Category Archives: Verve Up Your Values

“Champion Your Career” Gets Another Rave Review

The following review was published by “Reader Views” on December 16, 2016.

I have to admit I did not think I would like this book at first. I took one look at the cover and sighed, thinking, “Really? This looks like some cheesy ’80s self-help book.” However, I was surprised by what I found on the inside. In “Champion Your Career: Winning in the World of Work” Halimah Bellows has, in a sea of career development books, provided a pretty succinct guide to developing one’s career that really sets itself apart by asking, “Who am I?”

Thus, if you are looking for a guide to your career journey that takes you step-by-step through your career, then this is the book for you! Halimah provides advice and activities to help you consider your interests and even pick a college major! She then takes you through your entire career, including (as she puts it) retiring with fire! Halimah Bellows provides a concise guide to finding your career, growing in your career, and ultimately retiring from your career. This is not an easy feat!

She begins by asking several questions, the purpose of which is to #1. help you determine the value you would find in pursuing your dream career, and to #2. determine your purpose and values. This leads to one of my favorite sections of this book: 10 Reasons for Pursuing Your Ideal Career (and the real reasons why someone might buck against their current job or career–especially if these needs are not being met):

  1. Doing what you love to do allows you to be yourself.
  2. It is perfectly integrated into your lifestyle.
  3. It “reflects and incorporates your values.”
  4. It’s the perfect fit.
  5. It’ll give you energy (and maybe wings!)
  6. You are aligned with the things for which you are passionate.
  7. You are able to make a difference to the things that matter to you.
  8. It’s enjoyable.
  9. Your life is arranged so you can live a meaningful life.
  10. You are fulfilled.

Bellows then asks the reader to imagine that work is more than just a paycheck. What would the workday of your dreams look like? How would it begin? What time would you wake up? What would your clothes look like? What would you do? What are you paid? Is it quiet? Is it busy? To whom do you report? We’ve all asked ourselves these sorts of questions before. The rest of the book builds on this foundation, offering exercises to help you answer each of these questions for yourself. If you want to make the most out of this book, like the others I’ve reviewed, you need to do your best in answering the questions. I recommend finding a good journal to take with you–this will make answering these questions easier (having the right tools for the job always makes it better).

Ultimately, Bellows’ purpose is to make you ask, “Who am I?’ As she says, “You have to know what your interests are and what you are passionate about. You need to explore your values and assess your skills, your strengths, and your talents.” Because this is a question that we all need to ask, I highly recommend “Champion Your Career: Winning in the World of Work” by Halimah Bellows if you are at all unsure about what you are currently doing.

–Reviewed by Josh Cramer for “Reader Views”


Does Your Work Blend with Your Personal Life?—Featured on Bublish

The following excerpt from Champion Your Career: Winning in the World of Work by Halimah Bellows MA, MS is now featured on Bublish at

Bublish ( is a publishing technology company that offers cloud-based tools, metrics and resources.

Author Insight

If your work life and your personal life do not add up to a high enough level of satisfaction, then you might be ready to look at a career change. Either way, this book will help you determine what your basic needs are for happiness in the workplace as well as your personal life. Then it will help you move on to a higher level of overall satisfaction in your life.

Book Excerpt

Some people might make he decision to accept a 50 percent satisfaction level from their work life because perhaps they happily leave their job at the office and then come home and pursue a hobby like playing music. You need to look at your own workday to determine if you are able to make a 50 percent job satisfaction work for you, or if you feel you are stuck in a dead-end situation.

As you know, you have two sides of your life: your work life and your personal life. What you should aim for is to blend the two together to come up with a TOTAL satisfaction level.

Our Core Values–Featured on Bublish

The following excerpt from Champion Your Career: Winning in the World of Work by Halimah Bellows MA, MS is now featured on Bublish at .

Bublish ( is a publishing technology company that offers cloud-based tools, metrics and resources.


Author Insight

My favorite saying about core values is: “The degree to which we live our lives in alignment with our core values is the degree of fulfillment that we will experience.” Core values reflect what is truly important to us as happy healthy individuals. Core values relate to the heart of our being. They relate to the sacred essence of what we want to manifest in the world.


Book Excerpt.

