Monthly Archives: September 2013

More Sweatember Action

It’s getting late in Sweatember, and I’ve only shared one workout. It’s time to take my Sweatember motivation to the blog and share more ideas.

My buddies at I Choose Awesome are a tough, energetic bunch of Australians. They have great ideas for challenging workouts, and I took one for a test drive this week. Give it a try.

Half An Hour of Power

Write down these six exercises on a piece of paper, and head to the gym. If you don’t know the exercises, the links have short videos:

Try the Half An Hour of Power workout

Try the Half An Hour of Power workout

Start your stopwatch. Do ten of the first exercise, then move onto the next one. When you’re done with all six, that’s one round. Start again from the top, and see how many rounds you can do in thirty minutes. (For what it’s worth, I managed 7 and a bit yesterday — couldn’t quite get to 8.)

Too Hard?

It’s ok if you can’t do a pull up, or you’re worried about a kettle bell clean. Substitute something easier until you’re ready for the full Half An Hour of Power.

For an easier time than a pull up, try a row. If you don’t like the sound of a kettle bell clean, pick up an object (such as a medicine ball) and put it down again. You can always do your push ups on your knees to make them easier. If you don’t like the sound of any exercise, replace it with another one; for example, if you don’t like the burpee, replace it with a abdominal crunch.

Have fun.

I’m not an exercise professional. Do this at your own risk. Talk to a professional before beginning an exercise program.

Delivering a Tough Message

A colleague of mine was recently disillusioned with a significant change that had affected them. They’d had a 1:1 meeting with their manager, chatted amicably about work for 25 minutes, and then the manager had dropped the bombshell in the last 5 minutes of the meeting. There wasn’t enough time to discuss the change, the person felt betrayed, and the meeting ended on time and with many questions unanswered.

Many people avoid the tough topics, dislike conflict, and don’t want to deliver tough messages. Unfortunately, it’s part of professional life — and here’s what I’ve learnt about how to do it.

Open with the Facts

If you’ve got something important to share, start by sharing it. Anything else you say before it will be ignored, seem trivial in hindsight, and you may even look rude for not getting started with the important topic. Take a deep breath, say “I’ve got something important to share with you”, and launch into the punchline: outline the conclusion or outcome you want to share.

Be very clear about the facts. For example, “Thanks for meeting me today, Bob. Unfortunately, you were not successful in getting the manager role: I’ve decided to promote Jenny into the role of team manager, I’ve let her know, and we will be announcing it tomorrow”. Here’s another example: “Sammy, we will not be launching your team’s Wizzle product. As a leadership team, we have decided to cancel the project, and reassign you and your team to the Zazzle initiative”.

Don’t get interrupted during the initial discussion. Politely tell the person you’re talking to that you’d like to finish. You owe it to them to share the complete outcome before they get a chance to have a conversation about it. If you want to explain how you got to the conclusion, do it after you’ve shared the conclusion — it’s a huge mistake to walk through the blow-by-blow account of the decision making process while holding back what decision you’ve made until later.

Minimize the Surprises

If you can, don’t surprise people. Lay the foundations for an important conversation by discussing what you’re thinking in the weeks or months that lead up to the decision. If you’re canceling the Wizzle product, hopefully you’ve spent weeks with the team talking about how it isn’t going well, sharing your concerns, and being clear that it isn’t meeting expectations. It’ll then be less of a shock when you make a change.

Sometimes, you have to surprise people. If you’re telling your boss you’re leaving the company, you probably haven’t been talking about it to them for months. That’s ok.

Don’t hide behind others

If you made the decision, own it. Don’t say “we” when it’s actually “I”. Don’t blame others, and don’t bring others unnecessarily into the conversation. Have the courage to own what you decided — you might not be loved for what you’ve decided, but you’ll be respected for having the courage and conviction to own your decisions.

Managers often have problems owning performance discussions. I’ve heard the story many times of a manager saying to an employee “I wanted to give you a 4.0 but my boss decided to give you a 3.0, I’m really sorry”. In 95% of cases, the manager really did drive the outcome — they didn’t put the person at the top of their list, they didn’t unreservedly advocate for the employee, and they were honest about one or more performance issues. So, own it: “When I got together with the leadership team and discussed your performance, I decided your performance was what was expected of someone at your grade and I’ve given you a 3.0. We have an amazing team, and you’ll need to work on three things to be a 4.0 at the next review”.

Conclude clearly

Make sure the conversation has been clearly understood. If you can get the person to play it back to you, you’ll be sure that it’s been understood. If you’re worried that it hasn’t been understood, you should follow it up with a written communication (an email is perfect) soon after the meeting. Indeed, this is often a good idea — I do this when I’m worried there’s room for misinterpretation, or that the decision or actions won’t stick how I want them to.

