Leadership and Life Lessons



There is no refund on time—once you’ve spent it, it’s gone.


Using your time more consciously will give you the edge you need to achieve more in your world…


Have you ever had those days when things just don’t go according to plan? You find yourself going from meeting to meeting instead of leading, learning and delivering. You are conflicted because you don’t want to miss a meeting, but going to meetings prevents you from getting stuff done.


During university, I had a summer job working at Hostess Potato Chip Factory in my hometown. I had never worked in a factory before and was truly excited to learn how things were made. The enormity of the factory was impressive: everything was new to me including working nights, the great money, the assembly lines, the smell of tons and tons of potatoes, and the complexity of the machines. It all wowed me. My job was to pack bags of chips into boxes and put the filled boxes on a palette.


In general, the potato chip factory was a good place to work and I enjoyed my co-workers. However, I remember one senior manager who “scared me.” He would come onto the shop floor to give menacing “work hard or else” messages. One day he announced:


“You might think this is fun but it’s not easy to get a position here. And it’s almost impossible to get back in once you’re out. You won’t be hired back next summer if you don’t meet your quotas. Furthermore,  if you cross these lines, you WILL be fired on the spot. There are plenty of students who want this job.”


After he left, no one spoke. We all went back to our stations, hurriedly, confused and nervous. I was determined to keep that damn job and rock that quota. I still remember that day quite clearly. Everything started out okay and I was focused and determined but, before long, I started to notice that my old gloves now had thinning spots on the fingertips and the heat from the bags was burning my hands. Not only that, but my machine also seemed to gear up to another speed. I frantically tried to catch up, but my fingers hurt and bags of chips were landing all over the floor! All of this, combined with the recent menacing message from my supervisor, was pushing me beyond the edge of my comfort zone.


And then it stopped! My machine finally “had it” too and quit.  As I was rushing to pack the bags from the floor into boxes, I found my rhythm again. My machine had stopped and I was beginning to feel calm. Just then, I looked up to see my supervisor looking down at me. He had stopped my machine. He didn’t look happy. He told me to restart the machine to get caught up. I nodded, yes, nervously.


Within minutes I was back up and running and in my potato chip packing groove. Things were flowing smoothly and I was in a rhythm. Almost an hour had passed and my break time was moments away. I had caught up and I had dodged an employee bullet. PHEW! 


Then my manager came to inspect my work and we both noticed I had surpassed my quota. I was ahead of the game! (Instant relief inside me.) The reward? “You can do even more tomorrow, Dale!”


We have all had some version of this experience.  Life comes at us faster than we can manage, and we just don’t have enough time to get it all done. Each week contains a finite 168 hours. But the hours we devote to our workweek are much more fluid. I ask my clients to take note of how much time in a day they spend mentally preparing for or thinking about work, commuting to and from work and being at work. It is a simple exercise to build awareness about how much mental attention and physical attention are geared toward work. On average, people realize about three-quarters of their waking hours are spent thinking about or doing activities related to work.


In our article on executive burnout, we quoted research that showed executives work approximately 51 to 55 hours per week and that number quickly rises as our reliance upon smartphones/devices grows and grows. Tech devices can snap our attention back into our work world at any time—weeknights, early mornings, weekends—often taking time away from rest, family, fun, and other personal activities. 


Key Insights

1. When working out of fear or from a thought that we are in danger of losing something of value (like my factory job), one of our reactions is naturally, to work harder. Yet the reward may add more stress. How can you build self-awareness and confidence to have a different working relationship if that is not working for you?


2. In my story, there was a power dynamic at play. Did you see it? What was the impact on me, the employee, and the manager? Where do you see power dynamics impacting your work or home life? Does it meet your values?


3. We spend a good chunk of our internal resources on work-related activity.  Tech has made it even easier to access work remotely—a gift and sometimes a challenge.  When do you see technology breaking you away from rest, family, fun and other personal activities? What new habits are you ready to cultivate?



Featured Resource:


5 Days to Mindful Leadership


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