When we honor our core values regularly and consistently, life is good. When we are living from our core values, we feel fulfilled. Our values serve as a compass, pointing out what it means to be true to ourselves, and providing a sense of authenticity, self-respect and peace..

Many people cannot express what their five to ten core values are and thus are living lives unconnected to them. This ambivalence can lead to a life of unhappiness, discontent, conflict and unease.

“Verve up your values” — featured on bublish

             The following excerpt from Champion Your Career: Winning in the World of Work by Halimah Bellows MA, MS is now featured on Bublish at

           Bublish ( is a publishing technology company that offers cloud-based tools, metrics and resources.


Author Insight

            All of us have values that, consciously or unconsciously, guide our choices and actions. Throughout our lifetime, some of our values may change depending on our age, our friends, work, hobbies, or other factors. Some values, however, have not changed and will not change, despite our exposure to diverse political, religious, and cultural influences. These are our core values and the ones we want to focus on here.


Book Excerpt

            My favorite saying about core values is: “The degree to which we live our lives in alignment with our core values is the degree of fulfillment that we will experience.” Core values reflect what is truly important to us as happy, healthy individuals. Core values relate to the heart of our being. They relate to the sacred essence of what we want to manifest in this world. When we honor our values regularly and consistently, life is good. When we are living from our core values, we feel fulfilled. Our values serve as a compass, pointing out what it means to be true to ourselves, and providing a sense of authenticity, self -respect and peace.

10 Reasons to Say NO More Often

by Sig Nordal, Jr.           

Are you a people pleaser? Always saying yes when someone asks for a favour. You feel like you will die with guilt if you say NO. The very thought of even thinking of saying NO makes you ill and causes a great deal of anxiety. You think of a thousand different ways to say NO but in the end you don’t, and yes comes out of your mouth, again. It’s always been this way for you and you’re starting to get tired of it. You wish there was a way to end the madness and learn how to say NO, once and for all.

Let’s look at the reasons why we don’t like to say NO and then we’ll give you 10 reasons why you should. For many, saying NO means people will have these thoughts about us:

We don’t care

We are mean or rude

We have better things to do

We aren’t kind or loving

You already know you aren’t any of those things. You are a kind, loving and caring person. Keep reading and find out why you need to say No more often and how, when you do, others will see you as the beautiful person you really.

10 Reasons to Say NO More Often


Amen. When you start saying NO people will start having more respect for you and not take you for granted. The reason they take advantage of you now is because they know they can. Once you start saying no, they will eventually get it. You can’t and won’t be taken for granted anymore.

You have a life too!

You can’t always put your life on hold for other people. There are things you need to do for YOU. Your errands, your chores and your days are just as important as theirs. Do your thing first. If you don’t, you’ll kick yourself in the bum for it at the end of the day. Oh, you know you will.

Who needs more stress in their life?

As soon as you say yes to something you really don’t want to do, anxiety, anger and stress kicks in. Here we go again. Do you like that feeling of frustration? I didn’t think so. Try saying NO next time and notice how you feel. I guarantee it won’t be stress. There may be a tinge of guilt, but it will pass and you will feel free.

Make time to rest and relax.

If you always say yes, when are you ever going to have time to recharge your batteries and decompress? Your health is very important. Physical, mental and emotional health. You need to look after number 1. That’s you! People who care about you, will care about your health too.

You’re making room for more yesses.

Yes! Let’s go for ice cream. Yes! Would you like to go on a fun little day trip with me? Yes! Do you feel like going to the movies tonight? Yes! More NO’s to things you don’t want to do and more YESSES for things that are fun.

Say goodbye to the time vampires.

These are the people that take advantage of you and suck the life out of you by constantly needing your help. They continuously use you for gain because they are too afraid to do things themselves. Get rid of them. They will have to grow up one day.

Teach someone a valuable lesson.

If you are always helping Sally out of a jam, she will never learn how to deal with difficulties and situations as they arise. When you allow her to figure it out on her own, she will grow, learn and be stronger. Say NO and kindly direct her to a resource that she can use to help herself.

More time for family and friends.

The more time you spend catering to others, even when you don’t feel like it, the more time you lose away from the ones that you care most about; your family and friends. They will be there no matter what, but think of the things you might be missing out on because you couldn’t say NO to Mrs. Jones, again.