Above all, be courageous

You’re got past the initial discussion, you’ve conveyed the tough information you decided to share. Don’t change your mind. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t lose your cool. Nothing good ever comes of reversing a tough message in the heat of the moment.

Be calm. Courage doesn’t imply sternness or (worse still) yelling or anger. Be serious, but be rational, empathetic, and fair. Make sure you listen and be respectful. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

Good luck. See you next week.

Welcome to Sweatember! Here’s a fun workout for you…

It’s Sweatember! I’m amping up the exercise for the month, before I descend into the darkness of Eatober. Anyway, this month, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite workouts, fitness ideas, and more.

We’re all time-crunched, so here’s my favorite, motivating workout that fits in around 30 minutes. You can warm up, get a tough whole-body workout, cool down, and shower in in less than an hour. It’ll make you fitter, stronger, and leaner. And it’s called satellites.

Choose Five Exercises

Satellites: a tough thirty minute workout, and nothing to do with the space variety.

Satellites: a tough thirty minute workout, and nothing to do with the space variety.

Pick five exercises that don’t exercise the same body parts, and that you can do within a small corner of the gym. You’re going to be moving between the exercises frequently, so make it easy to switch between any pair. You’re going to be doing each one (maybe) 80 times, so don’t make them too challenging.

Here’s a few examples that I like:

  • Push ups – there are tens of variations. An easy variation is to find something at chest height that you can lean against at a 45 degree angle. A hard variation is a regular push up with your feet raised on the stairs
  • Squats – on the easy end, sit in a chair, stand up, and sit down again. On the hard end, try that on one leg without allowing yourself to actually sit (just touch)
  • Abdominal crunches – there’s more variations on these guys than any other exercise
  • Burpees – the basic variant goes like this: start in a push up (plank) position, jump your feet forward, reach your hands up into the air, put your hands back on the ground, and jump back into the plank
  • Jump rope – it’s good to have an aerobic exercise in the mix

This morning I chose jump rope, medicine ball slams (ball above head, slam into ground, catch, repeat), burpees, kettle bell swings, and an abs exercise (that’d take too long to explain).

You could try inverted rows, riding a stationery bike, boxing, running across the basketball court, using the rowing machine, jumping (star jumps, box jumps, hopping, and so on), something new school with a kettlebell, or something old school that looks good in the mirror (bicep curls, shoulder presses).

Write your exercises down and number them 1 to 5

Here’s an example: (1) Push ups (2) Box jumps (3) One arm kettlebell swings (4) Inverted row (5) Burpees

Prepare for satellites

Here’s the concept: each time you work through the exercises, one of them is the “planet” and the others kind of orbit as “satellites”. You’re going to do five sets, since there are five exercises.

The first set, your first exercise is the “planet”, and you go back to it between each other exercise. You do exercise 1, then 2, then 1 again, then 3, then 1 again, then 4, then 1 again, and finally 5. Shorthand: 1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5.

Since we’re getting this done in 30 minutes total, let’s do 20 seconds of each exercise, and give ourselves 10 seconds to change exercises and rest. That means you’ll get through this set in 4 minutes: 160 seconds of exercising, and 80 seconds of resting. (If you want to be picky, it’s really 3:50 since you don’t need the rest at the end.)

Once you’re done, rest for 1 minute.

Now exercise 2 is the satellite, and so on:

  • Set 2: 2-3-2-4-2-5-2-1. Rest 1 minute
  • Set 3: 3-4-3-5-3-1-3-2. Rest 1 minute
  • Set 4: 4-5-4-1-4-2-4-3. Rest 1 minute
  • And, finally, Set 5: 5-1-5-2-5-3-5-4

Five sets, four minutes each, and four minutes of resting. All done in 24 minutes. 3 minutes to warm up, and 3 minutes to stretch when you’re done. Total 30 minutes. Plenty of time for the shower.

Timing your workout

Time is hard to track when you’re sweating it out. I’d suggest getting an app for your iPhone – I like Tabata Pro, though HiiTTimer is ok too. These beep when it’s time to move to the next exercise, and they play your music in the background. You can also buy a timer online that you can hang on your wall – just like they use in boxing gyms! If all else fails, use the online-stopwatch in your web browser.

If you want it tougher, increase the length of the exercises – try 30 or 45 seconds – or make the exercises tougher.

One last tip: I like to arrange my five exercises in a line on the ground. I might put my medicine ball next to my jump rope, next to my bosu ball, next to my towel, next to a kettle bell — all in a neat line. This helps me not make mistakes and get lost — I can see which exercise is number one, two, three, four, and five, and I can easily tell what’s next.

Give it a try — enjoy Satellites!

I’m not an exercise professional. Do this at your own risk. Talk to a professional before beginning an exercise program.