Is work life balance a myth?

Not everyone who writes about balancing your life actually has “street cred”, but I do. My experience of balancing “life” is from having three kids, two who are in college, one in high school, and what I call my permanent “furry baby”, or our five year old Golden Doodle, as well as a frog and lizard. I also have a husband who’s office is 200 miles from our house and who has commuted there for four years, a sister, brother, Mom and Dad and in-laws as well as relatives from their relationships. I am fortunate to have friends I met as far back in elementary school in the fourth grade (e.g., Greg, Kathy & Monique), and I have maintained these aspects of my life while working full-time in the demanding high technology marketing industry for more than 20 years. The first thing I will tell you is this has not been easy. The second thing I will tell you is I would not trade my experiences for anything. However, I now have perspective on balancing my life, and I will share this perspective with you.

Being a full-time working Mother puts you in a position of constantly weighing the pros and cons of decisions on an hourly basis, sometimes simultaneously both at work and home. So, it has been critical for me to be able to have my family reach me at all times, meaning my mobile phone is always on and with me. There have also been numerous times during my career when I have often excused myself during important professional conversations when my children or other family members have reached out to me. Yes, this might seem impolite, but I prioritize my family over work 100% of the time. No job or career is worth the reverse of this prioritization, especially if you are in a field that demands you work excessively long hours. I also do not apologize for taking these calls, and that is a whole other topic I will be writing about, as women apologize way to often for things they should not be apologizing for.

Friends are another part of the equation, which you should never forget to maintain as part of your balance. I have seen too many people compromise their friendships because they are unable to simply send a text once in awhile to their friends to let them know they are thinking about them. If you really want to let them know you are thinking about them, you can drop them a handwritten note, or buy them a cute card, or simply leave them a voicemail. When was the last time you received a card from a friend of yours “just because” they were thinking of you? I regularly send my friends cards for this reason, or leave them extended voicemails.

Proper amounts of sleep, nutrition and exercise are also fundamental aspects of obtaining life balance. Yes, there are times when each of these will be compromised. However, the point is to make each a priority, and to strive to maintain as much discipline as you can with making these aspects of your life a priority too. At times in my life when I was averaging 5-6 hours of sleep at night, not able to exercise or eat the proper food, I paid dearly for this by feeling overly stressed, exhausted and as if I had no control over my schedule or life. With help from friends and family, by reprioritizing these aspects of my life, I was able to get back on track and have my life come back into balance. Again, this was not easy, and I ask you to be kind to yourself and not become overly frustrated when you get out of balance. You also have to realize you are not a “super hero”, and it is fine to ask for help from others, as you can reciprocate when they will need you at some point.

Of course there are other facets of my life and yours you want to factor into the mix, and this is when it gets really interesting in terms of a balancing act. However, I think this is the fun part, as the “trick” to streamlining all the other facets of your life are accomplished by literally scheduling them, or writing them down on a “to do” list. As many of you know about me, I am a huge fan of “to do” lists. It’s because of these lists I am able to accomplish all I do, as I have found that if I write something down, it will get done. Once it is written down, it is like my “up-front-contract” to adhere to and to make it happen. Perhaps not in the exact timeframe of when I wanted it to, but as close to when it would be possible to accomplish the item (e.g., travel, coach and see our kids participate in their sporting or other activities, take a course, work on my hobbies, go to the gym, spend quality time with family/friends, etc.).

I am not saying my life is perfect, as I do not think there is such a thing, and I do believe you can strike a balance in your life and accomplish more than you imagine is possible. I firmly believe I have struck a balance in my life, and I look forward to continuing to do so given the opportunity. Lastly, I hope my shared experience on creating and having balance in my life might help you to do so too, or provide you with some thoughts on how to strike your own balance in life.

Thanks to Holden Laquerre and Patrick Sweeney for encouraging me to write, and by picking this topic from my list of topics to write about next. Up next will be the topic on “Staying passionate about something.”

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

Does it matter how much presence you have?

