I am beyond excited to reveal my new podcast - The TalentGrow Show! I think you're going to love it. ~Halelly
Scott Eblin, co-founder and president of The Eblin Group Inc., is a sought-after executive coach, speaker, and author. Halelly Azulay speaks with Scott about the challenges that leaders face when they take on too much and become overworked and overwhelmed. Scott provides practical suggestions for ways leaders can reverse the negative side-effects of our "do more with less," hyper-connected world, based on his book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. It's a personal mission for Scott, who shares his story of set-back and recovery and research-backed strategies to help anyone feeling "crazy-busy" (and who isn't?!).
*** EASY! WIN 2 BOOKS by sharing this podcast on social media! Scroll down to see details *** [4/7 - contest has ended. Congrats to our 10 lucky winners! Stay tuned for future chances to win!]
What you will learn:
What is the most common problem leaders have as they move up and how to overcome it
The paradoxical dilemma common to today's leaders
Scott's personal story about a hardship that became a source of motivation and insight
How to reverse the negative side effects of our "do more with less" hyper-connected world
Scott's simple and easy-to-understand definition of mindfulness
The practical approach that Scott believes anyone can implement to benefit easily and stop feeling overworked and overwhelmed
About Scott Eblin
As an executive coach, speaker and author, Scott Eblin helps next level leaders learn what to pick up and let go of to get game changing results.
Featured on ABC News and in Investor’s Business Daily and Harvard Management Update, Scott is a former Fortune 500 executive, with a leadership development client list that includes some of the world’s best known private and public sector organizations. He is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, which Business Book Review calls a “fascinating read” that “is full of potentially career-saving advice.”
As a former Fortune 500 executive himself, Scott knows the demanding expectations and challenges his clients face. He coaches busy, successful leaders in what he calls the “school of real life” to help them identify the strengths they can build on along with the vital few opportunities that will help them be even better. Scott is an innovator in the field of coaching who has worked with hundreds of clients in individual and group engagements that yield measurable and significant improvements in leadership effectiveness.
Scott is an honors graduate of Davidson College and holds a masters degree in public administration from Harvard University. He has a certificate in leadership coaching from Georgetown University and is a member of the faculty for that program. Scott also holds the designation of Professional Certified Coach from the International Coach Federation.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Scott Eblin's website - www.eblingroup.com
Download a free copy of Scott's Life GPS® worksheet that accompanies the book
Follow Scott Eblin on Twitter: @ScottEblin www.twitter.com/scotteblin
Intro/outro music: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians.
SPECIAL CONTEST! WIN A SIGNED COPY OF SCOTT'S BOOK!
[Contest ended 4/6/15]
It's the first episode of The TalentGrow Show and I am so excited I want to celebrate with you! I'll give away 10 AUTOGRAPHED copies of Scott Eblin's excellent new book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, to 10 lucky listeners!
UPDATED CONTEST RULES make it even easier to win!
All you have to do is SHARE!
Share this podcast on any of your social media accounts and tag me or send me an email or comment with proof: @HalellyAzulay on Twitter, @TalentGrowLLC and/or @HalellyAzulay on Facebook, Halelly Azulay on LinkedIn, or +TalentGrow or +HalellyAzulay on Google+. Also, include the hashtag #TalentGrowShow if possible.
THAT'S IT! Be entered to win 2 book!
Head over to www.eblingroup.com/get-updates and download a free copy of Scott's Life GPS® worksheet that accompanies the book. It's so helpful, you'll love using it!
Extra credit: COMMENT below to get entered TWICE!
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Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.
Halelly: Hey there, and welcome to the premiere episode of the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist. In this episode, I interview Scott Eblin, a sought after executive coach, speaker and author. Scott and I discuss the challenges that many leaders have when they take on too much and become overworked and overwhelmed, and Scott has some pretty down to earth strategies that he suggests for how to get some more mindfulness and calm into our crazy, busy lives. So check out this episode and thanks for tuning in.
