Archives For stretch

Here’s my talk for today’s presentation at the NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers) Annual Conference:

NSPE 2017 Conference

Engineers Managing Engineers

Jon M. Stolpe

Friday, July 21, 2017

When an optimist looks at a half-filled glass, he sees the glass half full.  When a pessimist looks at the same glass, he sees the glass half empty.  When an engineer looks at the same glass, he sees the glass as being twice as big as it needs to be.

As engineers, we look at the world through a different set of lenses than the rest of the world.  Engineers want to get to the bottom of how things work.  They tend to be technical in nature.  While the rest of the world may see us as robots, we are more than mechanical devices going through the motions.

Engineers are people too!

For the next 50 minutes, I want to help you better manage the engineers who work for you.

Here’s our agenda for our time together.

First, we’ll look in the mirror to get a better understanding of who we are.

Next, we’ll spend some time talking about how you can get to know your team members better.

I’ll give you some tips for managing performance for your direct reports, and I’ll give you a powerful tool for managing your team members.

We’ll spend some time helping our team members develop a plan for their future.

And we’ll finish our time together brainstorming ways to encourage your team of engineers to be innovative.

Before we get started, I wanted to share a few things about me.  I graduated from Grove City College in 1994 with a degree in mechanical engineering.  After graduating, I worked for a small building automation company in north Jersey and Manhattan as a project engineer.  During my year and a half with the company, I installed building automation systems on the top ten floors of Rockefeller Center and the Liz Claiborne World Headquarters.  I moved to Landis and Gyr Powers which eventually became Siemens Building Technologies where I have been for over 21 years.  I started as a project engineer and became a project manager which gave me opportunities to work on projects all over the Greater Philadelphia area.  In 2000, I went back to school to work on my MBA at Penn State University.  For the past 10 years, I’ve been an operations manager.  I lead a team of engineers, project managers, technicians, and installers.  And I love my job!

I’m married with two teenagers.  And I have a passion for personal growth, leadership development, writing, and speaking.  I’m excited to be here today to share some of the things I have learned along the way which have helped me (an engineer) lead my team of engineers.

Getting to Know Yourself

If you want to be successful managing your team, it’s important that you get to know yourself first.

When we think of becoming better leaders, we think of tools and techniques. We think of books and seminars. We think of skills we must add or improve to connect with those we are leading and to help others navigate their paths to becoming stronger contributors to the overall good of the team. Much of our leadership development is externally focused.

How can we get our team member to do this? Or how can we get our team member to stop doing that?

In our quest to become better leaders, we often forget to look in the mirror.

Becoming a better leader starts by learning to lead ourselves first.

I don’t know about you, but my podcast feed is full of podcasts about leadership. My nightstand is full of books about leadership. And my blog reader is jammed with blog posts and articles about leadership. It’s great to feed our minds with great material, but we must learn to step back from time to time and develop habits to lead ourselves.

As a leader trying to figure it out, I believe self leadership starts when we take time to STRETCH ourselves. To help you see what I mean, here’s an easy way to remember seven keys to leading yourself:

  1. Still yourself.

Too many leaders believe busyness is a badge of achievement. In the rush to hustle more than the next guy, leaders forget how to stop and be still. Learning to still yourself takes practice. Start with a minute every hour. Or start with 10-15 minutes in the morning before the days responsibilities take over.

  1. Take note.

Become an observer of life. Keep track of what is happening. Keep a journal. Spend a few minutes at the end of the day capturing the details of the day. If we don’t write it down somewhere, we’ll forget it.

  1. Reflect.

It’s not just enough to still yourself and take note. You have to take time to reflect. For me, this means getting away for a couple of days once or twice a year. Reflection provides the opportunity to gain wisdom from what we have just experienced, and it gives the chance to ponder the future.

  1. Engage in key relationships.

One of the best ways to lead yourself is to open yourself up to feedback from others. When I think of key relationships, I think of my family, my close friends, and my boss. Who are the people who will help you see the things you need to see when you look in the mirror? These are the people who can help you take your leadership to the next level.

