While working as a consultant to Wal-Mart I had the opportunity to speak to various groups of senior operations leaders across the company. I would be asked to speak or train on a variety of topics, including Building High Performance Teams, Balancing Work and Personal Life, Workplace Violence Prevention, Optimizing Stress for Success, Improving Emotional Intelligence, and more. But around Wal-Mart the one that got the most attention was Time and Priority Management. As one executive who requested this training put it,
“Working in this organization is like riding a jet engine and holding on with only one hand.”
That statement reminds me of growing up in East Texas where regional rodeos were weekly events. Bull riders would strap themselves to wild and angry 1,500lb beasts and hold on for dear life while they were pushed, pulled, spun and thrashed in every direction. I have worked with enough leaders in fast moving organizations to understand that leadership and management can feel much like the dizzying task of the wild 8 seconds riding a rodeo bull or like holding on to that jet engine with one hand.
A few years ago, a division executive requested my help training his team of district managers for whom he was very concerned for both their professional and personal lives. He knew they were working hard in the fast growing pharmacy division. Pharmacists were in high demand in the retail sector, and the customer demand at nearly every store was just as challenging, not to mention the stress of ensuring that every prescription had to be filled without error. He knew that these district managers were under a lot of pressure to build and manage their teams while exceeding their goals. And while they had a lot of support from the corporate office, it was critical that they figure out how to effectively manage their business and their personal lives if they hoped to survive and thrive in this environment, which was exactly what he wanted them to do. It was evident that their survival and success was his top priority. This is when he made a statement I will never forget:
“You’ve got to help them understand that we know there is more on their plate every day than they can possibly ever get done, and it is their job to determine and act on the priorities, those that are important to the business as well as those that are important to their personal well-being.”
Do you ever feel like the job of leadership has your life spinning out of control? Have you simply resigned yourself to thinking that these feelings are just part of the job and there is nothing you can do about it? Those who survive and thrive are those who have figured out how to identify and act on personal and professional priorities. They have developed the focus and disciplines that keep them on track in both arenas of life. What are you doing to stay grounded and focused while balancing the tensions of a multitude of demands? Who do you engage when trying to navigate the unique nature of the demands and priorities you face? While your supervisor may be concerned about your personal well-being, they expect you to manage it effectively while you focus on the business. Whereas, an executive coach is able to help you take a good look at both aspects of life and work. Don’t wait until you lose your health or your family to define your focus and develop the essential disciplines for success. Don’t go it alone. Ask you supervisor, HR or Organizational Development department about getting a coach to help you be as effective and successful as possible. You can succeed without burning out and without failing your health or your family. You can learn to ride this jet engine.