My Layoff Anniversary

I know that Wednesdays are my normal Reflections on Leadership day but not this week. Today I am going to post a special edition of my blog saluting a milestone day in my life. Not to worry though because I will finish my How Not to Be a Jerk series (see part 1 & part 2) tomorrow.

One year ago today I was in the middle of a personal transformation with my weight loss journey and that is when my life took another unexpected turn. The result was that I turned was already a big transformation into a truly life-changing experience.

One year later I wanted to share how my life has changed.

My Tuesday surprise…

“We are making some organizational changes today and, unfortunately, you are one of the people who is impacted. We are eliminating your position effective immediately.”

That is how the meeting started on that cold Tuesday morning at the end of January. Then, in a matter of minutes, my ten years at my company was done. We finished the paperwork and I was walked out by my HR partner leaving the building for the last time.

It would have been pretty easy to be angry, sad and hurt at that moment — but I wasn’t!

My company had simply made a difficult, financially-driven business decision. They needed to eliminate several positions to match the size of the staff with the available budget. Plus they treated me very fairly on the way out. I was grateful for my HR partner of many years who had to deliver difficult news and did so in an empathetic and respectful manner.

It was the best possible execution of a crappy situation.

My surprise reaction…

As I said I wasn’t angry, sad or hurt, my reaction was a little more unusual …. I was excited and almost a little giddy! 

I was ready to move on and the universe knew that. 

I was no longer satisfied with my job and was ready for a new challenge. I was being given a rare opportunity to pause after ten years in stressful roles at the same company (on top of 10 years of continuous post-college employment before then) and take a breath. I had a few months to explore, reflect, de-stress and consider the next chapter in my career. 

Put simply I was at a turning point and was given the gift of time!

Now what?

So I had some time on my hands and needed to decide how I wanted to manage it.

I knew that I didn’t want to panic and immediately jump right into a new job. While I wanted to look for a job I wanted to choose wisely and look for something that was perfect for me, no compromises. But I also had other things that I wanted to do separate from just looking for work.

I decided to take some time and give myself a sabbatical – though I didn’t initially figure out that was what I was doing or immediately start using that term.

If you don’t know what a sabbatical is here is one particularly relevant definition I found online: a sabbatical usually refers to a full-time employee’s extended leave or career pause of at least two months. In general, employees use it to complete some body of work, such as research or writing. Sabbatical comes from the word Sabbath, which literally means “rest.”

What were my goals?

Like any other aspect of my life I wanted to se some goals for this time away. Some of the things I thought that I wanted to accomplish during my sabbatical included:

  1. What next: Get closure from the old job and figure out what I wanted to do as my next chapter.
  2. Job hunting: this was definitely still a priority because a sabbatical can’t last forever.
  3. Network: related to my job hunt but really bigger than that I wanted to reconnect with people I hadn’t talked to in a while.
  4. Hit my goal: I wanted to finish my weight loss journey. I was already down about 80 pounds versus my goal of 100 so I wanted to finish my “over 100 in under a year” journey.
  5. Run: Train for my first 5k.
  6. Write: Write my book to tell the story about my weight loss and how I did it.
  7. Live: I wanted to take some time and just live life without having a tight schedule every single day.

I say all of that but I was also completely ready to jump right into a new job if the perfect thing fell into my lap. Unfortunately I had no idea what the perfect thing was so that was going to be unlikely!

What did I do?

So I shared the goals that I built for my sabbatical and now I want to share what I did and how I spent my days over the nearly 5 months I had off. Most importantly there was not a single day where I wasn’t active and focused on my goals. This was not a vacation this was a gift of time that I didn’t want to squander away!