Well hello there, and welcome. I am Halelly Azulay with the podcast guest that I am really pleased to introduce – Scott Eblin is an executive coach and an author and an educator who runs as the President and co-founder of the Eblin Group. He is a guy who actually has an extensive career as an executive in organizations himself, and then he has transitioned into helping other executives and other leaders and managers in organizations become better leaders. And I met Scott first, actually several years ago, through a mutual colleague, Kathy Reiffenstein, actually, who brought him into my awareness. And then I was very lucky to serve on a judging panel along with Scott when both of us were judging the Helios Apollo Awards, which is an award program here in the Washington, D.C. area that honors various organizations of all sizes for the work they do in excellent employee development and employee engagement strategies. So I got to know Scott a little bit more there, and I have always been very impressed with his work and his professionalism, so Scott, thank you for joining us on the podcast and welcome to the show.
Scott: Thank you so much. I’m so pleased to do it and back at you in being impressed with the professionalism. I’ve always felt the same way about you Halelly.
Halelly: Well thank you, I appreciate that. So, I gave a little bit of an intro to you, but I know that everybody has an interesting story about how they got to where they are, and you certainly are one of them. Can you give us the short version of how you got to where you are now, where you started in your career, and a little bit about the journey along the way?
Scott: Sure. So, as you suggested in the introduction, I was mainly a corporate person for about 15 years. Coming out of graduate school and between then and the time I started with my wife the coaching business that we have now, and I was in a couple of different sectors. I worked for the Governor of West Virginia for a couple of years. That wasn’t corporate, but we dealt with a lot of corporate people in that job because it was about economic development. And then I moved into banking, and then the energy industry, and I think one thing that all of those jobs had in common was I always worked with the top leader in whatever organization it was, whether it was the Governor or the chairman and CEO of the banking company or the CEO of the segment that I worked in in the energy industry. And so I got to see top leaders up close and personal and got to know them personally. And when I look back on it now, a lot of what I was doing back in those days was coaching. I just didn’t know it was coaching, you know? Because I was giving them the space to think out loud and a safe place to do that, which is a lot of what we do as coaches. And I made the transition to coaching at the end of the year 2000. I just kind of new, in my gut, that I wasn’t going to be in it. I wanted to be in it, but not of it, I guess, as far as the corporate stuff goes. Sometimes I joke that coaching is everything I loved about corporate life and none of the stuff I didn’t love about corporate life.
So that was 14 years ago that we started it, and my first book, The Next Level, came out in 2006, and that really kind of, in some ways, narrowed my focus, because that book really deals a lot with what do you need to pick up and let go of when you are in these bigger situations? Whether it’s a promotion or different competitive environment or increased scope or whatever it is, and so that is also about leadership presence, that book. I’d been out talking since 2006. I do a lot of speaking now in like you said, education, so since 2006 I’ve been out talking with a lot of executives about their leadership presence. But what I started to notice over the last five or six years in particular is they are all up or past their eyeballs, up to or past their eyeballs, in stuff. They’re just, as the title of my new book suggests, Overworked and Overwhelmed and I started paying more attention to that, and eventually it became clear to me if I was going to write another book, what it would be about and why I would do it, and so that led to the book that came out in October of 2014.
Halelly: And congratulations on that, what a great book. I really enjoyed reading it.
Scott: Thank you.
Halelly: Well, I think that that’s really an interesting perspective that you bring, because it’s something that I’m certainly picking up in my interactions with leaders and people who are working in organizations large and small is that sense of – I love your title, by the way, the Overworked and Overwhelmed, totally – and you see that everywhere. So, helping them alleviate that feeling is a great mission.
Scott: Yeah, it really feels like that for me. I mean, it does feel like a mission. It’s a very personal thing for me on this one. Not that The Next Level wasn’t, but this one feels more personal.
Halelly: Well, and I think that The Next Level certainly is a helpful mission, because what I think you describe in that book is that when people are moving up to greater and greater levels of responsibility in an organization, they need to let go of things that were actually exactly what helped them move up. Which seems so counterintuitive to most people and probably gets them pretty stuck.
