This month is one year since the global pandemic lockdown. It began with the now controversial statement, “15 days to flatten the curve” – and here we are, still, with masks, lockdowns, and many whose ‘normal’ work situation has changed dramatically or has disappeared altogether through layoffs or business closures.
Sometimes this type of worldwide smack-in-the-face wakes us up from the doldrums of the predictable work week. It delivers a boost to our general alertness, elevates our level of gratefulness, and augments our creativity.
It also casts a bright light on our financial situation – especially when it comes to providing for our families. I know it has for my family. In fact, the entirety of 2020 and continuing into 2021 has altered my work patterns and priorities, probably for the remainder of my career. Here’s the situation, and what I’ve learned…
I grew up in a blue-collar home with my father a restaurant manager in my younger days, and then moving to several entrepreneurial trades as I grew into adulthood. It was with my dad that my brother and I began to make our own money and learn the trades – we began at age 12.
I did my late teens and early 20’s thing mostly with fun jobs like pizza delivery, valet parking, hotel van driver, and Nabisco sales territory (with my own car). Apparently, I relish driving. Hello, NASCAR?
Being blind of my stock car driving potential back then, I instead moved through school hoping to get out with a certificate and a decent job. Eventually, I became the FIRST in my family to graduate college – Go Titans! #CalStateFullerton.
Soon after getting my diploma, I put on my white collar, so to speak. I secured work with a ‘big’ company. Over time, I explored my strengths, honed my skills, and developed my style. I was fortunate to have built and implemented a series of impactful programs for a few organizations that shaped their industries – DirecTV, DaVita Kidney Care, and Children’s Hospital Colorado.
And then I started Five Levels Consulting. I figured I could provide value to several companies simultaneously, within the areas of communications, culture, and organizational development – continuing the work I’ve done for the previous 20 years. Except, I continued to work in corporate America, until…
BOOM! Covid-19. Worldwide pandemic.
So, like most of us, I was forced to adapt. I left my full-time corporate role and re-focused my energy at Five Levels Consulting. Today, I’ve embraced the “gig” economy – and it’s wonderful.
During the day in my white-collar role, I work with clients to develop and implement communications strategy, content, employee programs, and events. In the evening, I get my exercise and family insurance through my blue-collar role as a FedEx courier. It’s a fun and fascinating organization full of devoted and spirited employees and clientele.
The best part for me – it provides a level of personal wellbeing with time to generate ideas, meditate, or simply enjoy the open road. Yes, I’m back to driving!
Where does the red come from? There’s certainly been a lot of blood (red), sweat, and cuts (red) along the way. But my heart (and more red) has always, and will always, be in it.
All the Other Colors
This past year has fostered an improvement on my health, my family time, my work productivity, and my overall serenity. I hope it has for you as well.
It’s amazing how creative we can be in our lives to secure an income. As I took a closer look back throughout my life, I’m proud to have done this PAID work in at least 30 unique roles, purposely listed in no particular order:
I’m proud of each role – and will continue to do my best in whatever I pursue.
What types of good work have you done throughout your life, so far?
I recommend jotting them down. It provides perspective. And, in a way, it’s rejuvenating.
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I haven’t been unhealthy in nearly two years. Pull out the double-negative from the last sentence and it sounds much nicer – I’ve been healthy for the last two years.
This continuous condition of health is especially odd because of adverse added factors of stress that have recently impacted my life in several areas:
Odder still, most of my life I’ve struggled with physical ailments – born with pneumonia, respiratory allergies, food allergies, and the like. Add to it that I didn’t do anything about my respiratory allergies nor understand my food allergies for about 40 years on this earth.
These hypersensitivities compromised me physically, to where my body was always fighting something to remain healthy. Therefore, at its best, my immune system was only at 70% of capacity. In fact, I used to get sick (cold, flu, asthma, etc.) about 6-8 times a year. Each bout would knock me out for a day or four. I literally could not breathe out of my nose. Ever.
Finally, with the encouragement and elbow jabbing from my wife, I did something about it. I took allergy shots, I had nasal surgery, I tested for and stayed away from reactionary foods. And it worked. I became ‘normal’ in my breathing and my general health. I only felt unwell about twice a year, like most everyone else.
But for the past two years, I’ve not been ill to any real extent - no cold, no flu, no severe allergic reactions, no upset stomach. Nothing. I began to wonder why.
I took notice of my eating habits and my exercise habits – no change there. I took notice of my social habits and conversations – no change there. Then I overheard my wife say to our daughters, “remember to take your Juice Plus.” And I, of course took mine. A routine I started about two years ago.
Wait. Could it be? That seemed to be the only significant variable.
My wife, since I’ve known her – over 20 years now – rarely gets sick. So, I asked, “Remind me, how long you’ve been supplementing Juice Plus?”
“15 years, why?” she said.
“These vitamins work, don’t they?”
“They’re NOT vitamins; they’re FOOD. And yes, I swear by them.”
“Oh, right – food.”