Open the door for others to say yes.

When we start saying NO to people, they will have to look to others for help. The ones that haven’t said yes will have to step up to the plate. Let them start helping too so they can feel some sort of satisfaction.

Being assertive is a great trait to have.

When we learn how to assert ourselves properly, our self-confidence grows which, in turn, attracts more like-minded people. Assertively saying NO makes us feel like we have control of our lives again. That’s a good thing. Careful not to mistake it for aggressiveness.

Do you have a hard time saying NO? How does it make you feel when you do? Share your thoughts at the link below. 

Sig Nordal, Jr., has been working as an entrepreneur since completing his business studies at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Sig has been involved in businesses and commerce in all corners of the world and he understands the risks, the excitements and the potential rewards associated with being an entrepreneur.

A Positive Attitude at Work can be the Key to your Success

by Nikki Gill

Maintaining a positive attitude at work will benefit your career and steer you towards a promotion. 36 per cent of professionals polled on LinkedIn agree that a positive attitude is the most important quality that employers look for in candidates and team members.

However, maintaining a positive attitude on a daily basis in the workplace is harder than you may think. Work is stressful and challenging, and most professionals face deadlines and obstacles on a weekly (if not daily) basis. This is not an environment that fosters a positive attitude – you really have to work at it.

We’ve decided to not only tell you how you can convey your positive attitude at work to your colleagues and superiors, but also why it is important and how you will benefit from this attitude shift.


  1. Use Positive Language

No matter how long you’ve been with a company and how comfortable you may be around your colleagues, you should never use profanity. If it slips out in a high-stress situation we can let it slide, but you cannot swear on a regular basis. This is a professional environment, and the use of profanity immediately ignites a negative aura into its surroundings.

  1. Never Criticize Anyone

There is a difference between criticism and constructive feedback. Always use the method where you begin by complimenting the individual on something they’ve done well, and follow it up with a suggestion on how to improve their performance. Also, ensure to have this conversation in private. The individual will respect your feedback, and also respect the fact that you brought awareness to the situation in a professional manner.

  1. Stay Away From Gossip

Nothing eats away at a teamwork environment worse than gossip does. Whether team members are gossiping about colleagues or their personal problems, avoid the situation altogether. If you are caught in the conversation, act as a listener who does not provide any input. Maintaining a positive attitude at work means that you are a team player who provides all team members with respect. By refraining from joining a gossip circle, you can ensure that you maintain that level of respect.

  1. Put Teamwork First

When a team member has performed well, let them know. Offering pats on the back and compliments on a job well done are two simple and easy ways to foster a positive teamwork environment. In the same regard, when the team is faced with an obstacle, be sure to offer solutions and next steps rather than focusing on the negatives. Approach each obstacle with a “glass half full” mentality and you will create a positive outlook that will catch on to the rest of the team.

  1. Don’t Complain

Every day is not a good day – but don’t let everyone on the team know that. You may have been stuck in standstill traffic that morning, or experienced a 45-minute delay on your train ride, but you can’t let those variables affect your work. If you are in a foul mood, ensure you walk it off before you get to the office. That way, instead of ranting to your colleagues about how terrible your morning was, you can poke fun at your bad luck and give everyone a chuckle. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances will keep the work environment positive, where ranting will add negativity and diminish the upbeat working tone of the office.


  1. Health Benefits

A positive attitude is about more than just smiling at work. It literally benefits your overall health. Stress can deteriorate your health, especially when you experience it on a daily basis. These daily stresses start to wear down your health and your immune system. Put a stop to that before it starts by using our steps to ensure you face each workday positively.

  1. Become a Role Model

People avoid negativity and they are drawn to positivity. Your positive attitude at work will allow your colleagues to feel comfortable coming to you with questions or for advice. You will quickly become a role model and an ally for many team members which will be viewed as an excellent quality by superiors.

  1. Infectious Positivity

Your positive attitude will rub off on your teammates. Nobody wants to be the grumpy and pessimistic team member when everyone else is so positive. You will set an example, become a role model (as stated in point #2), and eventually create a full team of professionals with positive attitudes. This will boost the effectiveness of the overall working environment and lead to successes for the company.