Scott: Yeah, it’s really scary to people, and I think that probably applies in a lot of ways to the new book too. The distinction or the dichotomy in The Next Level is what do you need to pick up and what do you need to let go of to be successful at this new level? And I talk about nine different distinctions, sets of behaviors, that one either needs to pick up or let go of to do that. And I still talk with groups of executives and managers about that book frequently, and one of the early questions I’ll always ask is which is more challenging – picking up or letting go, and invariably, everybody will immediately say, “letting go.” And so we have that conversation, why is that? And “I get uncomfortable, I get nervous,” whatever, and I think a way it goes is picking up is more of a cognitive exercise for most people and letting go is more of an emotional exercise and the underlying emotion in letting go typically is fear. And so it’s just really hard, for people especially at work, and then their vulnerability – they don’t want to acknowledge usually that they’re scared.
Halelly: Yeah, wow, that’s amazing insight. It’s funny, because one of the other guests I’ve had on the show, Jill Schiefelbein we were just talking about that vulnerability and how scary that is. So that’s a really interesting distinction because it makes sense. You know, if you’re the kind of person that’s moving up, then you’re the kind of person that takes on more. You take on more work, you take on more challenges, and so taking on is not something that’s foreign and a new challenge is something that they relish. But the sense of letting go of something, it’s like the sense of loss. And so losing something is not something that we’re typically good at, and certainly the kinds of people that are overachievers – I mean, losing is just not in their vocabulary.
Scott: You probably deal with the same kind of people, but if you’re dealing with a group of high potential leaders and you ask the question, “How many of you either think of yourself or have had others refer to you as the go-to person?” and most of them will raise their hand. And so then we talk about, okay, what makes a go-to person a go-to person? And so they get stuff done. Yeah, totally, they get stuff done, and that’s a great thing to be, right? Right. Until it’s no longer a great thing to be.
Halelly: Until you’re overworked and overwhelmed! How did I get here?
Scott: Exactly. The scope gets to be so big that you can’t operate that way anymore. You can’t be the hero or the heroine in every situation. And again, it’s just a big transition. A big shift, I think, that people need to make in their career usually is that shift from being the go-to person to someone who builds and enables teams of go-to people. And it’s a big step and a lot of people miss it.
Halelly: So picking up on that being the go-to person and then having to kind of let go of that a little bit, I know that you had a personal experience with being the go getter and the go-to person, and then something happened to you that you needed to slow down or scale back. You tell this story in your new book and I was really surprised. I’ve known you for many years and it was a personal story that you shared that I wasn’t even aware of, where you went from being a person who ran two marathons, a person who self identifies as a runner and obviously a successful person – you speak everywhere, you’re well known – and all of a sudden you had this shocking diagnosis that came in 2009 that changed a lot of things for you. Would you mind talking a little bit about that?
Scott: Sure. I am happy to, because it’s part of the story, really. In the summer of 2009, you mentioned … if you asked me what are you, a runner would be one of the first words that would come back probably right after coach. Because I think when you run for 20 or 30 years like I had, that just becomes a big way you identify yourself. And so my runs were getting more and more challenging. It felt like I had lead weights in my legs for the last six months or so. Well, the first six months of 2009 it definitely felt that way. Being the good Type A person that I am, I got on WebMD and self diagnosed. My professional conclusion was that I had a condition called lumbar stenosis, which is a pinched nerve coming off your spinal cord, and so I went to a doctor and said, “I think I have lumbar stenosis. I just need you to confirm that and do whatever we need to do to fix that.” And she said, “Why don’t we run some MRIs?” And the MRIs came back and she said, “I think you have MS. You have legions on your spine.” And I was like, “What? How can that be?” But I knew something was going on, because even in the intervening two weeks between seeing her the first and second time, my feet were getting numb and I couldn’t feel them when I walked. And so the rest of 2009, the diagnosis was confirmed by a neurologist and the rest of 2009 was just a downhill slide, basically, where within a month or so of the diagnosis I could barely walk around the block in our neighborhood. And I had to drag myself up the stairs by the banister at night because my legs weren’t really moving up the stairs in a good way. And my cognitive functions, I felt like I had a wet sponge in my skull a lot of the time, just felt really mentally slow, which is pretty typical with MS.
