Monthly Archives: July 2016

Setting Expectations That Support Team Balance

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post]

0728_ExpectationsExpectations are everywhere in our life – at home, at work, in our relationships with others and self. They can be about anything we want or hope to have happen. Sometimes they are grounded in reality and other times not, and many times – especially at work – they are unclear.

When it comes to the topic of work-life balance – many times the expectations are unclear because creating a two-way opportunity between managers and their team to openly share, set, and communicate expectations is not commonly done, especially around this topic. When it comes to expectations at work, there are three ways to consider them, those for and of your team, those between you and your manager, and those you have of yourself.

Team Expectations
Let’s be honest: Employees LOVE to blame their managers for their imbalance, level of stress, workload, or lack of context. Not because your team members are ill meaning, but because it is much easier to blame you or maybe your manager than to take accountability for the choices they are making or ways they are working that might be the actual reason for the pain points they are experiencing.

It is not up to you to manage your employees’ balance, workload, goals or commitments. It is up to you to teach them they have a choice in how they manage these things for themselves and to have ongoing conversations with them to provide guidance. That’s about it. Your job is to understand the expectations your team members have on you and you on them, and to encourage conversations for clarity when needed and as often as needed.

Conversations that typically are avoided between a manager and his or her team include, expectations around what “on call” really means, weekend and evening work hours, e-mail response time, requests for help and meeting behaviors. Pick one to start with to begin to develop the habit of openly talking about expectations and providing clarity around common issues people feel uncertain and uncomfortable bringing up with their managers.

Your Manager’s Expectations of You
You have expectations of your team, and your manager has expectations of you. Having conversations around expectations for balance and team stability is rather new, so your manager might not be proactively having these conversations with you. The good news is that you can start the conversation with your manager just as easily as you can start the conversation with your team.

Have an intentional conversation with your manager that addresses their expectations regarding you being reachable at all times and on weekends, email response time, their perspective on company policies and how they are willing to help you push back as needed for unreasonable or out-of-scope work requests. Your willingness to begin this conversation with your manager, not only can bring you clarity but can role model a new type of conversation with them that they might be willing to have with their other reports.

Expectations on Yourself
Finally, there are the expectations you have for yourself as a manager and the ideas you have around how you want to be perceived as a manager. Many managers want to be liked by their team, which is only natural as all humans yearn for acceptance. However, there is a difference between a leader who pleases and a leader who inspires.

For you to address the impact of imbalance, it is essential that you become clear on what you expect for yourself when it comes to work-life balance. Consider what work-life balance means to you, and what you need to support creating that type of balance. Examine how you want to be perceived by your team when it comes to work-life balance and in what ways you are (or are not) leading by example.

An open conversation about your expectations with your team allows you to provide clarity around purpose, needs and outcomes. An open conversation with your manager allows for you to receive the same clarity you set with your team. An internal dialog with yourself can help validate alignment for the path you have chosen.

When expectations are shared, everyone is on the same page. It doesn’t mean everyone will agree, but it does mean everyone has the same understanding and clarity about what is expected to move forward.



Treat Yourself Like You Would A Loved One

By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager

Why do we say or do things to ourselves that we would never in a million years say or do to someone else? Why do we treat our loved ones infinitely better than we treat ourselves?

Ultimately, it comes down to vegetables. Do parents force their children to eat vegetables because they want to share their deep, insatiable passion for the food group? Likely the answer is no. Parents incorporate vegetables into their children’s diets because it undeniably benefits their health. Why then do many parents neglect leafy greens in their own regiments as soon as their kids have left the nest? My guess is, whether consciously or sub-consciously, they simply do not believe their own health is as important as the health of their kids. A statement I’m sure their children would heatedly and wholeheartedly disagree with.