  1. Take the Lead Role

You’ve become a role model in the team, so naturally management will see that you have the leadership qualities to take on the next special project. The team members will respond well to your leadership and you will be given additional responsibilities to help you climb up the ladder in the office.

  1. Be Next in Line for a Promotion

The same way that Hiring Managers look for a positive attitude in potential candidates to fulfill a role, Management will also look for a positive attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion. Positivity in the workplace shows that you can encourage your team members to overcome obstacles and work cohesively to achieve the company’s goals. As a team member with a positive attitude, you will have already demonstrated these traits to your superior and therefore will be favoured for a promotion.

Do you agree – is a positive attitude the most important quality that employers look for? Let us know what you think in our Resume Target LinkedIn Group.

Nikki Gill is the content editor at Resume Target and blogs at Nikki is a graduate of the Ryerson School of Journalism and has written resumes for job seekers at all career levels from students to C-level executives.


Good Character Traits Essential For Happiness

By Barrie Davenport

“In temper he was Earnest, yet controlled, frank, yet sufficiently guarded, patient, yet energetic, forgiving, yet just to himself; generous yet firm.”

“His conscience was the strongest element of his nature. His affections were tender & warm. His whole nature was simple and sincere – he was pure, and then was himself.”

“Such a nature was admirably constituted to direct an heroic struggle on the part of a people proud enough to prefer a guide to a leader, a man commissioned to execute the popular will but, as in his case, strong enough to enforce his own.”

If you haven’t guessed yet, these quotes were written about the character of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a role model for character, integrity, and honesty, traits that never left him throughout the trials and tribulations of leading a country during one of the worst periods of its history.

Of course Lincoln was president during the 19th century when character was a highly-regarded quality. According to historian Warren Susman in his book Culture as History, the use of the word “character” peaked in the 19th century. “Character was a key word in the vocabulary of Englishmen and Americans,” says Susman, and so important to society that it was promoted as an essential component of one’s identity.

Things began to change in the 20th century, as we transitioned from a producing to a consuming society. Emphasis shifted from a focus on virtue and character to a focus on self and material possessions. Says Susman, “The vision of self-sacrifice began to yield to that of self-realization.” It became more important to cultivate personality, influence, and outer perceptions than to develop nobility of heart, mind, and deed. Abraham Lincoln likely would never be elected president today.

Is developing good character an outdated, useless pursuit that has little relevance in modern society? If you look at many of today’s role models (the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, sports celebrities), it would seem so. Who has time for boring character which gets in the way of an egocentric life?

However, it doesn’t take much experience to discover how essential good character traits are when it comes to one’s self-esteem, relationships, and life satisfaction . Individual character is the linchpin for a healthy, functioning society. Although it may not be a popular pursuit, developing your character is one of the most satisfying, emotionally healthy endeavors you’ll ever undertake.

Good character consists of defining your values and integrity based on time-tested principles and self-reflection, and having the courage to live your life accordingly. So how do you begin to improve your character?

Let’s look at 20 good character traits that impact your happiness . . .