  1. Try something new.

It’s easy to fall into a rut when we are leading. In order to break out of our patterns, we must be willing to take a risk. Leading yourself requires you to willingly move past unproductive routines. Trying new things on a regular basis helps leaders learn things they may have otherwise overlooked.

  1. Community. Community. Community.

Whether you or an introvert or an extrovert, you need community and community needs you. By involving yourself in community, you gain opportunities to lead others outside your team. Community is also the place where you can be led by others outside your normal circle of influence. When you lead in the community, you gain valuable insights to lead better in your organization. If you want to lead yourself to become a better leader, get involved in your community today!

  1. Help others.

Leadership too often is a race to see who climbs the corporate ladder more quickly. If you want to be an effective leader, you must analyze your motives. Why are you leading? When your season of leadership is over, what legacy will you have left? The best way to lead with impact is when you lead with a servant’s heart. Find ways to help others, and your leadership will advance to a whole new level.

If you paid attention, you may have realized that these seven keys encourage leaders to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. As you lead in your organization, don’t forget to STRETCH by leading yourself first.

Getting to Know Your Team

Piece of Paper Exercise

Learning to Look for Differences Exercise

Tools To Help You Learn More About Your Team Members (and About You)

Myers-Briggs Temperament Index – My MBTI (I am an ESTJ.  I’m more of an Extrovert than an Introvert.  I rely on Sensing as opposed to iNtuition.  I’m much more of a Thinker than a Feeler.  And I’m more likely to Judge than to Perceive.)

Wikipedia:  The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

The MBTI was constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. It is based on the typological theory proposed by Carl Jung who had speculated that there are four principal psychological functions by which humans experience the world – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time. The MBTI was constructed for normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences. “The underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation.”

16 different types

StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Get book) – My Strengths (Harmony, Achiever, Responsibility, Disciplined, and Analyzer)

DISC Profile

Wikipedia:  DISC is a behavior assessment tool based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, which centers on four different behavioral traits, which today are called: dominance, influence, support, and conscientiousness. This theory was then developed into a behavioral assessment tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke.

There are many different versions of the questionnaire and assessment. Some date back to the 1940s while others are more recent, more accurate, and more advanced.

Communication Style Assessment

 

Whether you are a manager of direct reports or not, I hope you’ll find this list helpful in understanding ways to get better.  Success doesn’t happen by accident.  Success happens by being intentional, and this list offers suggestions – no, essentials – for being intentional with the performance management process.