So it kind of got worse and worse, to be honest, and over the course of 2010. I had good days and bad days, but a lot more bad days than good days. And we were trying to run a business around that. My life depends on being places, my career depends on being places and putting words together in a coherent fashion and both of those were really challenging. And my wife, Diane, has a good friend who is really kind of an amazing woman in many ways, but one of the things that makes her amazing is she’s an expert in holistic health and well being, and has done a lot of work with yoga and people with chronic disease. And she said to Diane that yoga can help people with MS. And so Diane said I should try yoga. She couldn’t think of anything else really, try yoga. I went to a yoga class close to our house and grabbed the teacher before class and said, “Hey, listen, if this isn’t going to go well, I’ve got MS and I shouldn’t even be here. You need to watch me in case I fall over, come get me.” She said, “Don’t worry about it, we have people like you here all the time. And here’s the deal – if you come here three days a week it’ll change your body. If you come here more than three days a week it’ll change your life.”
And so I chose option B, and she was right. It changed my life. It definitely changed my body, but it also was the beginning … I’d always kind of dabbled around the mindfulness space, meditate here or there, but didn’t really know what I was doing or I would take quiet time or read stuff like that, whatever. But I was in and out of it for 10 or 15 years prior to that. The yoga had such an immediate impact on not just my physical well being but also my mental and emotional well being, and one of the things, when you have MS, you have to manage your stress. Because if you don’t, your body is going to let you know it immediately. I’ve got like, actually the good thing about having MS – probably more than one – but the one is that I have a built-in bio feedback system that tells me, “You’re too overworked and overwhelmed, or you’re feeling that way,” and I recognize it a lot earlier now, just because my body tells me that. And I’ve learned what to do about it, and that’s a lot of what I talk about in the book. It’s kind of the personal reason I wrote the new book, Overworked and Overwhelmed, because I’ve learned so much over the last four and a half years about how to deal with it. And it works for me. I’m not a clinical study. I mean, I’m only one data point, but I just wanted to share my own experience. In the new book it’s not just my own experience. There’s s a lot of research.
Halelly: Oh yeah, there is.
Scott: Far and wide, and a lot of interviews I’ve done and so forth. But that was kind of the more internal reason for writing it. The external reason was because I saw such a huge pain point with the people I work with. I felt like they needed a different way to think about this stuff.
Halelly: That’s amazing. I love how you reframe the experience with the positives, what’s good about having MS and that it’s really well aligned to the … you describe four killer apps in the book – the physical, mental, relational and spiritual – and your spiritual one is a reflection and especially gratitude. So to me that sounds like a really good modeling of that.
Scott: Well thanks. It’s the benefit of perspective. When I step back and look at it, I mean, honestly I wouldn’t probably have written this book at all if I hadn’t have had the personal experience I have with MS. If I had written it, it would have been a much different book. I don’t think it would have been, honestly, if it’s good it wouldn't have been as good. Because it’s just part of my life. You deal with it and learn from it. And I guess that’s the main thing is learning from it. I’ve learned a lot from it.
Halelly: Really interesting. And so since we’re on this topic, and you have, I mean, there’s so much in this book and I hope that people who are listening will go out and get this book. I reviewed it on my blog and so of course I read it. It’s really an awesome book and I really love where it’s going. I see that it is something that is so needed out in the culture but it is such a big culture shift for everyone to see it from the, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” to the “I’m going to die sooner than I want to, if I don’t get some more restoration for myself.” So, if you don’t mind, just kind of go into an overview of the main message that you’d love for leaders and people really in all positions in any kind of a job to walk away with. If they didn’t read your book, what are some of the main messages you’d like them to have?
Scott: Absolutely. So the full title of the book – I don’t think that we’ve mentioned yet – is Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. The Mindfulness Alternative is the subtitle. So the book really begins with talking about why we feel so overworked and overwhelmed. I think there are a lot of reasons for that, but I think two of the big factors are, especially since the financial crisis of 2008, most people are working in organizations where the ethos is “do more with less.” And there’s lots and lots of evidence of that which I won’t take time today to go into that. You see it, lots of evidence for the more with less operating environments. The other big factor began, really, about a year before the financial crisis, and that was the introduction of the iPhone, the first smartphone as we know them today. It’s kind of hard to believe as we have this conversation, it’s only been seven years really since the smartphone or the iPhone and the Android phones have been on the scene. What’s the done is enabled everyone to be hyper connected.
