Spending Time and Money

Time and Money

Many say that time is money. And that money is time. And money is also described as a lot of other things. But money “ain’t ever” described as cancer.

Someone dear to me was recently diagnosed with Stage I Melanoma cancer. Since the cancer was discovered early, it appears that with a succesful surgery she will be essentially “cancer free.” She will simply just go for periodic test moving forward. “Simply.” Hmm. This person is my wife.

The jolt of hearing “cancer” and the thought of perhaps losing her helped me to once again crystallize my priorities and think about a lot of things. It also helped me to examine where I am spending my time.

So, if I go with the “time is money” idea, and assuming that I have clarity on what is important to me (i.e. my family, friends, etc.), then the question becomes this: “Am I spending my “money” on the things that are truly important to me?”

This question has been running through my head at several levels recently. Although it doesn’t consume my thoughts, it certainly has my attention in almost every aspect of my life.  Recently, pondering this question about priorities and how we spend our time has brought to mind a work-related subject about several of my executive coaching clients with whom I have served in the past.

When speaking of their values and priorities, one client was quick (as are most people) to say that his family was the number one priority. Sounds simple, right? Given this proclamation, I was surprised that when the phone rang during our conversation he looked at Caller ID and said “It’s my wife…I’ll call her back later” and hit the mute button for the ringer. In subsequent meetings, I found it amusing that this same person would often put our meeting on hold when he received a call….from their boss.

In practice, which was a higher priority for him…work or family?

Another client once explained that their employees were like family and it was this closeness that created the desired culture and related “success”  of the organization. Imagine my surprise to discover that while open conversation and free thought/questions were publicly encouraged, in practice, those that asked questions were “shunned” and “talked about” behind their back.

People at this organization were micro-managed by the “leaders.” True conversations were only held in private meetings and with whispered undertones in fear of being manipulated, shunned, or ridiculed. And consequently, employees only voiced support for organization and its policies whether those feelings were true or not.

The results was an environment of underlying suspicion and fear that poisoned authenticity, integrity, and honesty.

When the recent tight economy started to impact the organization financially, the “costs” related to employees was the first things to go. Employee’s training and development plans, along with health benefits were the first to get cut. These were quickly  followed by a downsizing of staff. And as one might imagine in this type of self-centered leadership environment, the senior “leadership” gave themselves raises by paying out higher salaries and giving themselves bonuses.

If this was indeed a “family,”  it was a dysfunctional one, at best.

Another client came to me for executive coaching to help find and achieve “work/life balance.” Similar to the “Work/Life Balance?” entry from fellow L2L contributor Scott Archibald, this client felt that technology was blurring the lines between their personal and their professional life.

So when asked the question “Which was a priority, your work or your family?” The answer came back quickly as “my family, of course!

This subjective answer came from his sense of responsibility toward his stated priorities, not from his observable behaviors.  His actual behaviors spoke a different story. In practice, vacations were spent with a cell phone and laptop and rarely was this “family” person ever disconnected from the office. The true behaviors illustrated that he is usually disconnected from his family.

Given the detachment from family — Can someone truly find balance if they aren’t fully present?

It’s easy to say that family is my number one priority, but the proof is in the pudding.  I’ve lost count of the number of organizations who claim “People are our Most Important Asset” but treat their people as an expense or commodity.

While these statements suggest a priority of where time and money should be focused, unfortunately in practice these resources are spent elsewhere.

But to be clear, time is not money. Time cannot be saved or spent or transferred. Time can only be lived. Time is far more valuable than money, or anything else. Money is simply an idea that means “something of transferable value”. So when I line up my values and priorities, I simply use “money” as an easy term to convey my highest priorities.

So, this brings me back to the question of my own priorities and where I am spending my “money.”  While I’ve been running in a deficit capacity for some time, I’ve been trying to making up for it the past few years. I recently moved to be closer to family and I’m spending my “money” by taking the time out with my kids to fish, hike, camp and to try and answer the thousands of questions that a 6, 8, and 10 year old can come up with.

I’ve also been trying to do that “extra something” (fixing a special dinner,  having a “date night”)  with my wife and by seeking to be fully present when we are together (no BlackBerry or other devices). I’ve also been trying to make amends and reconnect with friends (BTW>> Isn’t social media wonderful to help find people and initiate those lost connections!?)

Professionally, I continue to be of service to my clients as they grow and morph into high-performing executives and organizations who are truly committed and focused on people.

