Living the Integrated Life

What type of life would you rather lead? Review the two lists below to make that determination. Continue reading beyond the lists to learn how...

Start leading an Integrated Life!

7 Signs of Living the Integrated Life

  1. Low Stress

  2. High Energy

  3. Fun

  4. Low level of internal conflicts

  5. Meaningful friendships

  6. Clarity of direction

  7. A sense of personal control


7 Signs of Trying to Live a Balanced Life

  1. Feeling pulled in many directions

  2. Compartmentalizing your life

  3. "Plate Spinning" Syndrome

  4. The allocation of time is about keeping other people happy

  5. Not fully present in your current activity

  6. Always feeling hurried

  7. All is well if it all works according to your plan

The diverse amount of things begging for your attention can make you feel like a plate spinner. Once you get one responsibility moving in the right direction you rush over to another that is starting to get a little wobbly. It comes as no surprise that many "new year's resolutions" include bringing better balance to our lives.

Being a leader does not lend itself to a life that is conducive to balance. Recent studies show that over 51% of small business owners work 60 hours/week, and 8% put in 100 hours/week (the equivalent of 14 hours/day). Beyond the time demands of the business, 57% of entrepreneurial leaders work on the holidays, and 30% have not taken a weeklong vacation in over 4 years. Furthermore, these numbers are increasing from research in previous years. The challenges of leadership are consuming a bigger piece of the pie, leaving less for the other plates we would like to keep spinning.

It is easy to see why we get so many clients calling us at Awake Consulting & Coaching asking, "How do I get some balance in my life"? I will tell you that balance is very difficult thing to achieve. Have you ever tried walking on a balance beam? Professional gymnasts train for years to walk gracefully on a straight beam. The challenge to balance is keeping the demands on one side of your life (professional), equal to the demands on the other side of your life (personal). Rarely, if ever does it work that way in the life of a leader.

In an effort to sharpen the distinction, what follows are some principles that lead to a more integrated life. If something strikes a chord with you, may I suggest you give us a call to explore how we can implement some of these principles in your life? I am convinced that integration is a lot easier and less stressful than attempting to achieve a mythical balance.

Be sure your leadership is who you are, not what you do.

Being a leader is not a plate you work to keep spinning. You lead because it is a natural expression of the person you are becoming. Your passion, your vision, your character, your health, your maturity is what allows you to grow as a leader and to exercise influence in the lives of all the people in your life. The time you take nurturing these attributes pays dividends in your family, your friendships, your community, and in your business. When trying to achieve balance, it is easy to slip into thinking every arena is in constant need of your leadership fuel, but you have neglected to fill the tank.

Time invested in reading, reflecting, learning and listening fuels the tank and equips you to lead, not at a fixed appointment but at any moment. These same activities are the very behaviors that model leadership for others. The recognition that leadership is not a task, but a way of being, promotes awareness that in any given setting you may be filling your tank, and contributing at the same moment.

Your "yes's" come from clarity of your deepest values.

The best way to achieve better balance is to simply say "No" more often. One reason leaders have a difficulty saying "no" is because they are offered so many attractive invitations to say "yes". Sometimes ego can cause our chaos, and sometimes it is a desire to contribute, either way our interest to impact the world can be counterproductive when we are spread thin and unsure how to manage time.

Beyond the simple encouragement to say "no" more often, allow me to encourage you to have a clear criterion for when to say "yes". Integration begins when everything that you are involved in is connected to clearly defined personal values. If you are attempting to balance something that is important, but not necessarily connected to values you embody at home, at work and in the community, then you are attempting to not only live your life but also the lives of the people around you. This can be compared to living an out-of- body experience. Once your time commitments are rooted in clearly defined values, your leadership more naturally reflects who you are. By saying "yes" to things connected to your core values, it affords natural opportunities to include your relational world into your professional world.

Include all your relationships in your mission.

The most pressing competition that exists in our lives is the demand between family and work. If it is not family, it can often be friendships. In days of old the way most entrepreneurs overcame this struggle was to have family members work in the business.