10 Essentials for Enhancing the Performance Management Process:

  1. Start with regular one-on-one meetings. It’s important to meet with your employees on a regular basis.  These meetings provide an opportunity to touch base on performance issues and other business and non-business related items.  You can read about the power of one-on-one meetings in a guest post I wrote for Matt McWilliams.  Several years ago, I started having monthly one-on-one meetings with my team, and it’s been helpful for my team members and for me.
  2. Set performance targets. It’s critical that employees have SMART targets.  Targets should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  At the beginning of each year, I sit down with my team members to set targets.  These targets align with our overall business objectives, and they also provide opportunities for individuals to grow personally.
  3. Quarterly review progress towards targets. It shouldn’t be a surprise at the end of the year when doing a performance evaluation.  I sit down with my employees once a quarter to review their progress in achieving their targets.  Doing this once a quarter provides an opportunity for my team members to make performance corrections that will help them meet or exceed their targets.
  4. Get feedback from others. I encourage my team members to ask for feedback from their peers.  And I get feedback from other managers and supervisors regarding the performance of my team members.  Before completing the annual performance management process, I meet in a roundtable meeting which helps to calibrate my overall assessment.  This meeting also provides extra insight into developmental action items I might want to suggest to my team members.
  5. Take time to write an honest and detailed assessment.  When I write evaluations for my team members, I want them to be fair, well-thought, and encouraging.  Writing this kind of assessment takes time.  I schedule time to carefully review the past year of activity.  I look at notes from my past one-on-one meetings.  I review previous results from the quarterly updates.  And I take into account comments shared by my fellow management team members.  A written record provides employees a tangible document to review as they seek to grow and improve.
  6. Meet with employee to review results. At the end of the year, it’s important to let your employees know how they have done.  Feedback provides information necessary to help them improve.  Feedback also keeps them doing the right things.
  7. Remember the good things. Make sure you praise your team members for the good things they have done throughout the year.  A pat on the back goes a long way towards encouraging the right behavior.
  8. Create a development plan correcting issues. As managers, it is our responsibility to help our team members succeed.  We have to give our team members help in getting better.  The performance review process is the perfect time to help employees get better.
  9. Discuss career progression essentials. Most employees want to know what it will take for them to get tho the next level in their career path.  It’s important to talk regularly to employees about their plans for the future.  What are their goals for the next 5 years or 10 years?  What do they need to do in order to be ready for the next steps?  These are questions that will help you help them.  Are their expectations realistic?  How can you help them?  The performance review process provides an opportunity to discuss essentials for career advancement.
  10. Do it again. It may seem repetitive, but you have to do it over and over and over again.  Doing this for only one year does not demonstrate a long-term interest in the performance of an employee.  Repeated year after year is essential to a successful performance management process.

Thinking About the Future

Mentoring

Cross-Training

Delegation

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.

Bill Gates

Being a leader isn’t always easy.

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.  Right?

If leadership stress, exhaustion, and inadequacy are common, there has to be a solution.

I’m sure we could point to many things that make leadership easier – getting more sleep, exercising regularly, reading, learning, and finding a mentor.  These are all valuable actions a leader can take to improve their leadership capabilities.  There another solution that too easily gets overlooked and sometimes misused.

Delegation is what I’m talking about.

I’m not talking about pawning off all the unpleasant tasks on someone else and acting as a dictator.  I’m talking about spreading out the work, so a leader and team can be more effective which will lead to less stress, less exhaustion, and a deeper feeling of adequacy and fulfillment.  Delegation is “the assignment of responsibility or authority to another person to carry out specific activities (Wikipedia).”

It seems rather simple.  Spread the work out.  Ease the load of the leader.  Use the leadership talents of others in the community.  And make the community happier.

Why is delegation so important?

Here are six reasons leaders should delegate:

6 Reasons Leaders Should Delegate

  1. Delegation relieves stress and overload on the leader. Leadership can be lonely, and it can be a heavy weight to bear alone.  Delegation disperses the weight, so the strain isn’t so great on any one person.
  2. Delegation allows leaders and teams to get more accomplished in less time. If a leader tries to do it all my himself, it will obviously take him longer.  “Many hands make light work.”  By getting more people involved, more can be accomplished.
  3. Delegation frees up leaders for other tasks. When a leader is overwhelmed, he will often miss out on other tasks he could and should be performing.  By delegating, a leader opens up time and energy for other priorities.
  4. Delegation buildings a better team. When a leader tries to do it all by himself, he demonstrates a lack of confidence in his team.  This will demoralize a team.  Delegation done right provides an opportunity to motivate your team.  It also provides an opportunity to develop the skills and abilities of team members which will ultimately lead to a better team.
  5. Delegation generates more success. When a leader gets others involved, he taps into the ideas and skills of other people who might otherwise be overlooked and underutilized.  When a team is used to its fullest, success is a natural byproduct.
  6. Delegation prepares for the future. A leader will not be around forever.  Eventually, he will retire or move on to another opportunity.  It is good stewardship for a leader to prepare the next in-line leaders.  Grooming successors is an essential part of delegating, and it’s the best way for a leader to leave a legacy.

If you want to overcome stress, exhaustion, and feelings of inadequacy in your leadership, it’s time for you to start delegating.