  • Wake up early. Just because I wasn’t going into an office didn’t mean that I let myself sleep in every day. I set my alarm every night and got up early every morning. I had things to do!
  • Daily workout. Nearly every day I would start at the gym with a workout. These workouts ranged from a quick treadmill session to multiple hour full body sessions.
  • Tending to business. Each day I would spend time sending and reading emails from my network, looking at open positions and tracking progress against my project plan. Yes, I created a project plan for my sabbatical.
  • Meeting with people. I tried to schedule a breakfast, coffee, lunch or drinks with somebody nearly every day. I continued to interface with people from my network daily. I even continued the mentoring relationships I had with people and helped people wherever I could.
  • Writing. Almost every day I would write. I wrote my book. I relaunched my Reflections on Leadership series. I blogged and shared my expertise everywhere I could.
  • Walk, run, explore. Many days I would spend time walking or running around the streets of Columbus and at our metro parks. I got fresh air and exercise and kept moving.
  • Sought knowledge & inspiration. I would find ways daily to soak up more knowledge and/or to find sources of inspiration. Reading, podcasts, art, music, journaling and much more. I even went to the Columbus Startup Week conference to learn about how to start and grow a business. I wanted to grow my brain and shrink my body through this time.
  • Cooking and tending to the house. I would often cook lunches and dinners and take care of housework because I wanted to make sure I was doing my part at home especially because I wasn’t working and my wife was.

This was a busy time in my life and, for the first time ever, I was busy with things that were important to me and were my priorities.

What did I accomplish?

All of this focused effort and keeping myself busy every day resulted in lots of accomplishments during this time. I am pretty proud of everything I was able to do.

  • Got a new job. Let’s start with and important fact that may be pretty obvious – I got a new job. I joined a consulting firm in a project working for the State of Ohio. This project lets me use my knowledge, experiences and skills to help drive innovation for a project management office. I get to help our government accomplish big goals in new ways.
  • Achieved my weight loss goal. On March 13 I stepped on the scale and it told me that I had achieved my 100-pound weight loss goal. That was an amazing moment! It meant that I not only achieved a personal BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) but I did it in only 75% of the very aggressive timeline that I gave myself at the beginning. But I did NOT stop there, I continued focusing on my weight loss and was down a total of 117 pounds at the end of my sabbatical. Plus I had started working with a personal trainer halfway through this time and started seeing myself change shape and improve my abilities.
  • Became a runner. When I started my sabbatical I was beginning to mix a bit of running into my walking but I would never have referred to myself as a runner. By the end of my sabbatical that had all changed. I was a runner and could comfortably complete a 5k run and more. I was ready to run in my first organized 5k which was the basis for the next accomplishment.
  • Hosted a 5k. I mentioned that I wanted run my first 5k. After becoming a runner and training I decided to approach my first 5k the way I approached the rest of my journey – I did it my way. So, the weekend after returning to work, I hosted and ran in the Operation Melt First Time 5. About 15 people participated in this race which was a fundraiser which raised about $650 for Central Community House.
  • Launched Operation Melt. I had already started OperationMelt.com and a blog when my sabbatical had started but it was pretty limited. During my sabbatical I really established my blog and associated social media channels. I built followers and really began engaging with others to help them achieve their goals.
  • Launched Reflections on Leadership. In my old job I sent a weekly email to my team called “Reflections” that would share my ah-has from the prior week. As I was nearing the final days of my job I had stopped producing these emails. During my sabbatical I relaunched this as a public series about my reflections on good and bad leaders. I have produced an issue weekly ever since.
  • Wrote a book. Once I hit my 100 pounds lost goal I wrote my book about my journey. The goal of the book is to tell my story, share my process, share my lessons learned and help other people experience the same success. The book just finished the editing process and needs just one more chapter to wrap up since my weight loss journey is done. Then I need some help with layout and production and then I will launch!
  • Explored the city on foot. Almost every day I spent time walking and running around the city and explored nearly every inch of the inner city area by foot. In total I walked and ran 863 miles over this time. Some days I covered more than 10 miles!
  • Rekindled relationships. I rekindled relationships with many people in my network who I hadn’t talked to in a very long time.
  • Supported friends going through struggles. I am happy to say that I was also there for several friends who were going through work and personal struggles during this time. I like to think that I made it a little easier for these friends to succeed.