  1. Integrity:  Integrity is having strong moral principles and core values and then conducting your life with those as your guide. When you have integrity, you main your adherence to it whether or not other people are watching.
  2. Honesty: Honesty is more than telling the truth. It’s living the truth. It is being straightforward and trustworthy in all of your interactions, relationships, and thoughts. Being honest requires self-honesty and authenticity.
  3. Loyalty: Loyalty is faithfulness and devotion to your loved ones, your friends, and anyone with whom you have a trusted relationship. Loyalty can also extend to your employer, the organizations you belong to, your community, and your country.
  4. Respectfulness: You treat yourself and others with courtesy, kindness, deference, dignity, and civility. You offer basic respect as a sign of your value for the worth of all people and your ability to accept the inherent flaws we all possess.
  5. Responsibility: You accept personal, relational, career, community, and societal obligations even when they are difficult or uncomfortable. You follow through on commitments and proactively create or accept accountability for your behavior and choices.
  6. Humility:m You have a confident yet modest opinion of your own self-importance. You don’t see yourself as “too good” for other people or situations. You have a learning and growth mindset and the desire to express and experience gratitude for what you have, rather than expecting you deserve more.
  7. Compassion: You feel deep sympathy and pity for the suffering and misfortune of others, and you have a desire to do something to alleviate their suffering.
  8. Fairness: Using discernment, compassion, and integrity, you strive to make decisions and take actions based on what you consider the ultimate best course or outcome for all involved.
  9. Forgiveness:You make conscious, intentional decisions to let go of resentment and anger toward someone for an offense — whether or not forgiveness is sought by the offender. Forgiveness may or may not include pardoning, restoration, or reconciliation. It extends both to others and to one’s self. (Reminder: Have you checked out my new book? I just released STICKY HABITS: 6 Simple Steps To Create Good Habits That Stick. Click here to check it out!)
  10. Authenticity: You are able to be your real and true self, without pretension, posturing, or insincerity. You are capable of showing appropriate vulnerability and self-awareness.
  11. Courageousness: In spite of fear of danger, discomfort, or pain, you have the mental fortitude to carry on with a commitment, plan, or decision, knowing it is the right or best course of action.
  12. Generosity: You are willing to offer your time, energy, efforts, emotions, words, or assets without the expectation of something in return. You offer these freely and often joyously.
  13. Perseverance: Perseverance is the steadfast persistence and determination to continue on with a course of action, belief, or purpose, even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable in order to reach a higher goal or outcome.
  14. Politeness:You are knowledgeable of basic good manners, common courtesies, and etiquette, and are willing to apply those to all people you encounter. You desire to learn the skills of politeness in order to enhance your relationships and self-esteem
  15. Kindness: Kindness is an attitude of being considerate, helpful, and benevolent to others. It is motivated by a positive disposition and the desire for warm and pleasant interactions.
  16. Lovingness: The ability to be loving toward those you love means showing them through your words, actions, and expressions how deeply you care about them. It includes the willingness to be open and vulnerable.
  17. Optimism:Optimism is a sense of hopefulness and confidence about the future. It involves a positive mental attitude in which you interpret life events, people, and situations in a promising light.
  18. Reliability: You can be consistently depended upon to follow through on your commitments, actions, and decisions. You do what you say you will do.
  19. Conscientiousness: You have the desire to do things well or to the best of your ability. You are thorough, careful, efficient, organized, and vigilant in your efforts, based on your own principles or sense of what is right.
  20. Self-discipline: You are able, through good habits or willpower, to overcome your desires or feelings in order to follow the best course of action or to rise to your commitments or principles. You have a strong sense of self-control in order to reach a desired goal.

Developing these traits of good character can be difficult to foster and maintain, but they afford so many positive benefits to improve the quality of your life.

Good Character

  • Attracts the trust and respect of other people.
  • Allows you to influence others.
  • Changes your perspective about the future.
  • Sustains you through difficult times or opposition
  • Improves your self-esteem, self-respect and confidence.
  • Creates a foundation for happy, healthy relationships.
  • Helps you stay committed to your values and goals.
  • Improves your chances of success in work and other endeavors.

How to build good character traits

If you believe developing your character is an endeavor you want to pursue, here are some steps to show you how.

Define your core values:  Know what is most important to you by determining your values for your professional and personal life. These are the principles that are the foundation for your priorities, choices, actions, and behaviors. You can start by looking at this list of values.

Practice the habits:  Pick one or two of the traits of good character listed above to practice for several weeks. Write down the actions you want to take or the behaviors you define that reflect this trait, and implement them in your daily life and interactions. Wear a rubber band on your wrist or create other reminders to help you practice.

Find people with character:  Surround yourself with people who reflect the character traits you want to embrace. They will inspire and motivate you to build these traits in yourself. Try to avoid people who have weak character and make bad decisions.

Take some risks:  Start taking small actions toward a goal or value that involve some level of risk. When you face the possibility of failure and challenge yourself toward success, you become mentally and emotionally stronger and more committed to your principles.

Stretch yourself:  Create high standards and big goals for yourself. Expect the best of yourself and constantly work toward that, even though you will have setbacks and occasional failures. Every stretch builds your confidence and knowledge that your character is getting stronger.

Commit to self-improvement:  Realize that building your character is a life-long endeavor. It is something that is practiced both in the minutiae and the defining moments of your life. There will be times you step up to the character traits you embrace and other times you falter. By remaining committed to personal growth and learning about yourself, your character will naturally improve, even through the failures.