Some people have presence because they speak loudly, or because they are trying to have presence. This is what I would refer to as having a false sense of presence. Conversely, the quiet person may have the greatest presence because they have gained tenure and the trust of others based on their life experiences.  Presence can be perceived from both a physical point of view, versus a philosophical point of view, as renowned entrepreneur and Forbes Magazine publisher, Malcom Forbes once said, “Presence is more than just being there.”

So, is it possible not to have presence? This sounds fairly philosophical, but in reality, everyone has presence. Boiling this down to the simplest concept, the difference between people is how much presence they have, and whether having presence is situational, or sustained. Another way of looking at the concept of presence, is whether it is different based on gender, age or geographic location. Taking this concept one step further, does it matter how much presence you have?

Thinking of presence as a physical concept, it may be easier to determine whether someone does or does not command a large sense of presence, or whether they simply are present. Does having presence or a greater amount of it gain you anything? In my opinion, I think it does. An example of this is when either actual leaders or perceived leaders or people who are around others, draw them in with their presence, and are able to influence them positively or negatively. This is potentially because they wield a sense of natural charisma, or command of others attention. People who have a sense of presence typically draw others to them, or others seek them out. Either party may or may not be aware of this happening. However, the people who are drawn to the individual with presence, would describe being drawn to the person with presence as a sense of magnetic pull.

Not being a scientist, but being a curious human, I wonder why would some people have more presence than others, and whether there are differences in the types of presence one can have. If presence is a physical attribute, perhaps it can be gained or lost over time? If the concept of presence is also more philosophical or situationally based, are the people with presence who are not defined as leaders, leaders in the making? In business, most leaders have a sense of presence, but there are clearly people who are not technically leaders who have a tremendous sense of presence among their peers.  Or, are these non-leader individuals at a juncture of becoming leaders given the right situation, timing and place?

If we agree everyone has presence, and it is a matter of how much on a measurement scale each person has, would you want to have an ability to gain more presence? Or, are you satisfied with the presence level you currently have? Lastly, have you given thought about whether you command a sense of presence when you are with others, or been told you have a strong sense of presence? I would enjoy hearing your thoughts about this topic, so drop me a note to let me know what you think.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com .

How do you know if you have common sense?

Over the years I have often expressed and wondered why there is not a school for common sense, and why a course on this topic is not offered in middle or high school? For fun, I have periodically searched on-line to find a class on common sense. Typically this search is often prompted by an act of someone either I know, or based on an interaction recanted from someone else about the “lack of common sense” exhibited by an individual. There are so many examples of people who do not have “common sense”, or who from time to time say or do something which would be classified as not having common sense. However, my real question is, does someone who lacks common sense know they fall into this classification?

Another question I have posed relating to this topic is whether common sense is a gift or a natural ability some people possess (e.g., an ability to draw, dance, are mechanically inclined, have a good sense of direction) or can it be be taught? If for the sake of conversation we agree this subject can be taught, where would you even begin to teach this subject, as it is such a broad reaching topic? Perhaps the subject could be broken down into various categories such as at home, at work, in social settings, with friends, family, pets or while traveling outside of the US borders. The point is, there needs to be a foundation or entry level course, and hypothetically, there also needs to be an instructor who is deemed to have an enormous amount of common sense to teach the course.

Common sense involves finding solutions to scenarios, and the brains ability to think through a series of ways to come up with an ideal solution. However, everyone’s brains are wired  and process information differently, so the potential to have multiple solutions to a problem is entirely possible. Unfortunately not all solutions are equal, and this is often when the solution devised and presented has what I will refer to as “holes”, and may not be ideally suited to solve the challenge. An example of this could be your boss needs to have you provide her with information related to a non time sensitive project, and the information could easily be obtained from you during regular business hours. However, they decide to call you at 11 PM on Friday night to ask you to begin working on providing them with the non-time sensitive information they require. A person with common sense would know they can and should wait until Monday morning to obtain this information from you.

So, if there was a test to determine whether you had common sense, would you want to take it? Or, have there been times you wish you could send someone you know or whom you have encountered to “common sense school”?  I guarantee most people who possess common sense would answer yes to this question.

 

Interpreting body language is an essential business skill. Have you mastered it yet?