When I was 15 and my dad bought a lumber business I learned about the hard work of marketing, and became cheap labor by passing out flyers car to car. My memories of those days are filled with laughter, not resentment. I have another buddy who still has hostility toward his family because of the forced labor in the family business. What is the difference between the two experiences? I vividly recall the vision casting my father employed to get my buy-in to the marketing effort. I pounded that pavement, executing a low level task seeing how I was helping to build the family empire. I had no interest in building supplies, hardware or construction, but my dad tapped into my curiosity about attracting people to a new business in town. To finish the story, my dad's business lasted 10 months, but the value of the experience pays dividends to this day. I do not resent the investment of time my parents put into an unsuccessful business venture, I was thrilled to be a part of the adventure.

I am not advocating that every leader should employ their spouses or children, but keep in mind the first principle. Your leadership is not part of what you do, it is a reflection of who you are. Therefore, look for ways to incorporate significant relationships in your mission. Your mission may involve your business, but it may include a bigger picture like the community, the customer. Use various business opportunities to spend time and cast vision.

In summary, instead of balance, I suggest a leader seek to integrate the diverse aspects of their life. Instead of having different parts of your life compete for time and attention, seek to have them feed one another. I know what I am suggesting may be a finely nuanced distinction, but from working with leaders with complex demands on their life I can tell you, the healthiest leaders integrate more than they balance.

Does a Speech Make a Difference

On March 3, 1993, former basketball coach of Rutgers, Iona and North Carolina State, Jim Valvano gave a speech now known as the "Don't Give Up, Don't Ever Give Up" speech. At the time Coach Valvano was battling a much progressed stage of cancer and amazed his friends by simply being able to get to the podium. The speech was broadcasted live on ESPN and served the purpose of announcing the creation of the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

During the speech, the coach recalled his first locker room pep talk. He told the story of how he studied the drama and skill of the great Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi. At the time, Coach Jim Valvano was a young 20 something coaching freshman boys basketball at Rutgers University. He mastered the simple presentation given by Lombardi just moments before the team would take the field. Vince Lombardi would bust through doors of the locker room in front of prepared players awaiting his instruction. "We will be successful if we focus on three things. 1.) Your Family. 2.) Your Religion. 3.) The Green Bay Packers!" After those words the Packers would storm the field and play inspired football.

Jim Valvano was convinced this would work for his Rutgers basketball team. He kept the team waiting before his first game as coach. Eventually "Coach V" pushed open the doors and proclaimed "We will be successful if we focus on three things, 1.) Your Family. 2.) Your Religion. 3.) The Green Bay Packers!" After telling this humorous anecdote the animated basketball coach shared his formula for life that included laughter, thinking and tears. The audience was riveted, those that were present, those that viewed through their pre-hd televisions, and those that have viewed this speech over the past 23 years.

It was less than a month after Coach Jim Valvano delivered the "Don't Give Up, Don't Ever Give Up" motivational talk that he passed away. Since that speech, the V Foundation for Cancer Research has provided over $100 million in grants for cancer research.

Here are my two questions for you.

  1. Do you believe that a speech can make a difference? If you are suspicious that the spoken word, well presented, does not make an impact, allow me to offer these phrases: 

    "Give me liberty, or give me death"

    "Four score and seven years ago"

    "I have a dream"

  2. When was the last time you offered a high impact speech? Let me know if I can help you become an engaging speaker and prepare a talk that will make a difference.

Photo Credit: ESPN Aug, 26, 2015

Inventory of Information

If you manage people you know that information is a hot commodity. The ability to connect with the individuals you manage, and adjust your style to improve employee performance and promote their growth is essential to your effectiveness. Why not employ a system of information gathering and tracking to know your people? The following will help you be a better question asker, and delay the temptation to be an information giver.

Below are a series of questions you should be asking yourself and your team. The answer to these questions should be captured in a database, either paper or plastic (software). In our team training sessions, we do an exercise of crafting twenty questions that leaders should ask to better understand their people. Use the following examples to jumpstart your own list:

What is the preferred work style of my team members?