How we treat ourselves can easily become a source of conflict in relationships, especially if we witness a destructive, powerful habit in our loved one (even if these same habits are ones we are guilty of ourselves). Distressed and unsure of what to do we try to “fix”, conveniently forgetting that we cannot change another being, just as our loved ones cannot change us. We are powerless to help others unless they have chosen to help themselves first. The only thing we can fix, all that we can control is how we treat ourselves and how we treat those around us.

In other words, we must be role models. If we encourage certain habits in those we care most deeply about, we should make sure we are in the habit of doing those things ourselves. The opposite is also true. If we discourage a loved one from carrying out a particular action, odds are that is something we ourselves should avoid. Most of us would never berate our sibling for a solid week about losing out on a promotion at work. Nor would we brutally cut down a dear friend because she didn’t lose those 5 pounds before swimsuit season. And we probably, on most nights, wouldn’t pour a fifth beer down our sweet grandmother’s throat.

It is important to remember that just as we adore our loved ones, we are likewise the object of someone’s loving attention.

My suggestion is simple: Be gentle, take time, be conscious. Be as compassionate to yourself as you are to your 6-year-old niece when she falls and scrapes her knee. Treat your body, your mind, your spirit like you would your most precious loved one if they entrusted their care to you.

And perhaps those around you will follow suit.



Stressed? How Herbal Remedies Can Help

By Katya Difani, Herbalist and Founder of Herban Wellness and Friend of Simple Intentions

We all experience stressStress_0713. How we experience, recognize, and address it (or not), is very individual to each of us.

However, there are some common ways that stress can affect the body. One of the most common reasons people come into a shop like mine seeking herbal remedies is for stress. My first question is always, what does that mean to you? How do you experience stress? Because, for most people, when they recognize themselves as “being stressed” it’s due to a sense of feeling overwhelmed, a description of anxiety, trouble quieting their mind, and/or shoulder and neck tension.

Rarely does anyone recognize long-term symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, low immune function (frequently getting colds or flus) as “being stressed.” Surely their body does! And the reason is that when we are responding to stressors such as a high work load with impending deadlines, tension in relationships, trying to fulfill many obligations, believing we should be able to “do it all” and say “yes” to everything, etc. it stimulates the “fight or flight response” in our body.

Basically, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the pituitary gland in the brain, which releases hormones that travel through the body and bind the adrenal glands (which sit atop the kidneys), and then signals them to release epinephrine and norepinephrine to respond to the stressor, activating the body into action. Cortisol is also often released in larger than “normal” amounts, as it is the long-term stress hormone (among its many other necessary functions). Anyway, not to get too involved in the physiology, the take-home is that the adrenal gland stimulation is meant to occur, but the theory goes that evolutionarily speaking, we should respond to a short-term stressor, then relax.

If we are continually producing stress hormones, this can cause all sorts of imbalances over time, including fatigue, increased inflammation, and a weakened immune system. Also, our nervous system gets called into high alert in response to these stimulating stress hormones, so it can make it harder for our bodies to relax and “unwind” at the end of the day, exacerbating the problem and leading to many of the common symptoms people associate with being stressed.

How herbs can help.

One of my favorite things about herbal medicine, and why I was drawn to it in the first place, is that there are a plethora of plants (made up of their many plant compounds) that can help support our bodies acutely and preventively. There are herbs that can help our bodies adapt better to stress that were coined as “adaptogens” in the 1970’s by Russian scientists, because of how they can prevent long term effects of stressors on the body, and how they can help our bodies recover from long-term or acute stress after the fact. When taken 2-3 times daily on a consistent basis (as a capsule, tincture, powder, or tea) for a month or more, these herbs such as Eleuthero (aka Siberian ginseng), Schisandra, and Ashwaganda, can help restore that Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis function, and nourish the adrenal glands which have often been depleted because of overuse.

Many people notice increased and sustained energy throughout the day, better ability to fight infection, better sleep, and increased endurance (and much of this has been born out in clinical studies as well).