Educational opportunities

Keeping Our Teams Engaged Through Innovation

My Shark Tank Experience

What other companies are doing

  • ATT Foundry
  • Adobe Kickstart
  • Linkedin [in]cubator
  • Whirlpool
  • Ericsson Ideaboxes

A chance to brainstorm

Confirming Your Learning

  1. Why are regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports important?
  2. What is one thing you can do to encourage innovations among your direct reports?
  3. Name three (or more) things you can do to improve the performance management process for your direct reports.

Remember, you are not leading a team of robots.  You are leading a team of people.  Be intentional as you lead and manage your team!

Questions, Answers, and Contact Information

We take in so much information throughout the week.  If we don’t review this information from time to time, we’ll forget it.  I want to make the most of the things that stretched me this week.  This starts by taking note of the things I come across each week.  Then it takes intentional time to review these notes.  Finally, great information is meant to be shared.  Here are some of the things that stretched me this week:

Quotes that stretched me this week:

“If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us tickets.”  Mel Brooks [via Manlio Mannozzi]

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”Archilochus [via Entreprenuer.com]

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work – you don’t give up.”Anne Lamott [via Entreprenuer.com]

“We need to watch out for the resistance that will wnat us to stay in the past, trying to collect a debt that will never be paid.”  Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud [via Forgiveness Reading Plan – YouVersion.com]

“Christ’s love and grace will not produce guilt or shame, but it will fill us [with] a feeling of great responsibility.”  Maile Smucker [via ShawnSmucker.com]

“To the extent that we surrender our tendencies to condemn others, and are able instead to forgive, we will experience the fullness of forgiveness from God.”  Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud [via Forgiveness Reading Plan – YouVersion.com]

“Being present is better than trying to be everywhere else.”  Leslie Samuel [via BecomeABlogger.com]

“if you have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor.”  Dorothy Day [via BrianJones.com]

“When doing public ministry, you need more private time with the Lord.”  Sean McFeely

“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you.  If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”  Zig Ziglar [via Dictionary.com]

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Dr. Seuss [via Dictionary.com]

“[An attitude of forgiveness] releases us from a life of keeping emotional scorecards and insisting that everything be fair and leads to a life of love, grace, freedom, and forgiveness.”  Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud [via Forgiveness Reading Plan – YouVersion.com]

“To forgive is very difficult.  It means letting go of something that someone “owes” us.  But forgiveness brings freedom from the past; it brings freedom from anyone who has hurt us.  To forgive means to write it off.  Let it go.  Tear up the account.  It is to render the account cancelled.”  Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud [via Forgiveness Reading Plan – YouVersion.com]

“If you don’t take the first step, you’ll never get to the second step.”  Zig Ziglar

“Forgiveness through Jesus’ death is God’s solution; it rescues us from our hopelessness and restores our connection with God.”  Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud [via Forgiveness Reading Plan – YouVersion.com]

“Eat a live from first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”  Mark Twain

Scripture that stretched me this week:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  Hebrews 6:10

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  Matthew 16:26

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.  Psalm 116:1-2

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  James 2:12-13

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:43-44

“‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

What I’m reading now:

Eat That Frog!  by Brian Tracy

Articles that challenged me:

What Is A Mastermind? (And What It Isn’t) by Ellory Wells

What Is A “Hot Seat” In A Mastermind Group? by Ellory Wells

Great Responsibility: Maile’s Thoughts on Intervening After Seeing a Mother Hit Her Little Girl by Maile Smucker [at ShawnSmucker.com]

If you are looking to STRETCH yourself, sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  It’s FREE!

What STRETCHED you this week?  Share your observations and thoughts in the comments below.