What does my team member really want from their job?

What goals are they pursuing?

What fears are they running from?

What does their job mean to them?

What is the shadow side of my team members' strengths?

Keep a journal of decision making. Growing in leadership development as a serving leader is a never-ending journey, filled with some successes and many setbacks. It is critical to have a vehicle to reflect upon your decisions. The journaling process should assist in helping you detect the following dynamics:

Did you act in the interest of speed or need?

Did you make a decision in the best interests of yourself, a team member or the team?

Did your action promote the avoidance of a difficult conversation?

How much selfish ambition and desire got in the way of your last decision?

Are you willing and actively relinquishing control?

Why Most Strategic Plans Collect Dust

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!" This statement is not totally true, there are plenty of successful enterprises that have gotten off the ground without any clearly defined plan. It is amazing what frenetic activity and action can do.

Once an organization reaches a point of critical mass and experiences increased complexity some type of plan is necessary to run a successful business. What surprises me about most organizations that have engaged in strategic planning is that after all that time and effort, they allow the plan to collect dust. Below is a starter list of reasons why most plans make little impact on the life of the business. If you can avoid the pitfalls, you may end up with a plan that matters.

  • Too long to create: If the process of crafting the plan is slow, the dynamics in the marketplace will change, the data will change and the value of the results will be greatly diminished. A good planning process can happen in three intense phases:

o Information gathering

o Strategic thinking and documenting

o Implementation

  • Too much data: Many have moved forward with strategic planning based on anecdotal evidence. This is not the best approach, but far too many plans are weighted with a ton of irrelevant stats. Determine early and often the most relevant pieces of information that will inform sound strategic thinking. I suggest the following:

o What fuels your economic engine

o What does the research tell you are the felt and real needs of your customer

o Current trends in the firm's financial performance

  • Too many goals: Limit the goals to a few focused catalytic goals. There are certain goals that when pursued, achieves additional goals.

  • Too few of the players with skin in the game: It is easy to assume that including more voices slows down the process of implementation, however, so much of the success or failure of any plan is tied to the process employed in creating the plan and successfully utilizing teamwork in business. It is better to include those most responsible in implementation in the process.

  • Too many pages: Strategic plans that are documented in long books are never read or referenced. Your plan should be summarized in actionable information in one or two pages. If for political reasons you need supporting documentation print and distribute only a few copies.

  • Nothing is memorable: "Remember the Alamo!" If the key elements of the plan can't be captured in simple and memorable phrases, the plan will be lost.

  • No alignment between the plan, the organization flow chart and budget: Many members of the team will have a degree of fear related to the strategic planning process because a good plan will require some change. Keep in mind that change is easy when it is supported by an easy to follow structure. The most practical aspects of the plan will show up in two essential structures:

o The organizational flow chart

o The budget

Leading The Whole Person

A former neighbor had a PhD in engineering. He was fond of saying, "my degree makes me an expert of a small thing that is a part of a much bigger thing." To fully understand the nuance of complex issues we often will break it into smaller pieces. The concept is, if we understand the parts, we can eventually understand the whole.

There is much wisdom in this approach and some deception because the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Human beings are far more than the assembly of flesh, bone and blood. In fact, the greater the complexity of an organism the more difficult it is to understand the whole by examining the parts. If this is true, why do many organizations function like their employees are machines?

Henry Ford once said, "Why do I have to hire the whole person when all I need are their hands?" Imagine a factory floor with nothing but disembodied hands. Yes, Mr. Ford you do need the whole body and the whole person.

Jim Loehr, author of the The Corporate Athlete is a thought leader in the arena of how we must lead the entire being. He wrote, "The problem with most approaches, we believe, is that they deal with people only from the neck up, connecting high performance primarily with cognitive capacity. In recent years there has been a growing focus on the relationship between emotional intelligence and high performance. A few theorists have addressed the spiritual dimension-how deeper values and a sense of purpose influence performance. Almost no one has paid any attention to the role played by physical capacities. A successful approach to sustained high performance, we have found, must pull together all of these elements and consider the person as a whole."