What do you consider to be the most important and valuable character traits? How do you reflect these traits in your daily life both at work and in your personal life?

Barrie Davenport is a personal growth seeker, published author, and certified coach committed to helping people shift their thinking, create positive new habits, and build lifetime confidence. She’s the creator of several online courses and has helped thousands of people around the world with her practical strategies for personal development.

Why You Hate Work


From The New York Times Sunday Review

The way we’re working isn’t working. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not very excited to get to the office in the morning, you don’t feel much appreciated while you’re there, you find it difficult to get your most important work accomplished, amid all the distractions, and you don’t believe that what you’re doing makes much of a difference anyway. By the time you get home, you’re pretty much running on empty, and yet still answering emails until you fall asleep.

Increasingly, this experience is common not just to middle managers, but also to top executives.

Our company, The Energy Project, works with organizations and their leaders to improve employee engagement and more sustainable performance. A little over a year ago, Luke Kissam, the chief executive of Albemarle, a multibillion-dollar chemical company, sought out one of us, Tony, as a coach to help him deal with the sense that his life was increasingly overwhelming. “I just felt that no matter what I was doing, I was always getting pulled somewhere else,” he explained. “It seemed like I was always cheating someone — my company, my family, myself. I couldn’t truly focus on anything.”

White-Collar Salt Mine

Mr. Kissam is not alone. Srinivasan S. Pillay, a psychiatrist and an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School who studies burnout, recently surveyed a random sample of 72 senior leaders and found that nearly all of them reported at least some signs of burnout and that all of them noted at least one cause of burnout at work.

More broadly, just 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work, according to a 2013 report by Gallup. Around the world, across 142 countries, the proportion of employees who feel engaged at work is just 13 percent. For most of us, in short, work is a depleting, dispiriting experience, and in some obvious ways, it’s getting worse.

Demand for our time is increasingly exceeding our capacity — draining us of the energy we need to bring our skill and talent fully to life. Increased competitiveness and a leaner, post-recession work force add to the pressures. The rise of digital technology is perhaps the biggest influence, exposing us to an unprecedented flood of information and requests that we feel compelled to read and respond to at all hours of the day and night.

Curious to understand what most influences people’s engagement and productivity at work, we partnered with the Harvard Business Review last fall to conduct a survey of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a broad range of companies and industries. We also gave the survey to employees at two of The Energy Project’s clients — one a manufacturing company with 6,000 employees, the other a financial services company with 2,500 employees. The results were remarkably similar across all three populations.

Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

The more effectively leaders and organizations support employees in meeting these core needs, the more likely the employees are to experience engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and positive energy at work, and the lower their perceived levels of stress. When employees have one need met, compared with none, all of their performance variables improve. The more needs met, the more positive the impact.

Engagement — variously defined as “involvement, commitment, passion, enthusiasm, focused effort and energy” — has now been widely correlated with higher corporate performance. In a 2012 meta-analysis of 263 research studies across 192 companies, Gallup found that companies in the top quartile for engaged employees, compared with the bottom quartile, had 22 percent higher profitability, 10 percent higher customer ratings, 28 percent less theft and 48 percent fewer safety incidents.

A 2012 global work force study of 32,000 employees by the consulting company Towers Watson found that the traditional definition of engagement — the willingness of employees to voluntarily expend extra effort — is no longer sufficient to fuel the highest levels of performance. Willing, it turns out, does not guarantee able. Companies in the Towers Watson study with high engagement scores measured in the traditional way had an operating margin of 14 percent. By contrast, companies with the highest number of “sustainably engaged” employees had an operating margin of 27 percent, nearly three times those with the lowest traditional engagement scores.

Put simply, the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform. What our study revealed is just how much impact companies can have when they meet each of the four core needs of their employees.

Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.

Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.

Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.

Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.

We often ask senior leaders a simple question: If your employees feel more energized, valued, focused and purposeful, do they perform better? Not surprisingly, the answer is almost always “Yes.” Next we ask, “So how much do you invest in meeting those needs?” An uncomfortable silence typically ensues.

How to explain this odd disconnect?

The most obvious answer is that systematically investing in employees, beyond paying them a salary, didn’t seem necessary until recently. So long as employees were able to meet work demands, employers were under no pressure to address their more complex needs. Increasingly, however, employers are recognizing that the relentless stress of increased demand — caused in large part by digital technology — simply must be addressed.