And so one of the really interesting pieces of research I cite in the book is a study at the Center for Creative Leadership did last year, smartphone enabled executives, managers and professionals, and the average EMT as they refer to them in this study is connected to their work for 72 hours a week. And so there’s only 168 hours in any given week, so 72 of those you’re focused on work, 56 of those you’re probably some kind of combination of sleeping, eating and bathing. That leaves you 40 hours a week to do everything else you either need or want to do in your life, and there’s a lot that most people need or want to do in that remaining 40 hours. So that’s why you feel overworked and overwhelmed. And the impact of that is you end up in a chronic state of fight or flight. We all know that fight or flight in the acute sense, the physical emergency situation. You can spring into action because your body just draws all its resources, autonomic nervous system, that sympathetic nervous system aspect of your autonomic nervous system, activates fight or flight. So we’re not in acute fight or flight, most people in the West, are not in physical danger most of the time. But I think a lot of professionals today are in chronic fight or flight because of everything they’re trying to cram in. And so the impact on that, of that on your health and well being, is devastating. That’s for sure, and there are lots of reasons for that. But it’s also really a bad impact on your effectiveness as a professional. You’re a lot more anxious, you’re a lot more scattered in your thinking. Your relationships suffer. All the things that enable you to get results suffer when you’re in chronic fight or flight.
And so what I talk about in the book is everybody’s heard of fight or flight – most people haven’t heard of rest and digest. And rest and digest is the nickname for another aspect of your autonomic nervous system, it’s the parasympathetic nervous system, and it is designed to act as a counterbalance to the fight or flight response. Just like you would in a car, you need to use both the gas pedal and the brakes. What the mindfulness traditions from thousands of years like yoga and meditation, chanting, repetitive prayer, going for walks, whatever, they all have the impact of activating your rest and digest response, your parasympathetic nervous system. And it’s the rhythmic repetitive motion aspect of those kinds of practices that do that. For the modern person, sure, meditation is great, it’s awesome, I do it, but I don’t expect everybody to meditate for 20 minutes a day or more or even 10 minutes a day. But I think it’s pretty easy for most people to take three deep breaths between conversations or meetings as an example, and in doing that you activate your rest and digest response and you feel less overworked and overwhelmed. Because overworked and overwhelmed is not really a tangible thing. It’s just a feeling that you have in response to what is going on and so we have to manage the way we respond, the way we feel. And activating the rest and digest response enables us to do that. So that’s like a super long answer to a very short question! Stop and take a breath.
Halelly: It’s a great answer, and you’re right – it’s so challenging because there’s so much. And you really have packed your book with so much, but also case studies. You know, examples from real people. I think that’s something that’s really going to help folks a lot. Because I have to tell you, when you work in Corporate America, as both of us have, and you deal with the kinds of people that need this message the most, they're usually Type A, overachiever, driven, no nonsense kinds of people. And they’re very much the kind of person who – I’ll make a generalization of course here – when they hear stuff like “yoga, meditation, prayer, Eastern, stop and breath,” all this stuff, they probably, their walls probably go right up. Like, “Oh, that’s not for me. That’s for those woo-woo people who go to these retreats over in Big Sur in California and meditate together around a fire or something.” So I know that for me, I certainly, when I try to help people with things around, related to this, I find there to be a little bit of resistance and a barrier. Even to considering it. What have you found to be most effective to overcome that resistance or to break down some of those barriers as you’ve brought this message to the people who need it most?
Scott: That’s a really good question. Because I think a lot of folks think that, “Well, mindfulness, yeah. I’d have to act like a Buddhist monk or whatever to benefit from that.” And I don’t think that’s the case, really, because like I said a minute ago, there are practices that any of us can do. I like to have people work in that sweet spot between relatively easy to do and likely to make a difference. And when you talked about the killer apps, there are four domains of routines that I think people work in – physical, mental, relational and spiritual. And what I’m introducing in the book for each of those four domains is a killer app. Like if you’re only going to do one thing, start with this. Like the physical domain, there’s a lot of stuff you probably could and should do to show up more mindfully, like sleeping seven hours a night would be a good place to start. Eating well would be a good place to start.
