Archive for June, 2009

Total Leadership and the quest for four-way wins

Posted in book review/summary, optimal performance, philosophy with tags , on June 26, 2009 by gohelpyourself
This book debunks the idea of work/life balance.

This book debunks the idea of work/life balance.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Ever wonder why some people seem to have it all? Ever wonder why some have great careers, lots of money, well-knit families, interesting hobbies and sexy bodies?

You could say it’s just a matter of having the perfect work/life balance. But then only a few ever achieve this elusive and delicate balance, and some experts are beginning to think it’s all hogwash.

Stewart D. Friedman, author of Total Leadership, is one of those experts. He has long abandoned the pursuit of work/life balance. In his work as an educator, researcher, coach and speaker, he discovered what he thinks is a better way to deal with life’s challenges.

For him, it’s not about balance. It’s all about four-way wins. And they encompass the four main domains of life:

1. Work

2. Home

3. Community

4. Self

It’s not a zero-sum game like chess, where one’s gain is another’s loss. Simultaneous and complementary successes in all four domains can be achieved, he argues.

Friedman describes how we can achieve four-way wins in a process he calls the Total Leadership process. And he calls it Total Leadership because it involves the totality of a person who can lead toward results.

Total Leadership process

The practice of Total Leadership can be summed up in three main steps: 1) Be Real, 2) Be Whole, and 3) Be Innovative. The process takes time and requires some effort.

Let’s deal with the steps one by one.

Step 1: Be Real.

Friedman asks us to act with authenticity. He asks us to clarify what is important to us. He had some exercises to help us achieve this.

The first exercise is to write about our life so far. What are our life stories? What are the critical events in our lives? How have these affected our values and direction in life? How do we tell our stories to someone else? How would we describe the people we admire the most?

In the next exercise, Friedman asks us to write our leadership vision. He asks us to describe the kind of leader we want to be. We are asked to write a short story of our lives now and 15 years into the future. Our stories must be as vivid and as detailed as possible.

Core values

Friedman also suggests that we identify our core values. Is it achievement? Do we crave for a sense of achievement and mastery? Is it creativity? Do we value coming up with new ideas about doing things? Is it family? Do we long for spending more time with our family?

The author suggests we also write out one or two sentences explaining why these values are important to us.

Coming up with a four-way attention chart can reveal some things that we may not realize about our lives. We write out the four main domains of life, namely, work, home, community and self. Then we assign the importance we give to each domain expressed in percentage. After that, we assign percentages for each domain in terms of focus of time and energy.

Then Friedman asks us to examine this chart and think, “What are the consequences of the choices I make in my life right now? What adjustments can I make to the percentages in the chart and in the activities I choose to do to reflect my real values?”

Integrating life domains

A Venn diagram of the four main domains can also help us visualize how much these domains are integrated in our life.

Friedman then asks us to come up with our four-way happiness rating chart by assigning a number from 1 to 10, where 1 means not satisfied at all and 10 means fully satisfied, to each domain.

Step 2: Be Whole.

Here Friedman invites us to act with integrity. He talks about respecting the whole person. He talks about talking to our stakeholders, or the people involved in our four domains.

In this step, we ask ourselves who matters most to us, who are the people we come in contact with in each domain, who are the people with the greatest influence.

Stakeholder expectations

As with some of the previous exercises, another chart is called for. It’s the stakeholder expectations chart. We list down the key persons in each of our domains. Then we list the expectations that we think these stakeholders have from us and assign a number, from 1 to 10, how we are meeting these expectations.

In similar chart, we list the same key persons, but this time we indicate our own expectations of each stakeholder and assign a number indicating how they are meeting our expectations.

Then we ask ourselves, “What do these charts tell us about our relationships? What can we do if we want to change the satisfaction ratings in the charts?”

The next exercise involves talking to the stakeholders. It may involve talking to our bosses, our colleague, our loved ones, etc. regarding these expectations. We can confirm these expectations or clarify them. We can identify steps toward compromise or adjusting expectations.

The dialogues may be formal or informal. It may not work for every stakeholder but it sure is worth a try. The idea is to get in the hearts and minds of the stakeholders and build trust.

Step 3: Be Innovative.

This is where creativity comes in. This is where we become scientists and design little experiments. We brainstorm to come up with ideas.