Still, the forces of habit and inertia remain powerful obstacles to better meeting employee needs. Several years ago, we did a pilot program with 150 accountants in the middle of their firm’s busy tax season. Historically, employees work extremely long hours during these demanding periods, and are measured and evaluated based on how many hours they put in.

Recognizing the value of intermittent rest, we persuaded this firm to allow one group of accountants to work in a different way — alternating highly focused and uninterrupted 90-minute periods of work with 10-to-15-minute breaks in between, and a full one-hour break in the late afternoon, when our tendency to fall into a slump is higher. Our pilot group of employees was also permitted to leave as soon as they had accomplished a designated amount of work.

With higher focus, these employees ended up getting more work done in less time, left work earlier in the evenings than the rest of their colleagues, and reported a much less stressful overall experience during the busy season. Their turnover rate was far lower than that of employees in the rest of the firm. Senior leaders were aware of the results, but the firm didn’t ultimately change any of its practices. “We just don’t know any other way to measure them, except by their hours,” one leader told us. Recently, we got a call from the same firm. “Could you come back?” one of the partners asked. “Our people are still getting burned out during tax season.”

Partly, the challenge for employers is trust. For example, our study found that employees have a deep desire for flexibility about where and when they work — and far higher engagement when they have more choice. But many employers remain fearful that their employees won’t accomplish their work without constant oversight — a belief that ironically feeds the distrust of their employees, and diminishes their engagement.

A truly human-centered organization puts its people first — even above customers — because it recognizes that they are the key to creating long-term value. Costco, for example, pays its average worker $20.89 an hour, Businessweek reported last year, about 65 percent more than Walmart, which owns its biggest competitor, Sam’s Club. Over time, Costco’s huge investment in employees — including offering benefits to part-time workers — has proved to be a distinct advantage.

Costco’s employees generate nearly twice the sales of Sam’s Club employees. Costco has about 5 percent turnover among employees who stay at least a year, and the overall rate is far lower than that of Walmart. In turn, the reduced costs of recruiting and training new employees saves Costco several hundred million dollars a year. Between 2003 and 2013, Costco’s stock rose more than 200 percent, compared with about 50 percent for Walmart’s. What will prompt more companies to invest more in their employees?

Pain is one powerful motivator. Often companies seek out our services when they’ve begun losing valued employees, or a C.E.O. recognizes his own exhaustion, or a young, rising executive suddenly drops dead of a heart attack — a story we’ve been told more than a half dozen times in just the past six months.

In a numbers-driven world, the most compelling argument for change is the growing evidence that meeting the needs of employees fuels their productivity, loyalty and performance. Our own experience is that more and more companies are taking up this challenge — most commonly addressing employees’ physical needs first, through wellness and well-being programs. Far less common is a broader shift in the corporate mind-set from trying to get more out of employees to investing more in meeting their needs, so they’re both capable of and motivated to perform better and more sustainably.

The simplest way for companies to take on this challenge is to begin with a basic question: “What would make our employees feel more energized, better taken care of, more focused and more inspired?” It costs nothing, for example, to mandate that meetings run no longer than 90 minutes, or to set boundaries around when people are expected to answer email and how quickly they’re expected to respond. Other basic steps we’ve seen client companies take is to create fitness facilities and nap rooms, and to provide healthy, high-quality food free, or at subsidized prices, as many Silicon Valley companies now do.

It also makes a big difference to explicitly reward leaders and managers who exhibit empathy, care and humility, and to hold them accountable for relying on anger or other demeaning emotions that may drive short-term results but also create a toxic climate of fear over time — with enormous costs. Also, as our study makes clear, employees are far more engaged when their work gives them an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.

The energy of leaders is, for better or worse, contagious. When leaders explicitly encourage employees to work in more sustainable ways — and especially when they themselves model a sustainable way of working — their employees are 55 percent more engaged, 53 percent more focused, and more likely to stay at the company, our research with the Harvard Business Review found.