I’d love to spend more time expanding on this…perhaps in future blogs. At the moment though, I am planning a vacation for the family. After my wife’s upcoming appointment with the oncologist to confirm that she is cancer-free since her surgery – we are going camping with the kids. As far as I am concerned, the time we all spend together is the best investment possible.

Personally and professionally speaking, what are your top priorities?  Where you are spending your “money?” What changes are needed to bring your words and actions into alignment? My hope is that it doesn’t take an “organizational crisis” or illness for you to do this evaluation in both your personal AND professional life.

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Dr. David DeHaven is Executive Coach &  Business Strategist at D3 Coaching.
He can be reached at david@d3coaching.com

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Is Trust a “Transaction”?

Trust But Verify

There is an old Russian proverb “doveryai, no proveryai” (Russian: Доверяй, но проверяй) – Trust, but Verify.

This was a signature phrase of Ronald Reagan and he used it usually when discussing relations with the Soviet Union. When discussing leadership, the concept of trust often emerges as the single most important element in a leader-follower relationship.

With that in mind: “Is trust a ‘transaction'”?

The way that Ronald Reagan approached the United State’s relationship with the Soviets, perhaps trust was simply a transaction. But with organizations in a free society, should we use this “trust as a transaction” approach with the people we lead?

I once worked with a leader who was concerned about trust within the organization. He often asked the people reporting to him if they trusted him. Over time, his discussions and his actions revealed that this “leader” had little, if any, trust in some of his direct reports. It seemed very apparent that “a lack of trust” was always on his mind. 

This lack of trust seemed to permeate the whole place. It was also apparent in the organization as employees rarely spoke up at meetings or asked questions publicly. On the surface, no one spoke up. But as one might expect, the “back channels” of politics and rumors were rampant with incessant chatter. Simply stated;  there was no trust. As a natural consequence to this type of environment,  even “good” conflict and discussion didn’t occur. We were working in a truly dysfunctional organization due to a lack of trust.

This experience was a prime example of trust being considered a transaction. And, as one might expect with something so valuable and fragile, it didn’t work to build anything worthwhile in terms of organizational effectiveness.

The conventional wisdom is “trust is earned.” But this is just another way of saying that trust is a transaction. It simply doesn’t provide a lasting structure that supports any type of real progress over time.

This type of thinking follows the idea that “if you trust me, then I will trust you.” This type of transactional thinking provides a very shallow and fragile sort of relational bond. It can be broken easily and therefore is probably not worth investing in. This kind of thinking carries the undertone of  “Beware! If you do something to lose my trust, then its all over!”

Instead of investing in a paradigm that is so weak, I would rather invest in a belief system that supports something of lasting value. Of a system that can support a heavy load of “transactions” that can bridge short term indiscretions, weaknesses, and imperfections found in ordinary everyday imperfect people.

Personally, I believe that trust is something that is freely given; not earned.

Offering trust in this manner means being somewhat vulnerable and acting on faith in the ability of others to do their best given the context. This type of thinking takes courage. It takes strength. It takes an ability to handle failure. And yet, it is still worth all of it.

For the leader-follower relationship to really work, trust must exist in an open and unpredictable environment that allows it to grow strong. It cannot be wimpy. If a person is always afraid of losing someones trust, they may be overly cautious and never comfortable enough to perform at the highest levels.

The trust that exists has to be one of open discussion. This will inevitably invite the occasional respectful conflict.  In this type of environment, individuals need to be mentally and emotionally prepared to be vulnerable, compassionate, empathetic, and kind. It is an occasionally bruising place, but it is well worth the effort.

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Seth Godin speaks to a similar concept in his blog about Trust and Respect. Although the context of Seth’s Blog focuses on Marketing and Sales, the concepts about trust are the same. Seth offers some disheartening observations about the level of trust in today’s current environment with this characterization: “If the contract doesn’t specifically spell out how one company will treat another, it’s okay to rip the other off as long as there’s a loophole.”

It seems that in some organizations, leaders have adopted a similar approach to their followers. There are any number of examples where employers have shown their lack of integrity in honoring severance agreements and pension plans while paying high salaries and bonuses to current employees.  

And this begs a question…If trust were based on a transaction — wouldn’t this approach ensure that employees/partners/client NEVER trust the organization?

Trust is NOT a transaction. It simply can’t be in order to exist.

Are you experiencing low levels of trust in your organization due to a transactional mindset on the topic? Are you guilty of hording your trust becasue of past incidences? Are you open to giving and building an environmrnt that is built on trust? I would love to hear your stories!

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Dr. David DeHaven is Executive Coach &  Business Strategist at D3 Coaching.
He can be reached at david@d3coaching.com

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