I like to combine these herbs with “nervines”, which calm and nourish the nervous system. Some of my favorite herbs include Lemon balm, Holy basil (aka Tulsi), and Passionflower for daytime or evening use.  Many of the nervines can help with symptoms of being “stressed out” by helping ease feelings of anxiety and tension, as well as helping to promote more restful sleep, with herbs such as Valerian root, Skullcap, and California poppy for a more sedating effect.

Ideally, we would nourish and support our bodies while undergoing periods of stress in our lives. This is an act of self-care that requires awareness. Along with utilizing stress-relieving techniques in daily life, herbal medicines can be another useful tool for managing, preventing, and recovering from the impacts of short-term and long-term stress on our bodies.



Risk-Resiliency: How To Talk About ‘It’

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in Huffington Post]

How many riskRisk-Resiliencys do you take each week? If you are like most people you take a lot of risk just by being human. Driving in traffic you could get in an accident, in relationships in and outside of work you could be rejected, seen as not good enough or not loveable. You might mess up a presentation at work or school, and the list goes on. The thing is there is risk in the world – you are not going to change that – what you can do is alter your relationship with risk by building risk-resiliency.

Risk is interaction with uncertainty, and there is a lot of uncertainty in the world. Resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty. Risk-resiliency is the capacity to intentionally interact with and recover from the difficulties related to living with uncertainty. Developing this skill involves two key factors – the ability to have awareness around risk you are facing, followed by the ability to have conversations about it – with yourself and others.

Most of us are pretty good at seeing the risk – where the common struggle lies is in having the conversation. People tend to avoid “risk conversations” not because they don’t want to talk about the risk being faced, but mostly because they don’t know how to begin the conversation or what actually needs to be said.

Many times it’s our fear of not being good enough or the idea we might fail at what we want to do that paralyzes us from starting these conversations. If we demystify and remove the drama, we can see the risk for what it is and break the conversation into 5 stages or series of smaller conversations.

Start at the beginning and develop awareness around the circumstance for yourself. This stage is to have a conversation with our self to create awareness around what is occurring, “This is the risk I am facing and this is how I feel about it.”

Now that you are clear for yourself on the risk you are facing, the second stage is to have the conversation (even if it’s uncomfortable) with others that need to be in the know. It’s likely talking about risk won’t ever feel totally comfortable, but with practice it can feel more normal to say, “Here is the risk I am / we are taking by doing xyz.”

In the third stage, the conversation purpose is to set expectations with the necessary people who will be impacted by the risk you are taking. “Here is what might happen if xyz does not come together in the way we expect.” This is where talking about risk gets real – as most times we want to avoid talking about or even acknowledging the possibility that what we are working on might fail. It is when we don’t talk about it that we stay in fear and the risk begins to “own” us. (This might be a few different conversations with different people depending on the type of risk and the type of stakes involved.)

Now in the fourth stage, it’s time to ask for support. What do you need from your key stakeholders to support you in taking this risk? “Here is what I need from you in order to move forward with this risk.” It’s common to struggle at this phase as many times we are not clear on the support we need because we get stuck in the fear associated with risk. By talking about the fear in setting expectations, it becomes easier to understand the support we need to move forward. Many times the support we need is just someone to listen to us or be patient with us while we learn something new.

This is where most people think risk-resiliency ends – we named it, we talked about it, set expectations and asked for support. But there is one more stage – close the loop. One of the most important parts of building risk-resiliency is to close the cycle and call out when the risk is over and debrief on the experience. Complete and acknowledge the cycle – especially when the stakes were high, it becomes really important to share in the success or understand what can be improved. All too often this step is missed and we are already on the next set of risks. The conversation here is “This is the risk I (we) took, and here is what happened as a result and this is the impact and here is where we go next.”

For some risks you face you may be able to cover all the stages in one conversation with a single person or just with yourself. For other higher stake risks, like the ones we face in workplaces, this cycle may be months long and involve many stakeholders at different levels. Regardless of the number of people involved, the stages of how to talk about risk are the same. The path to building risk-resiliency is one conversation at a time.