We take in so much information throughout the week.  If we don’t review this information from time to time, we’ll forget it.  I want to make the most of the things that stretched me this week.  This starts by taking note of the things I come across each week.  Then it takes intentional time to review these notes.  Finally, great information is meant to be shared.  Here are some of the things that stretched me this week:

Quotes that stretched me this week:

“There is a right and a wrong in the universe, and that distinction is not hard to make.”  Superman [via DeliberateDads.com]

“We can be sure our prayers are answered precisely in the way we would want them to be answered if we knew everything God knows.”Tim Keller [via JeffRandleman.com]

“Nothing promotes reconciliation more than forgiveness.  To forgive someone means to let him or her off the hook or to cancel a debt owed.  When we refuse to forgive someone, we still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that we want, it keeps us tied to the person forever.”Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud [via Forgiveness Reading Plan – YouVersion.com]

Scripture that stretched me this week:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

What I’m reading now:

No Excuses!  The Power of Self-Discipline  by Brian Tracy

Videos that stretched me:

 

Articles that challenged me:

How To Really Support Your Church by Jason Raitz

Articles I posted this week:

Are You Intentionally Busy?

If you are looking to STRETCH yourself, sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  It’s FREE!

What STRETCHED you this week?  Share your observations and thoughts in the comments below.

We take in so much information throughout the week.  If we don’t review this information from time to time, we’ll forget it.  I want to make the most of the things that stretched me this week.  This starts by taking note of the things I come across each week.  Then it takes intentional time to review these notes.  Finally, great information is meant to be shared.  Here are some of the things that stretched me this week:

Quotes that stretched me this week:

“Knowledge of biblical doctrine is to the soul as an anchor to the ship, that holds it steady in the midst of the rolling waves of error, or the violent winds of persecution.”  Thomas Watson [via JeffRandleman.com]

“Just because you’ve received an email, doesn’t mean you need to use your time to process it.”MichaelHyatt.com

“Travel safe, but stay dangerous.”Seth Barnes

“To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do things no one else is doing.” Craig Groeschel [via MarkHowellLive.com]

“The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”  Stephen Covey [via MichaelHyatt.com]

“An opportunity with a yes attached is an obligation. Too many obligations is an obstacle.”MichaelHyatt.com

Scripture that stretched me this week:

The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.  Proverbs 15:29

The he said to them, “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  Luke 12:15

What I’m reading now:

Wealth:  Is It Worth It? by S. Truett Cathy

Videos that stretched me:

Articles that challenged me:

Finding Your Passion, Not Wealth, Should be Your Main Goal by Tom Corley [via RichHabits.net]

Are You Careful, Cautious and Concerned? by Seth Barnes [via Radical Living by Seth Barnes]

If you are looking to STRETCH yourself, sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  It’s FREE!

What STRETCHED you this week?  Share your observations and thoughts in the comments below.

We take in so much information throughout the week.  If we don’t review this information from time to time, we’ll forget it.  I want to make the most of the things that stretched me this week.  This starts by taking note of the things I come across each week.  Then it takes intentional time to review these notes.  Finally, great information is meant to be shared.  Here are some of the things that stretched me this week:

Quotes that stretched me this week:

“The severest self-denials and the most lavish gifts are of no value in God’s esteem unless they are prompted by love.”  A.W. Pink [via JeffRandleman.com]

“Take the long view.  Tune out the drama, and get back to the things that matter most.”MichaelHyatt.com

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”John Lee Dumas

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Zig Ziglar [via Manlio Mannozzi]

“Together with a culture of work, there must be a culture of leisure as gratification.  To put it another way:  people who work must take the time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, read, listen to music, play a sport.”  Pope Francis [via DeliberateDads.com]

Scripture that stretched me this week:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:35

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  I Corinthians 12:26

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.  I Corinthians 1:10

What I finished reading this week:

Double Play – Faith and Family First by Ben & Julianna Zobrist

What I’m reading now:

Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does – The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging by Susan Fowler

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Videos that stretched me:

Articles that challenged me:

40 Percent of America’s Food Is Thrown Away. That’s a Stewardship Problem by Susan Narjala [via RelevantMagazine.com]

3 Reasons You Need More Downtime In Your Life by Dan Erickson [via HipDiggs.com]

If you are looking to STRETCH yourself, sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  It’s FREE!