Will an exercise program at the local gym improve our relationship with our loved ones and at the same time satisfy our nagging need to get off our butts and lose weight? Will working at home at certain days of the week improve our efficiency at work and lessen the stress of the long commute?

Will conducting an art workshop for a cause supported by our companies together with our family be a good idea? That can be a suitable four-way win. The idea is to conduct experiments that can have a direct or indirect effect on all four domains.

Friedman advises us to choose two to three of the most promising ideas and pursue the experiments. Then we just adjust along the way. Some experiments may work, some may not.

Four-way wins

All this, of course, will not work without proper measurement of results.

Friedman suggests scorecards for each experiment where we identify again each domain. Then we indicate the goal or intended impact, the results metrics or the outcomes that we want to achieve, and the action metrics or the specific actions that we plan to undertake.

Results metrics can include improvement in work ratings, number of arguments with kids per day, or number of times parents reported feeling appreciated, etc. Action metrics can include number of visits to the gym, number of times worked at home, or number of recipes tried in a week.

As with any experiment, results are processed and reviewed. Friedman advises us to review our experiments, our scorecards, our charts, our values, and our leadership vision as often as necessary.

If we’re not up to it, we don’t have to be as detailed as Friedman suggests. But it’s the idea behind the process that matters.

The message is: Go for four-way wins. And we can do that if we become real, become whole, and become innovative.

Indeed, work/life balance may have worked for some. Others may still want to hold on to the idea.

But Friedman’s Total Leadership and his pursuit of four-way wins tell us something: It’s possible to have your cake and eat it, too.



Life applications of the Blue Ocean Strategy

Posted in optimal performance, philosophy with tags , on June 18, 2009 by gohelpyourself

blue ocean

By Anthony O. Alcantara

You may not have heard of the Blue Ocean Strategy, and you may not even care.

But whether you’re a businessman or a teacher or simply someone who wants to improve life, the Blue Ocean Strategy can be useful.

Definition first. The Blue Ocean Strategy is a business strategy developed by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne of INSEAD, one of the world’s leading business schools based in Fontainebleau, France.

It is a strategy that helps create a market space pregnant with possibility. The authors contend that bloody “red oceans” of rivals clawing each other for shrinking profit pools are unnecessary and, well, unintelligent. Blue Ocean Strategy helps create “blue oceans” to make competition irrelevant.

The authors have one analytical tool that I think is particularly relevant to improving life: the eliminate-reduce-raise-create grid.

You simply draw a 2 by 2 grid with the words eliminate, reduce, raise and create in each box.

In the “eliminate” box, you write what things, habits, or ways of thinking you can eliminate in your life to make it better. Should you put smoking, eating fatty foods, playing too much video games in the box? You decide.

In the “reduce” box, you write those things that you can reduce. Should you include eating in fancy restaurants, gossiping in the office, reading comics?

In the “raise” box, you write the things you should do more. Should you read more? Exercise more? Expand your personal and professional network?

In the “create” grid, you can include things that you’ve been putting off for a long time. Should you finally go for that vacation in Europe? Should you try out yoga? Should you reinvent yourself and try another career?

It’s funny how many business ideas apply to life. Perhaps we should find ways to connect the dots more often.


The beauty of being a Stoic

Posted in philosophy with tags on June 17, 2009 by gohelpyourself


Zeno, founder of Stoicism

Zeno, founder of Stoicism


By Anthony O. Alcantara

I was once accused of being a Stoic many years ago by a friend. I didn’t know the meaning of the word at that time, but I had a vague feeling that it meant someone who is “manhid” or insensitive.

As I began to learn about Zeno, his “stoa,” and his “kill-joy” disciples years later, I learned three important things about Stoic philosophy:

1) Life is all about opportunities. Suffering from injustice is an opportunity to exercise mercy and compassion. Winning in a lottery is an opportunity to exercise charity or to be wise in using money. There are no inherently good or inherently bad events in life. Everything is an opportunity.

2) Life is not short. Many of us complain about not having enough time… so many things to do, so little time. But if we look back on our lives and be honest with ourselves, we realize we simply wasted precious time on a lot of unimportant things. We have all the time in the world to do great things or things that really matter if we only invest our time wisely.

3) Life is meaningful. However, many do not exercise their consciousness to give their lives the meaning they want. It’s a subjective thing. Only we can give meaning to our lives.

Come to think of it, being a Stoic isn’t that bad after all.