In short I became a runner, an athlete, healthy, a superhero, a writer, a consultant and a better friend, a blogger and much more during my sabbatical. I don’t know many other people who can say that they accomplished all of this in just over 4 months. I am super happy with what I was able to accomplish during this time.

But there is one more thing…

I made a new friend!

During this time I had one other big accomplishment – I made a new friend. I made friends with somebody who I hadn’t been friends with for a while and had become kind of estranged from over the years.

I became friends with me!

I learned a lot about myself during my sabbatical. Most of all I learned that I am pretty amazing and I have lots to offer this world. I learned that I have superpowers the primary of which is my ability to achieve goals.

As a manager I used to say that getting let go from a job can be the best thing that ever happened to them. I mostly believed this but I never really thought it would happen that way for me – my job was too big a part of my identity. But that all changed over the nearly 5 months I spent hanging out with myself.

I can honestly say that getting laid off and spending time on this life changing sabbatical was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Week 84: Winter Hibernation

Winter has hit Columbus and this was a cold snowy week. There were snow emergencies which delayed the gym opening and cancelled yoga my class. But the biggest impact of the weather on my fitness journey was a little bit different and less legitimate.

Finding an Excuse

Yes this week was cold (mostly morning lows) but not that cold. Yes this week was snowy but not that snowy. Yes there was ice on the roads but they weren’t that bad.

Unfortunately I used this weather as an excuse to stay in the house and essentially to hibernate.

I didn’t go to the gym or do my yoga class on Sunday though it was cancelled and I also didn’t do yoga at home which I could have done. I didn’t go to the gym on Monday, a holiday and day off where I could have had unlimited time for a workout. I didn’t have any exercise on Tuesday either and just went to work early.

On Wednesday I got back into the game a bit with my weekly training session and it was a pretty good one. I did a moderately long and stupid cold walk on Thursday. Then I did an after work workout on Friday. So I thought I was getting myself back on track.

Then I had an early meeting on Saturday so I did no workout at all and didn’t do my long run. I didn’t do yoga on Sunday (2 weeks straight) and didn’t leave the couch Sunday morning at all. So the result was a weekend without exercise and a week without a long run.

Making the lack of exercise worse I paired it with not being very diligent about tracking my Saturday night calorie consumption. I know I went past my daily calorie target I just don’t know much. So it was a double whammy of bad decision making.

I know it isn’t the right choice but I found an excuse to give myself permission to take my foot off the gas this week. Looking ahead at the upcoming week it is going to be very cold which means there is a risk of a repeat of last week.

The only thing I can do is to do my best to do better during the upcoming week. I absolutely forgive myself for this week’s bad decisions (which I enjoyed by the way) and am looking forward!

Thanks for reading!

Last week’s stats (1/14-1/20):
Maintain avg. weight of 189-199 pounds: 198.4 lbs average
Run 10+ miles per week: 11.4 miles
Total walk/run miles: 32.9 miles
Weight training 2-3 times per week: 2 workouts
Yoga 1+ times per week: class cancelled due to weather
One race per month: January 5k complete on 1/1
Continue to track & manage calories: 4,734calories under budget

Reflections on Leadership: How Not to be a Jerk Part 2

Weekly Inspiration

How Not to be a Jerk Part 2

In last week’s post I started a 3-part series about how not to be a jerk. This series is based on my new favorite (and made up) quote.

“Leadership is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re a jerk!”

In this week’s edition I am going to share a few more strategies leaders can adopt to not be a jerk. While last week’s theme was treating people as equals this week’s theme is about being approachable. I firmly believe the best leaders are approachable and don’t do things to discourage others to interact with them.