What STRETCHED you this week?  Share your observations and thoughts in the comments below.

We take in so much information throughout the week.  If we don’t review this information from time to time, we’ll forget it.  I want to make the most of the things that stretched me this week.  This starts by taking note of the things I come across each week.  Then it takes intentional time to review these notes.  Finally, great information is meant to be shared.  Here are some of the things that STRETCHED me this week:

“If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”  C.H. Spurgeon [via JeffRandleman.com]

“If you want to fly, you must give up what holds you down.” – Anonymous [via MichaelHyatt.com]

“People will often forget to thank you for various things, but in my experience as a driver one thing people will almost always thank you for is listening.”Shawn Smucker

“If our mission is to alert others to the universal reign of God through Christ, then all believers should see themselves as missionaries.” Michael Frost [in Surprise the World! – Five Habits of Highly Missional People]

Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this:  Wisdom preserves those who have it.  Ecclesiastes 7:12

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing dept to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  Romans 13:8

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.  James 1:26

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Psalm 23:1-3

What I’m reading now:

Double Play – Faith and Family First by Ben & Julianna Zobrist

This inspired me to stand up…

And finally, I know I mentioned This Is Us last week, but the show keeps getting better…

If you are looking to STRETCH yourself, sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  It’s FREE!

What STRETCHED you this week?  Share your observations and thoughts in the comments below.

 

I’m honored to be the featured guest on The Answers From Leadership Podcast with Joe Lalonde.  My episode is titled Importance Of Stretching Your Leadership With Jon Stolpe.  I’d be thrilled if you stopped by and gave it a listen.  Click here (or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher).

Then stop by and let me know what you think in the comments.

10 ESSENTIALS FOR OVERCOMING THE STRESS IN YOUR LIFE

Stress happens.

How you handle stress matters.

My post today initially started as an explanation for a recent reduction in my weekly blog posts, and it turned into an all-out focus on handling the stress we face in life.  I’m not going to change the initial part of the post as I think it helps provide a window into the stress I’ve been experiencing recently.  I don’t know what stress you are dealing with lately, but I’m hoping today’s post will help you as you face life’s challenges.

What is on your goal list?

Are you giving attention to the goals you really want to accomplish?

You may have noticed a recent drop off in the number of posts I am releasing each week.  There’s a reason (actually, there are a few reasons):

  1. I’m working on my next book project.  A good percentage of my normal writing time is currently focused on this project.  With a busy work and family schedule, I have to be intentional with my time.  And in some cases, this means I have to give up something to get something else.  Once I get through this book project, I hope to post more frequently.  Until then, I’m learning to be content with a post or two per week.
  2. I’ve had a few “distractions” in my life lately.  Without going into too much detail, these distractions have been related to my job, my home, my family, and our upcoming missions trip to Guatemala.  Most of these things are great, but they have required a significant portion of my regular bandwidth.  For my job, I’m preparing to visit Chicago at the end of the month for an exclusive leadership development workshop.  The pre-work for this workshop will ensure I get the most out of the experience which will team me up with leaders from Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.  For my family, we are navigating the college selection process for the first time with our oldest child.  We are supporting our son as he works on his Eagle Scout project.  And we’re running between various activities at the track, the concert hall, and elsewhere.  My parents are also going through some health challenges and life transitions.  And our family is trying to put the finishing touches on our plans to go back to Guatemala this summer.  (You can support us here or here.)

Life is about choices.

If you are a “Go Getter” like me, you have to come to terms with this fact:  You can’t do everything.

Sometimes you have to let go of the good, so you can focus on the great.  And sometimes you have to sacrifice some of the things on your personal agenda, so you can focus on the things that come your way in the course of life.

