21 Jan

Happy New Week!

Blog No Comments by Travis Jones

Happy New Week!Every year we dedicate January 1st as the day we celebrate our hopes for the next 365. And every year only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually achieve them. This is a shockingly low percentage, especially given that more than half of us annually make them. So why so few? It’s not from lack of motivation or desire. I think most people in January truly want to see positive change in their lives in the coming year.

The obstacles are many. Some of our resolutions are too ambitious and unrealistic. Some are not well thought out or strategically planned. And others focus on what we are doing wrong versus what we could be doing right. So if there are so many obstacles to resolutions and our success rate so low, why do we continually make them year after year?

One reason is the natural allure of change and something new. One article highlights several studies that point to the human draw to temporal “new beginnings.” For example, one group of researchers “looked at daily Google searches for the term ‘diet’ over a period of nine years. They found that searches followed a predictable cycle: they peaked at the start of any given week, month, or year, then gradually tapered off. The largest increase—eighty-two percent above the baseline—occurred immediately after New Year’s.” This same trend showed up in other resolutions ranging from gym memberships, savings, and stock investments.

There is then a giant gap between our indomitable hope for new beginnings and our embarrassingly long track record of failure. The question is how do we bridge it? One suggestion is to implement a system of smaller “new beginnings.” Embrace the hopeful, optimistic part of you and set much smaller goals with more realistic expectations. Instead of idealistic goals for the entire year, set smaller goals for the month, week, or even day. The continuous hope of weekly waves will carry you farther than the giant wave of January that crashes in March.

Good luck and Happy New Week!

10 Jan

New Beginnings from Past Successes

Blog No Comments by Travis Jones

New Beginnings from Past Successes 2

As we start the New Year, you may be one of the millions around the world who have made resolutions about your career or work life. I’ve had several conversations the last few days with friends, who have told me about their “vision boards” for future career goals, hopes for change in their current positions, or practical steps to avoid past mistakes. The American obsession with novelty and change is woven into the fabric of our culture. It always has been. I think this is one of our positive defining characteristics. And this desire to see change and progress shows up in the many ways we think about work as well.

As you think about your career related resolutions and what you want to see different and new this year, I want to encourage you to also think about the things that are currently working and have worked in the past. Change is exciting, and the promise of something new is alluring to us all. It’s why gym memberships spike in January and fall in March. But if you’re like me, you have a tendency to want to uproot and plant new seeds when the plants you already have are ripe with life, needing more nourishment and attention.

Resolutions remind me of the main argument of Strength Finders; we are at our happiest and most productive selves when we focus on strengthening our strengths instead of improving our weaknesses. Resolutions are usually centered on the things we feel we are doing wrong, or not enough of: read more books, eat more fruit, eat less ice cream, exercise more, etc. Our weaknesses tend to stick out and overshadow our strengths. Our strengths go unnoticed, until someone points them out for us, because they are what get us through our days and move us along. Our weaknesses grab our attention because they form the obstacles that we promise to overcome.

Should we work on our weaknesses? Of course. Should we make resolutions to do so? Absolutely. But we should equally remind ourselves in the New Year about all of our past year’s accomplishments, the strengths that got us through, and our unique skills that will carry us forward. Not everything needs to change in the New Year. In fact, it may bring you faster success in reaching your resolutions to focus on what worked in 2013 and not just what didn’t.

This month at LTAW, we will be focusing on several aspects of starting a new working year on the right foot. But before we do, it’s important to also recognize and appreciate the old and the constant. Our strengths from last year may not need to be uprooted and replaced, but replenished, nourished, and refined.

31 Dec

Mentoring Can Buy Happiness

Blog No Comments by Travis Jones

Mentoring Can Buy Happiness Several weeks ago we posted a piece that summarized research arguing contrary to the adage, “money can’t buy happiness.” Through several experiments and a growing body of literature, there is now some proof that people who give more generously financially, are happier in the end because of it. But is the same true for people who give of their time, talents, and expertise, and not just out of their pockets?

Mentoring in organizations is nothing new, and its positive effects on mentee’s career development is well documented. In fact, most definitions of mentoring highlight that the intended purpose of mentoring is to benefit the person on the receiving end. While true, there mentors have just as much to gain from a mentoring relationship as their protégés. The research shows that mentors have higher levels of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, career success and lower turnover than their non-mentoring colleagues. This suggests that the same is true with how we spend our time as how we spend our dollars; money, and in this case, time and expertise, can buy happiness, as long as you’re spending it on others.

Many proponents suggest replacing the title “mentor” with “sponsor” to distinguish the type of relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties. Advocates of sponsoring programs argue that the benefits for the sponsor, or mentor, should be explicitly communicated as an essential function of the relationship. The protégé, in order to get the most out of their sponsorship, should be motivated to “make their boss look good” with their performance. In turn, sponsors will be motivated to fully devote themselves to the development of protégés knowing that their future success can have benefits for their career as well.

This may strike some as too Machiavellian, especially in the context of relationships that are normally thought of as altruistic and good natured, but mentor relationships that are beneficial for both parties, are more successful and nurturing in the end. As Dan Ardi, in an article arguing for the benefits of mutual mentorships, summarizes, “For newer hires, working with a more senior executive is an amazing opportunity to tap that person’s experience and to share one’s own dreams of what he or she wants to accomplish. Meanwhile, sponsors win by tapping into the energy of newer hires and also by borrowing their eyes to get a different vantage point from within the organization.”

As you enter the New Year, I want to encourage you to think about all of the people who have poured into your professional life in the past as motivation to look for your own opportunities to pass the mentoring torch. If you are currently mentoring, you know that it is better to give than to receive, especially when you are giving of yourself, your time, and your experiences. The icing on the cake of mentoring is that you will be gaining greater career benefits from doing something that will do the same for others. If you take your happiness and success seriously, look for someone to mentor.

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