  1. Give generously. When you are generous and you give to others it immediately demonstrates that you are approachable. It shows that you aren’t just in it for yourself and that is critical. Do things for others even when there is nothing in it for you.
  2. Make time for others. The most important way to be generous is with your time. A leader makes himself/herself available to others even when it is inconvenient. Yes, you have a lot going on but that isn’t an excuse to hide away and avoid people. Your number one priority as a leader is the people and you need to make time for them even if you have to schedule and protect the time on your calendar.
  3. Don’t complain especially about being busy. Nobody wants to hear you complain. If you are complaining and negative people will not want to approach you because they will feel like they are bothering you. This is particularly impactful when your complaints are about being busy. Everybody is busy or at least they should be. So don’t fall into the trap of the cult of busy – see my 5/13/2018 post Leaders are not too busy.
  4. Say please and thank you. Manners are important. When you say please and thank you it shows people that you respect them. This respect helps give them the opening to approach you because they will assume you are not a joke.
  5. Don’t interrupt or talk over people. While talking about manners I want to address one of the most annoying habits that immediately shows other people that they don’t really matter to you. When you talk over people or interrupt them you are saying “yeah yeah, but what I have to say is really important and you are not.” It annoys people, it sends a terrible message and makes people not want to talk to you at all!
  6. Make people laugh even if you are the target of the joke. Victor Borge once said “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” A good laugh brings people together and making people laugh is a great way to make yourself approachable. When you can laugh at yourself and the joke is at your expense it is even more effective.
  7. Be vulnerable and trust others. The reason laughing at yourself is so effective is that it shows vulnerability which is the gateway to trust. While it may be uncomfortable being vulnerable really shows others that you trust them and that they should trust you and that is the cornerstone of being approachable, right?

Call to Action: Same as last week make life as a leader, and the life of your followers, a little easier by actively taking steps to not be a jerk. By taking simple steps to make sure that you are approachable you break down one more barrier between yourself and others and are that much less jerkish.

About Reflections on Leadership

Reflections on Leadership is my weekly article series reflecting on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

Week 83: Slowing Down to Go Faster

This was another week in a post-weight-loss world for me.

I have already deviated from the “new normal” routine I talked about last week because I needed a few extra recovery days from my long run last week. I also skipped yoga this weekend because of a big winter storm that dropped tons of snow on Columbus. So it wasn’t the best week for my new routine.

Fortunately I did stick to some of my new routine this week. I had a good training session on Wednesday. I did a short run on Friday. Plus I had a killer workout for over 2 hours on Saturday including weights and running over 7 miles. So it wasn’t a lazy week by any means just not the week I had planned.

So far maintenance mode has been a mixed bag for me. In some ways it is uncomfortable because I am no longer pursuing a goal and it feels like I am in neutral. It just feels strange to not be focused on my weight after the journey I have just finished. But I am only 20 days into the new phase of my fitness journey so it will get easier.

On the other hand not focusing on my weight has enabled me to focus more on other goals. While working on these other goals I am learning some valuable lessons along the way.

Slow Down to Go Fast

A few years ago an executive I worked with said “we have to slow down to go faster.” It was an interesting point of view on focus and prioritization. If we focus our energy on the highest priority work and avoid the distractions we get deliver faster.

I learned this week that the slow down to go faster concept applies to running as well.

On my longer runs, greater than a 5k distance, I tend to stick to a pace of 9-10 minutes per mile. At this pace I end up getting tired after 2 miles or so and need to slow to a walk for a bit to recover. The net result is a total pace of mid 12-minute miles and a fair amount of pain after a 10k, quarter marathon or a half marathon.

This weekend I tried a slightly different approach to my long runs by slowing down to go fast. I ran over a quarter marathon on the treadmill this weekend just like last weekend. But this weekend I slowed my running pace down a bit to 11-minute miles. The result was that I was able to keep running longer without having to slow to walk as frequently.

Because I slowed my running pace my total average pace was 11:23 which is 1 minute and 10 seconds faster than my half marathon! It was also about 35 seconds faster than a nearly identical run just one week earlier.

I have learned this week that the pursuit of a faster distance running pace, like many other goals, can benefit from slowing down to go faster.

Thanks for reading!

