, when we learn to control our emotions – particularly but not exclusively our negative emotions – we control our variable heart rate.  What’s so important about this?  When we learn to control our variable heart rate, we dramatically improve our heath, enhance our intellectual and physical performance and, in the end, take some very significant steps toward taming the Eight Hundred Pound Healthcare Gorilla.  

What’s the bottom line?   As long as we continue to rely exclusively on a healthcare system for our well being that is primarily reactive rather than preventative, we will continue to find ourselves mired in this no-win proposition of increasing costs and decreasing coverage.   By comparison, the sooner we become more responsible for our own health, the sooner our health care system will change.   In short, my advice – ‘if you want to know the future of healthcare, let’s invent it together!’

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