As I’ve faced some of the recent challenges (and “distractions”), I’ve dealt with some anxiety, some sleepless nights, and some emotion.  To put it simply, I’ve experienced stress.  Stress is a normal part of life in today’s world.  Unfortunately, many of us don’t know handle ourselves when the stress levels climb.  As I work through my the stress in my life, I’ve developed a list to help me deal with the stress.  I’m hoping this will help you when you deal with stress.

10 Essentials For Overcoming the Stress in Your Life

  1. Eat right.  Eating junk only drags you down.  When stress happens, our eating habits are the first things to be compromised.  Junk in equals junk out.  Put the good stuff in to help you overcome the stresses you are juggling.  Eat regularly.  Balance your intake with proteins and plant-based carbohydrates.  Drink plenty of water.  Avoid excess sugar and caffeine.  Limit the amount of alcohol you consume.
  2. Exercise.  When we get too busy, we often forget to take care of ourselves physically.  Regular exercise is paramount to dealing with an abundance of stress, and it’s essential for building you up for the future challenges you will face.  Regular cardio and strength training gives you more energy and helps build your immune system.
  3. Get sleep.  I struggle with this one.  We all need different amounts of sleep, but most of us need far more sleep that we actually get.  The past few months, I have returned to taking a nap or two on the weekend.  These short siestas help restore my energy levels to better handle the challenges of the upcoming week.  Try going to bed earlier (I’m preaching to myself now).  Turn off the electronics and the television.  Read a book.  Drink a warm glass of milk.  And head to bed early.
  4. Get fresh air.  Too often, we get stuck in the office all day.  Our only fresh air intake happens when we walk into the office at the beginning of the day and when we walk to our car at the end of the day.  Use your lunch time to take a quick walk or to visit a local park.  Breathe in the fresh air.
  5. Practice gratitude.  When stress levels begin to elevate, we tend to become more negative.  We forget to appreciate what is going on around us.  Find a way to practice gratitude.  Start a gratitude journal, and write in it every day.  Write down two or three things you appreciated about your day.  You’ll be surprised to see the impact of this discipline on your stress levels.
  6. Plug into a support system.  You may need a little help from your friends.  I’m in three or four groups that encourage me through tough times.  We all need a this kind of support system.  I meet with 13 other men on a weekly basis.  I meet with a small group of entrepreneurs every other week.  I meet with a group of families twice a month.  And I meet with a group of fellow managers every week at my office.  These meetings are essential to balancing the stresses of life.  These groups have been a place for me to let out some of the emotion I am dealing with and to calibrate my responses to whatever is happening in my life.  If the stress levels continue to rise, I’d highly recommend professional counseling.  Several years ago when I was going through a very stressful time in my life, I met with a counselor for several weeks.  These sessions helped.
  7. Stay connected with those who are closest to you.  Stress impacts our relationships with those we love.  In order to counterbalance this natural tendency, it’s imperative that we find ways to spend time together so we can connect.  My wife and I practice a weekly date night which helps.  Plan ahead for time away from the normal routines and pressures of life.  My wife and I are planning a trip to Vermont in June to celebrate our 20th anniversary and to simply connect away from home.  If you have children, date them too.  Take your son or daughter out for ice cream or for a bike ride.  Time together with those we love builds better relationships and builds a foundation for dealing with the stresses of life.
  8. Stay grounded in God’s word.  Don’t underestimate the power of God’s word in overcoming the challenges of life.  God’s word encourages, teaches, and reminds us of truths we must remember when life gets challenging.  One of the verses that came back to me recently is Philippians 4:6-7:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  9. Pray.  My prayer life has increased recently.  Pray for God’s intervention in the challenges you are facing.  Pray for wisdom, peace, and joy.  Pray for those who seem to be coming against you.  Pray that God would use the challenges you are facing now to help others later.  Stress often leads to bitterness, so we must pray that God would change our hearts.
  10. Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Keep going.  Don’t let the stress stop you from moving ahead.  Learn.  Take one step at a time.  And keep stretching!

I feel better already.

How about you?