Last week’s stats (1/7-1/13):

Maintain avg. weight of 189-199 pounds: 196.8 lbs average
Run 10+ miles per week: 12.4 miles
Total walk/run miles: 41.2 miles
Weight training 2-3 times per week: 2 workouts
Yoga 1+ times per week: 1 Sunday yoga class
One race per month: January 5k complete on 1/1
Continue to track & manage calories: 4019 calories under budget

Reflections on Leadership: How Not to be a Jerk

Weekly Inspiration

How Not to be a Jerk

John Wayne is credited with one of my favorite quotes:

“Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid. “

I would like to propose an alternate version of this quote for you leaders out there:

“Leadership is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re a jerk!”

Pick the saying of your choice (you catch more flies with honey?) but the message you send with your behavior makes all of the difference. If you are accidentally telling people that they don’t matter to you then your results won’t be what you are hoping. Remember that good leaders are easy to follow and that starts with not being a jerk.

I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on how to avoid being (or at least appearing to be) a jerk. These are based on some of my observations and are things I try to do myself.

Rather than just unload a huge list of items on you all at once, I am going to break these up into 3 weeks. So get excited because I am going to be taking about this for a while!

You may notice that many of these are things that apply outside of work and that is important. The saying goes that character is what we do when nobody is watching. Maybe leadership character is what we do when we aren’t trying to be a leader.

Part 1 of the ways not to be a jerk starts with how you treat people even when they have nothing to offer you.

  1. Treat others as equals in all aspects of life. Let’s start with the most important item…. You are an amazing person but so is that person next to you, you are no better or worse than they are. So treat that person, and everybody else you interact with, as an equal. Treat them the way you would like to be treated.
  2. Tell your barista good morning. One way people tend NOT to treat others as equals is one of my biggest pet peeves and jerkish behaviors. You walk into your neighborhood coffee shop first thing in the morning and the barista says “good morning how are you this morning?” Your response is “I’ll have a large latte” or something similar. You are talking to a human being who was up way earlier than you who wants to give you a positive experience and you failed to acknowledge her as a human being. Pause for a minute, say good morning, smile back and show some warmth to a fellow human being.
  3. Tip well for service and very well for great service. Staying on the topic of servers for a minute…. Servers work very hard in a low paying and often thankless job. They actively cater to your nearly every whim and depend on tips. Make sure to do your part and be as generous as you can. When you get over-the-Top service make sure to adjust your tip accordingly. If you get lackluster service still tip well because that service is likely somewhat out of your server’s control. And if it isn’t you can think of it as paying it forward to help change somebody’s bad day.
  4. Talk to people and try to learn something about them. A big part of treating others as equals is talking to them and learning about them. If you seek to learn something from the people you interact with you can establish common ground and bond and that is the first step to viewing them as an equal. Plus by seeking to get to know people you show them that they matter to you. As you learn about people and start to understand their hopes, goals, backgrounds, struggles and opinions it makes it way easier to be empathetic to their needs and struggles.
  5. Listen to understand and not just to plan your next words. When I say you should talk to people I also mean you should listen to people. Don’t just let them talk while planning your next comment. Truly listen with the intent to understand and learn.
  6. Help people even when there is nothing in it for you. I know a lot of people who are good at giving assistance when they think there is some win in it for themselves. The people who will step up and take on the extra work because they want it to lead to a promotion not just because it needs to be done. One easy way not to be a jerk is to offer your help even when it gets you nowhere – well maybe just the karma points. Start with little things like holding a door open or helping carry something, then maybe pick up that piece of trash in the office hallway and maybe even ask that coworker who has to stay late if there is anything you can do to help lighten the load.

Call to Action: make life as a leader, and the life of your followers, a little easier by actively taking steps to not be a jerk. These steps start with how you think about and treat the people around you. If you treat everyone as an equal and look for ways to get to know them and to be of service to them you really set the stage for next level leadership.

Check back next week for the next update in my How Not to be a Jerk series.

About Reflections on Leadership

Reflections on Leadership is my weekly article series reflecting on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.