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A life of joy in tough times

As a business coach I increasingly meet with unhappy, disgruntled, stressed and even depressed workers in the workplace.  The South African economy with its low growth rate, high percentage of joblessness and international currency problems have caused havoc with the psyche of its workforce. 

It is especially the small and medium businesses that struggle.  The focus is on productivity and profit margins.  A smaller workforce has to deal with greater challenges.  In a highly competitive business environment there is a need for quick strategic and process changes to adapt to new challenges. In the process business owners tend to bully their workforce and neglect their wellbeing.  This creates a vicious circle of stress, conflict and absenteeism that leads to less productivity and loss of profit margins.

Where do we begin to rectify the situation?  The best starting point would be the organization and its owners in implementing more humane and effective management.  However within the economic reality of South Africa the tendency is to spend less on business coaches.  In my practice I tend to coach more and more to individuals who have little if any control over systemic changes in the workplace.  Therefor let me focus on you as the employee.

You are no helpless victim.  You have choices.  You can monitor your own behaviour and psyche.  You can find joy in tough times and tough working conditions.

The secret to this can be found in the words of Brian G. Dyson, President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises during his speech at the Georgia Tech 172nd Commencement Address on September 6, 1996.  “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit … and you’re keeping all of these in the air.  You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” Let us first comment on family and friends.  In forthcoming posts I will address other issues mentioned by Dyson.

We work in order to live.  We do not live to work.  And the most important ingredient of life is relationships.  Family is the chief ingredient.  They are your main support system.  My father used to say:  Always care for your family first.  If you should lose everything in life but you still have your family, you will survive and can even flourish.” To a lesser degree the same is true of friends.

Do not take those nearest to your heart for granted.  The more hectic your working program the more important it becomes to schedule time with family and friends.  You need them and they need you to live a meaningful life.  Your best memories will be those of family and friends.  I learned this the hard way early in my career.  I mostly work from home.  One morning when I opened my diary there in large barely legible letters my daughter of 8 years have written her name across a whole afternoon.  It was a wakeup call second to none that I will never forget.

Make time for family and friends.  If your workload is hectic rather get to work early than staying late.  Early at work says you’re eager to work.  Staying late may convey a message that you are sluggish.  Set boundaries for your working hours, create space for interacting with those who give meaning to your life, who support you, who makes you laugh and who bring you peace of mind.

May I ask you a few questions?  What is the first small step you are going to take to accomplish greater balance between work and family.  Think of single small step.  Something achievable and meaningful.  When and how will you do that?  What could be the benefits? How would a family member or friend perceive this?

Remember this is the difference that will make the difference

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