In our work with leaders we have found the highest level of success by helping them practice a higher level of self-leadership. Our five areas of discipline for self-leadership are designed to increase productivity and overall performance by addressing the whole person.

Controlling time is a very practical expression of balancing both pro-active and reactive nature of leadership. Time is the commodity where we assign the value of priorities and attempt to have our whole being at the right place at the right time doing the right thing.

Fueling energy recognizes that we come to the task of leadership as physical beings. Are we able to be engaged in the challenge at hand when we have made ourselves available? Fueling our energy is about rest, recovery, exercise and hydration.

Temper emotions is about balancing the requirement of passion with appropriate level of dispassion so we can be leaders of sound judgment.

Choosing words allows leaders to employ the most common tool in their arsenal in a way that advances your objectives and not create little landmines that can explode at inappropriate times.

Exercise power ensures that a leader is in fact leading. Nothing can create an organization holding pattern more than a leader that is reluctant to know where the power lies, and how to execute the power of tough decisions.

Speak Your Way Forward

Jerry Seinfeld had a humorous observation regarding the fact that more people are afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. "People would rather be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy", Seinfeld suggested. I suspect if given the choice, most would choose to speak, but not without fear and trembling.

Speaking in public may not be the primary duty of the entrepreneurial leader, but neglect of this opportunity would be to the peril of the leader. The following tasks are essential to advancing the growth agenda of any enterprise:

  • Clarifying the primary objective

  • Casting a compelling vision

  • Articulating the "why" of your business

  • Getting the story of your business told

  • Re-calibrating misguided performers

  • Personally distributing your marketing message

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but simply elevates your awareness that becoming more effective at public speaking will open new doors for your leadership development. Deciding, practicing, and mastering the art of being relevant in front of an audience is an investment of your time that will pay significant dividends. If your stress at the prospect of presenting is high and your opportunities are great, I would strongly suggest you consider professional coaching. To those looking for tips to improve I offer the following advice:

  • Be Authentic: Do not take on the persona of another great presenter. Authenticity is compelling and is the key ingredient to the credibility of your message.

  • Be Structured: The most frustrating experience for a listener is not being able to follow the flow of your logic.

  • Be Relevant: If you are not clear on why your presentation matters, your audience will not care. Don't waste anybody's time by talking about something that just does not matter.

  • Be Bright, Be Brief & Be Done: In your preparation be sure to do a little research to advance good data and information-it will help you offer original thought. Brevity is the sign of brilliance and a benefit to the audience. Finally, don't be sloppy with your conclusion. Your final words should point the listeners in a clear direction. By the time you are finished everyone should know what is next!

Death of Command and Control Does Not Equal Abdication

As we sit smack dab in the middle of political convention season it may be interesting to explore the ways in which organizational leadership has changed.

Since the end of the industrial revolution and the onset of the information age it is clear that command and control leadership is problematic in most industries and many situations. In recent years many thoughtful leaders have advocated a leadership development style that includes input from the entire team. This model of leadership is very effective to improve communication, get "buy-in", and increase the effectiveness of a team. In many circles this new leadership model crosses over a line and descends into a situation where the "inmates are running the asylum." Remember, you are the leader. However, strong leadership does not translate into the title I wish I had, "Supreme Leader!" Nor does it mean that your job is to help make the wishes of the team your primary concern. As the leader your desire to achieve new levels of performance must promote your curiosity on how to do it better. As the leader you need feedback, input, new ideas, suggestions and the contribution of everyone. However, you are the leader! Below is a list of things that you can't abdicate;


  • You can't abdicate the outcomes
  • You can't abdicate the culture
  • You can't abdicate accountability
  • You can't abdicate modeling

The death of command and control does not equal abdication. People love to be well led, and they look to you to demonstrate a capacity to lead. Therefore, lead well!