Reading body language can be learned, and for some people, is a natural interpretive instinct. However, over the years I have seen numerous instances of people who do not know how to interpret body language, and who are simultaneously unaware of how their body language is conveying how they directly feel to others. Understanding how to interpret body language, or how your body language is speaking volumes about how you feel, is an essential business skill. Unfortunately educators in the United States do not teach reading and interpreting body language in business school, or in most educational settings. So, how does someone learn how to do this?

The simple answer is to educate yourself on-line, and one place I found which provided a helpful general overview of how to interpret most body language, can be found via this link. Talking to others and learning from their experience is another approach. Paying more attention during future interactions with your family, friends and colleagues will help you to practice and become more skilled at interpreting others body language. For your own body language, and understanding how you come across to others, I recommend asking people you are comfortable with for feedback on instances they have observed your body language in either happy, neutral or contentious situations. Another option is to pay closer attention to your own physical reactions during conversational engagements (e.g., do you cross your arms when you do not like what you are hearing, do you look down at the floor when you feel threatened, do you laugh in a strained manner when you are nervous?).

Here is an example of an actual situation I was recently observing a colleague’s body language, and who was unaware of me doing so. Sitting across from two of my colleagues last week, it became apparent to me one of them was unaware of how to read body language, and did not understand the language his body was conveying to the person we were having the conversation with. Without giving any corporate secrets away, the conversation was between the head of marketing, and the head of sales. During the conversation, the head of marketing was talking to the head of sales and offering to have his team take on work which the sales team would highly benefit from. The sales team had been asking for this work to be done for months. However, during this interaction, the head of sales began to fold his arms over his chest during the conversation. For those unaware of what this body language expression means, it essentially means they were either not listening, did not believe, were uncomfortable with the conversation, or were rejecting what was being said. This was the opposite reaction I expected to see occur, and after the meeting had taken place, I asked the head of sales if he was happy about the offer made by the marketing team? His response was he was happy with what he heard. However, what he did not realize was he body language expressed the opposite of this emotion. Guess what I’ll be working on next week? If you guessed teaching a colleague about body language, you get an A+.

Interpreting body language is an essential business skill. Have you mastered it yet?

Reading body language can be learned, and for some people, is a natural interpretive instinct. However, over the years I have seen numerous instances of people who do not know how to interpret body language, and who are simultaneously unaware of how their body language is conveying how they directly feel to others. Understanding how to interpret body language, or how your body language is speaking volumes about how you feel, is an essential business skill. Unfortunately educators in the United States do not teach reading and interpreting body language in business school, or in most educational settings. So, how does someone learn how to do this?

The simple answer is to educate yourself on-line, and one place I found which provided a helpful general overview of how to interpret most body language, can be found via this link. Talking to others and learning from their experience is another approach. Paying more attention during future interactions with your family, friends and colleagues will help you to practice and become more skilled at interpreting others body language. For your own body language, and understanding how you come across to others, I recommend asking people you are comfortable with for feedback on instances they have observed your body language in either happy, neutral or contentious situations. Another option is to pay closer attention to your own physical reactions during conversational engagements (e.g., do you cross your arms when you do not like what you are hearing, do you look down at the floor when you feel threatened, do you laugh in a strained manner when you are nervous?).

Here is an example of an actual situation I was recently observing a colleague’s body language, and who was unaware of me doing so. Sitting across from two of my colleagues last week, it became apparent to me one of them was unaware of how to read body language, and did not understand the language his body was conveying to the person we were having the conversation with. Without giving any corporate secrets away, the conversation was between the head of marketing, and the head of sales. During the conversation, the head of marketing was talking to the head of sales and offering to have his team take on work which the sales team would highly benefit from. The sales team had been asking for this work to be done for months. However, during this interaction, the head of sales began to fold his arms over his chest during the conversation. For those unaware of what this body language expression means, it essentially means they were either not listening, did not believe, were uncomfortable with the conversation, or were rejecting what was being said. This was the opposite reaction I expected to see occur, and after the meeting had taken place, I asked the head of sales if he was happy about the offer made by the marketing team? His response was he was happy with what he heard. However, what he did not realize was he body language expressed the opposite of this emotion. Guess what I’ll be working on next week? If you guessed teaching a colleague about body language, you get an A+.