How do you handle stress?  What do you do to overcome stress in your life?  Why do you think it’s important to address our response to stress?

If you are looking for additional help in handling stress, I think the 7 Week Stretch Challenge could help.  Sign up below:

6 ESSENTIALS FOR FINDING MEANING IN YOUR LIFE

What is the meaning of life?  This is a question people have been asking themselves for ages.

Meaningless.  Meaningless.  Chasing after the wind.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”  Ecclesiastes 1:2

Too many of us go after things in life that really are meaningless.  When we step back and look at it from a different perspective, we realize that we had our ladder leaned up against the wrong wall, and we’ve been climbing to the top only to realize that we were climbing against the wrong wall.

This week I received some tough news that reminded me that this life is fleeting – it’s short.  And we will endure problems, trials, and illnesses, and we will eventually come to a realization that a lot of the things we are pursuing in life really don’t matter when it comes down to it.

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to mean something.  I want to pursue things that matter.  I don’t want to waste my time doing things that won’t add up to a hill of beans.  I want to be intentional with how I live my life – on a day by day basis and on a moment by moment basis.

Our perspective changes as we go through life.  We see things through different lenses along the way, and sometimes I think that we go through trials in life to re-calibrate us – to reset our vision.  I think this might be happening through my experience this week – in the tough circumstances that I’m wrestling with in my own mind.

What are your priorities and what are you doing about them?  Do you know them?  Have you stopped long enough to pay attention – to really process the priorities that you have in your life? 

Is it work?  Is it achievement?  Is it notoriety?  Is it fame?  Is it your family?  Is it your faith?  Is it financial freedom?

All these things are okay, but are they really your priorities?  Have you stopped long enough to really analyze what matters most in life?

Once you know your priorities, it’s important to map out how you’re going to get there.

What are you going to do?  How are you going to change your life to live in light of those priorities?

I cannot answer that question for you.  This is a question you need to answer for yourself.

I just finished listening to a new book, Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, and they challenge readers to consider writing their own eulogy.

What would you want people to stay at your funeral?  If this is what you want people to say, how are you living your life to prepare for this?

I don’t know how everything is going to work out with the situation I’m facing, but I do know I have the opportunity to really analyze my priorities and shift some of my perspectives.  And just maybe I will come down from the ladder that I was climbing on to make sure I have it positioned against the correct wall.

This is the challenge I leave you with today:  Is your ladder leaning against the correct wall, or are you chasing things that are meaningless?

Live a life that matters.

Pursue your priorities.  Carefully consider your priorities.  Gain new perspective, and live your life with intention. 

More importantly, what I’m learning through this experience is the importance of relationships.  You can pursue all kinds of achievement and accolades and everything, but the reality is the relationships that you have with others matters so much more than those career positions and promotions, those super-large portfolios, and those trophies.  Take time today to connect with those who matter most in your life.  And then repeat every day for the rest of your life.

If you want to find meaning in your life:

6 Essentials for Finding Meaning in Your Life

  1. Look in the mirror.
  2. Determine your priorities.
  3. Live intentionally in light of your priorities.
  4. Plug into key relationships.
  5. Above all else, seek God first.
  6. Repeat for the rest of your life.

What is the meaning of your life?  Knowing this, how are you living your life?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

Stretched LOGO Header

Well, this is the start of it all… Time to get my stretch on.

I’ve been contemplating doing the blog thing for some time.  You might be wondering where the “Stretched” thing comes from.  For starters, when I was in high school at Rancocas Valley Regional High School, I was short – 5’6″ to start my junior year.  Since then, I’ve grown to almost 6’6″.  Many of my friends started calling me Stretch.

On a more recent basis, I often feel “stretched” by all the things going on around me – career, marriage, parenting, church, running, reading, friendships, extended family, relationship with God, etc. (in no particular order).  My hope is that this blog will provide an opportunity to express some of my “stretch marks” and to possibly hear your thoughts as well.

So here we go….

Until the next posting….