But movement is where I would start. Because all the research shows sitting is the new smoking. If we sit on our butt for eight or nine hours a day as most professionals do, the impact on your health and well being is comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes everyday. And so the other thing that movement does is, when you get up once an hour to move for five or 10 minutes, your mental focus is 30 percent better when you get back. And so you don’t have to go to a 90-minute yoga class. You don't have to go for a three-mile walk. You can just go for a five-minute walk around the floor. Go for a 10-minute walk around the campus and benefit from that. So that’s why I’m trying to help people understand are what are the easy things that you can do to get started? Baby steps are huge. Because it’s just, you don’t start at 100 percent. Maybe you never even get there, but I love this quote from John Wooden, the late, great coach at UCLA basketball from years ago, and I think he was like a real-life Yoda. This little being with very wise sayings and one of his great quotes is, “Little steps consistently taken lead to big things.” And so if you get five percent – I want to come back to this in a minute – but if you get five percent more mindful each week, and you’re consistent in that, well, then in a month you’re 20 percent more mindful in the way you show up. Five percent doesn’t sound like much, but it does when you do it every week.
That’s kind of where I’m coming from on that, and I do want to come back to what I mean by mindfulness. I think mindfulness means a lot of things to a lot of people. And I ask a lot of colleagues to define it as well, and the way they … I heard a lot of different answers, a lot of really good answers and a lot of really long answers about what mindfulness means. That’s cool and that’s good, but I think we have to break stuff down to make it simple for people to work with. And the way I’m thinking about mindfulness is it equals two things. Mindfulness equals awareness plus intention. Awareness of what’s going on around me externally, and awareness of what’s going on inside of me internally. What’s in my external, extrinsic environment, and what’s my internal or intrinsic response to what’s going on around me externally? Once I’m aware, then I can be more intentional. Intentional about what I’m going to do, or maybe more importantly not going to do next. So I’m really trying to make it practical for people. It’s not a lot of woo-woo, like you suggested a minute ago. You can go as far as you want to go with this, and personally I’ve kind of gone farther than I ever thought I would with it at a personal level. But I know from experience, both mine and others, that you don’t need to go that far to benefit from it.
Halelly: That’s really helpful, I think, for people to hear about the baby steps. It makes it a lot less daunting, and hopefully they’ll be much more likely to give it a try. I think what’s really nice now is that a lot of supports coming out like some of the biofeedback wearables like FitBit, I have the new Basis Peak and they gameify it a little bit. You can see how many steps you’ve taken or it can buzz you to get up once an hour or you can break through some kind of a badge that says, “Be active 30 minutes each day.” Something that helps the kind of people we’re talking about, competitive, go getters, some kind of a go-getting thing to do around this effort, this intentionality. Maybe that will be something.
Scott: It’s funny you brought up the FitBit. My parents gave me a FitBit as an early Christmas present at Thanksgiving, when we got together for family time, and so I’ve been wearing one for the last three or four weeks, and it’s totally done what you said. I didn’t realize, even though I’ve been out talking about you need to get up off your butt and go move, I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t moving! Even with all the yoga I’m doing, and so honestly I’ve lost three or four pounds in the last couple of weeks just because I’m doing 10,000 steps at least everyday. You know, is that mindful or not? I don’t know.
Halelly: It’s moving in the right direction. I bet. Very cool. Listen, I know you’re busy and I know there is a lot more that we could say about this topic, and I think that your book does a great job of introducing the ideas to people. I hope that everyone will check it out. Let’s close out by, if you don’t mind just telling people where they can find you and any parting words, and thank you so much for taking time to tell your story on this podcast.
Scott: Oh, you’re welcome. I love doing it. So the book, again, is Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, and it is available on Amazon and websites like 800CEOREAD and if you want to learn more about the work that we do around the book and other things related to leadership development, you can check us out on EblinGroup.com, or follow me on Twitter @ScottEblin.
Halelly: Great. Well, Scott, thanks again. I’ve enjoyed learning from you and speaking with you, and I hope that everyone will check out your book and that listeners take baby steps to help yourself get past overworked and overwhelmed. I’ll see you on the next show.
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