Labor Day Reflections: A Saturday Salutation

Labor Day was first organized in 1882 by labor unions as a celebration of the contributions of working class Americans. Although not a big union supporter, Grover Cleveland formalized it as a National Holiday in 1894. There is some good background here for those who want to know more Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

Labor Day has always seemed to me to be one of those unsung holidays where the meaning gets a bit lost. As a child I mostly remember it as the first day off school, and the day my mom made me stop wearing my white shoes to Sunday School. Teaching Your Kids About The Meaning of Labor Day.

What Does Labor Day Mean Today?

So where does that leave us today? For some, this holiday still carries much of its original meaning, and a good time to reflect on history and progress.

For the many of us, the idea of defined working hours and schedules has morphed not due to changing rules or regulations, but because of the nature of our work, the virtual connectivity of our remote teams and expanded real-time technology. Many leaders and vital contributors (myself included) are always connected, and even on labor day will have their phones by their sides available as needed.

Labor Day Reflections

And so, I offer this Labor Day exercise as an opportunity for reflection as you celebrate your work, and the work of your teams.

  • What brings you energy in your work?
  • What has been your most significant accomplishment this year?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Who are you most proud of on your team?
  • How do you rest?
  • Is it enough?
  • What’s next?

I would love to hear your insights on your labor day reflections through your comments.

Some upcoming topics: Leading and Following in Remote teams, Large Group Innovation, and Humility.

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On Anger: Techniques for Managing Emotions at Work

I run, I do yoga, I reflect, I write and sometimes I get angry.

As leaders, how we manage our anger and other emotions is vital. Everyone is watching, and if we don’t handle our anger well we can make a tough situation even more difficult.

“Anyone can be angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way this is not easy.”
~ Aristotle

I’ve gotten better at this over the years, but when I’m in a values clash, or if someone isn’t straight with me I get ticked off. I don’t always love how I react on the inside or the outside.

In his work on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes,
Anger is the most seductive of the negative emotions; the self-righteous inner monologue that propels it fills the mind with the most convincing arguments for venting rage. Unlike sadness, anger is energizing, even exhilarating.

Intervene Early in the Anger Cycle

Goleman talks about intervening early in the anger cycle, to challenge the thoughts and assumptions at the source of the anger. This is similar to the approach recommended by the Arbinger Institute in their work around “Self-Deception”. Both approaches focus on truly considering the emotions and values of the other person. Reframing the issues and changing perspective help to organize a more productive response.

While anger breeds more negativity as we subconsciously look for ways to justify our negative emotions; reframing diffuses the intensity and makes room for more logical approaches.

Consider Meditation and Other Mindfulness Techniques

In his book, The Mindful Leader, Michael Carroll recommends mindfulness practices and meditation as a way to get better insights and mastery of our emotions.
Emotions are like unruly but beautiful creatures that we work hard to tame. We want our emotions to behave themselves, but they are not always predictable. Some emotions seem very powerful and threatening, so we have them caged for fear that they will escape, and make us do all kinds of things that we might regret. On occasion, an emotion may break out and frighten others or we may let one out of its cage to prance around and have a little naughty fun, but generally, we work hard to keep them under lock and key. Other emotions we domesticate, and they behave like circus monkeys– entertaining us and keeping us distracted and happy.
Meditation helps us to sit with these emotions and handle then more objectively.

Of course, the techniques that will work best, are the ones we will actually use. As leaders, it is vital that we acknowledge how we handle our emotions and find productive way to manage those feelings productively.