Mr. Kissam, the Albemarle chief executive Tony first met more than a year ago, has taken up the challenge for himself and his employees. He began by building breaks into his days — taking a walk around the block — and being more fully focused and present during time with his family. He now sets aside at least one morning on his calendar every week for reflection and thinking longer term. He has also made it a practice to send out handwritten notes of appreciation to people inside and outside the company.

Mr. Kissam has also championed a comprehensive rethinking of his organization’s practices around meetings, email, flexible work arrangements, conflict resolution and recognition. By the end of 2014 more than 1,000 of his leaders and managers will have gone through a program aimed at helping them more skillfully meet their own needs, and the needs of those they oversee.

“I can already see it’s working,” Mr. Kissam told us. “Our safety record has improved significantly this year, because our people are more focused. We’re trusting them to do their jobs rather than telling them what to do, and then we’re appreciating them for their efforts. We’re also on the right path financially. A year from now it’s going to show up in our profitability. I saw what happened when I invested more in myself, and now we’re seeing what happens when we invest in our employees.”

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive of The Energy Project, a consulting firm. Christine Porath is an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and a consultant to The Energy Project.

Van Gogh, the self-developing genius

6 Things a Leader Can Learn from Van Gogh

By Andrea Szabados

Reprinted from International Coaching News

When was the last time you painted an honest self-portrait? Either with a brush, or in words, with pen, using the feedback received from others?

Recently I’ve visited the exhibition called “Van Gogh’s Dreams” in Budapest where the artist’s masterpieces come to life using 3D technology. Beside the brilliant paintings, as a personal development professional, I was enthusiastic to read the thoughts cited from the artist’s letters.

As promised by the exhibition’s promotion, I did experience a “new dimension” in Van Gogh’s art. However, for me it was not the canvases displayed in 3D; neither the refreshing of the colour shades and not even the accompanying sound effects. It was the human dimension that was outlined in the exhibition. It was fascinating to observe the amazing evolution Van Gogh’s art went through in barely a decade. Reading his sentences cited from his letters, I became more and more impressed by his perseverance, faith and stubborn self-development.I believe today’s leaders could take lessons from him.

Self-knowledge. He believed in the fact that there’s something he’s really talented at, and he was searching for what it could be. When he found it, he decided to realize himself in what he’s good at.Or, as we would put it today, he was building on his strengths. (Remember the great number of personality development methods offered.…) His self-knowledge was surely strengthened by the many self-portraits he painted. Again and again, he was looking into the mirror to discover his own feelings and features.

Ambition. He was eager to improve. He was never satisfied with his achievements but kept on going, driven by an internal force. He was experimenting continuously to become better and better.

Perseverance. He was practicing a lot. When he started to feel it might be painting that he was really good at then he decided to paint a lot. As much as he could.He even painted the same thing several times – from a slightly different aspect or in a different background. He made studies. And he kept on painting – to become better and better. And what was the outcome? He did improve. (Sadly, his performance wasn’t recognized –it’s widely known that none of his pieces was purchased in his entire life.)

Ambition to learn and professional humility.Vincent, as he signed his paintings, took every chance to learn. He was studying books, observing masters and learned from them. He worked together with them. He was dreaming of a colony of artists.

Creativity. He let himself be influenced by the things he saw in his environment and thereby he was shaping his own style. The vivid lights of the metropolis, the outlines of the Japanese woodcuts or the colours of the country – his unique and new artistic style consisted of such elements.He was seeking diversity in everything. He wasn’t content with habits or routine.He was playing. He generated ideas. “Ideas for work are coming to me in abundance… I’m going like a painting- locomotive” – he wrote in a letter to his brother.

Courage. Van Gogh boldly experimented with new techniques, colours, lights, shapes, lines and materials.He was not afraid of change. Whenever he found that his environment wasn’t appropriate for painting then he packed his things and moved to a new place. He was seeking his optimal working environment elsewhere.

Well ahead of his time, his sense of style features visionary skills that can enable today’s leaders become successful, too. If you are a leader, it is worth considering your own activities and trying to find the “tricks” or lessons you could learn from an inspiring artist.Good news if you feel you would not manage to do it alone: this is exactly a field where an executive coach can support you to become a better leader.

And, dear fellow coach, why not take some reprints of Van Gogh’s masterpieces with you to  your next leadership coaching session?

Source: iCN 5th edition – Leadership Coaching (pages 74-75)