Rather than wait 40 more years to better my health, I did a bit more research on the stuff I’d been digesting for the past two years. Now, I don’t usually endorse products or people, unless I’ve done my due diligence. Here’s what I found out:
Ok, here’s how all this stuff relates to our business, communications, employees, and culture. We must begin with ourselves. Specifically, our health. Because we cannot give what we don’t have. In other words, we must first be an example by hosting positive and healthy energy – only then are we able to share with others.
A positive healthy energy is a powerful tool in helping to better an individual, a team, a division, and an organization. In that order.
Here’s my next step – Juice Plus offers a Tower Garden to grow our own food (also lesson plans for classrooms gardening.) I’m in – for the good of my family’s health!
And yes, I’ll be needing those lesson plans. Just 60 more days ‘til Spring.
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I’ve been thinking about this lately, because I’ve seen much of it. One side says this, the other side says that. It makes me sad. I’m left with the feeling that I don’t know whom to trust. And trust, is a make-or-break for me in business – and in friendships!
I wanted to get it on paper in a debate-myself sort of way. Here’s how it turned out…
If someone on the street stopped us and asked, “As you conduct business, is it ok to tell a lie?” At first response to this question, many of us would say, “of course not!”
However, after we think about our work day, our team, our clients, and all the people in our organization, certain situations creep into our mind and we remember questions that have been posed to us at one time or another… “how was my presentation?”, “I had the best weekend, did you?”, “is this outfit too casual for Casual Friday?”
And then it gets even tougher when a supervisor asks, “how’d you like my quote for the press release?”, “any issues I should be aware of?”, or the dreaded, “do I have anything in my teeth?”
There have been many so-called justified instances for lying over the centuries. So many, in fact, that we’ve softened the lie into words like ‘fib’, ‘white lie’, ‘fabrication’, ‘misreport’, and ‘smoothed-tongued’, so it doesn’t FEEL like we’re lying. Some have gone as far as changing the word into something we adore, ‘fudging’, and ‘snowing.’
Here’s my position… No, we should not lie in business or in our personal life. Short answer as to why I believe this – by definition, it’s dishonest and cowardly. I do not desire to be a version of myself that includes those words.
Now, I’m not a saint (although I’m named after one), so I’m not here standing on a pedestal preaching this, having not sinned myself. But I do want to continue to grow and be better, wiser, more confident, and richer in integrity with myself and my peers.
Is it tough NOT to lie? Absolutely, because as life moves forward our situations get more complex. Here are my top four reasons why I believe lying is NOT ok – and how we can check ourselves BEFORE we prevaricate, so to speak. The first two are more self-focused; the remaining two are how we impact others:
One of the areas where we often lie the most is to ourselves. We do this to avoid facing the pain of our own shortcomings. WorldBlu, a top leadership company, teaches leaders the relationship between their level of self-worth and their ability to be honest with themselves. Leaders who have higher self-worth find it easier to be honest and accountable. Leaders, however, who don’t really love who they are, often struggle with honesty and personal accountability. If we “succeed” by lying, it really wasn’t the best we could do. If we lie and have not yet been caught, we still must live with ourselves in knowing we’re a phony.
Where to begin:
It’s on nearly every company’s “core value” list. A synonym for integrity is honesty. Lying, by definition, is dishonest. This is the opposite of integrity. Integrity is a powerful word in defining who we are to ourselves and to others. Leadership can be defined as a person with integrity that provides inspiration. To me, integrity is living up to something greater than myself.
Where to begin:
Let’s ask ourselves this question, “if someone we know lied one time, do we think she’ll lie again?” Odds are quite high that she will. Once a reputation is tainted, it’s nearly impossible to reverse it. Our professional reputation is a formidable omen to whether someone will be willing to do business with us.
Where to begin:
For decades, there have been studies on the topic of trust. It’s always a top characteristic that employees look for in their leader. In an article from Science for Work, they mention multiple studies specific to trust, including one that states employees will be more committed, more satisfied, and less likely to quit. Also, in times of change within the organization (isn’t this always?!), employees will be more flexible and accepting of these changes.
Where to begin:
ACTIONS TO TAKE...
If we find ourselves stuck in a unique situation where lying is our easy way out, here’s what I recommend. I’ll start with the weakest action and end with the best option. First, be KIND, and then:
I’ll summarize with this, the definition of lying brings up words that I would never want to be linked to, including deceitful, dishonest, two-faced, insincere, fraud, false, and hypocrite.
Brutal! So rather than leaving you with such a harsh ending, here’s how I’ll conclude – I’ll share words associated with someone who DOESN’T lie: trustworthy, sincere, moral, honest, ethical, decent, principled, candid, reliable, and honorable. (Lord knows, we can’t argue with Merriam-Webster.)
If you’ve gotten this far, thank you – I hope to have the opportunity to work with you to deliver on your business objectives. Five Levels Consulting specializes in communications strategy, planning, consultation, and implementation. And if it pertains to employees – that’s our sweet spot.
Send me a message at Blaise.Tracy@FiveLevelsConsulting.com
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No matter the reason, the root, or the cause, once an organization endorses something, they’re linked to it. Sounds ok, I guess. After all, who could argue against seatbelt safety or children’s education or the value of employee diversity?
Let’s take a closer look. I like to dive deeper into seemingly harmless decisions, like endorsements, to fully understand the impact and consequences. In this case, I’ve identified five reasons why I recommend organizations DO NOT take sides…
A corporate voice doesn’t speak for every employee.
We hear it all the time, a newspaper endorses so-and-so for President of the United States, this corporation stands up for legalizing this drug, that community group supports vaccinating our babies from a new virus.
Imagine we’re working at an organization and it comes out with a public statement advocating for one of the causes listed above, or worse, one of these:
Sounds ridiculous, until reality hits us in the head. Today, there is debate on issues that were once not controversial or even an issue at all – prisoners voting, wearing masks, sports team names, fracking, Christopher Columbus, the thirteenth Zodiac sign, Halloween moved from October 31 to the last Saturday in October (I’m still torn on this one!)
A “corporate voice”, is really the voice of a select few who’ve decided on the endorsement for their entire organization. This isn’t helpful in bringing people together, in fact…
It creates division, not inclusion.
There’s always two sides to the coin. Yes, always - in this world, anyway. So, if we choose one side, we exclude the other. Rivalries can be fun when it comes to sports teams, sports cars, and soft drinks - but when it’s about serious issues that could alter the course of an organization’s decision-making, where we work, it can be devastating.
Diversity and Inclusion is a priority in our organization, isn’t it? Therefore, how can we justify a single voice for an entire organization? We can’t and we shouldn’t. History has provided us with proof. Kings tried it with religion, dictators tried it with censorship, my daughters tried it with dating. It doesn’t last. And neither will our organization, because…
We’ll lose employees.
Undoubtedly. Whether we lose them in body or spirit, or tomorrow or next month, once something crosses the line against our morality, we usually move on and away. Why? Because people want to be near and help champion something they believe in – a leader, a product, a cause. And if our cause differs significantly with the choice someone else made for us… bye bye.
Best option is to let the adult individuals choose their own cause. It’s all around us if we pay attention - how many non-smokers work in the nicotine division of Philip Morris? Or vegans at a steak house? Or Republicans at a Democrat convention. 😊 (in jest, people. In jest!)
Yes, we’ll lose employees, and also…
We’ll lose customers.
Sadly, the word ‘boycott’ shows up too much these days for my taste. Personally, I don’t want to live in a world where I only shop at the stores, listen to the music, or dine at the restaurants where the ‘corporate voice’ completely aligns with my voice. How many times have you heard the statement “shut up and sing!” from the crowd when an entertainer decides to take a side. The same occurs with our organizations, although perhaps not as obvious or immediate.
Customers will go elsewhere if we push a cause down their throat. Just look at the fluctuation in ratings (usually down) for controversial positions that have been taken by sports organizations, movie stars, manufactures, and politicians.
And what’s worse…
It never ends.
The late great Gilda Radner’s character, Roseanne Roseannadanna put it so eloquently, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another! It’s always something.”
So, if we choose to pick a side, no matter how great the cause may seem on the surface, we may alienate our employees, our customers, and our partners – simply because, one voice does NOT serve all. Someone somewhere in your organization may agree with the other side of that coin. And in America, that is fine, but beware the consequences.
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In these times and in all times, inspiration and compassionate leadership is what we need. We need it from world leaders. We need it from our business leaders. We need it from our supervisors. And children need it from their parents.
Honorable leadership can be tough to consistently deliver, especially when tough times hit us fast and hard – but still we must. Without this integrity, our foundation crumbles and devastating outcomes can occur – families break up, businesses fail, and an individual’s mental stability starts to decline.
Even in the good times, the easy times – when integrity declines – these same devastating outcomes are much more likely to occur.
I’m a believer that as a husband, father, brother, son, friend, and supervisor, I must do everything in my power to ensure the important relationships in my life have my support, so they may learn, grow, and flourish. I, too, will flourish because of my actions in this way.
It is important to remind ourselves often of our beliefs, as our beliefs lead to our actions. Memorable quotes are one way I remind myself. Here are inspirational words from the last six United States presidents, spanning the past 40 years …
To me, it doesn’t matter who said what; it matters what they said. And it matters what actions we take following the beliefs we articulate.
America is a country founded on the premise that all individuals are created equal – and the dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I’m grateful for the opportunity to live in the United States of America and to connect and collaborate with beautiful people from all over the world.
I will take these words to heart and action – and I challenge you to do the same, no matter where you reside in this world. I’ll leave you with the words from five more of the most iconic presidents that ever lived…
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I believe there are three disciplines that must be present in defining and delivering in today’s workplace. Without them, customers will go elsewhere – and so will our employees. Each must be engrained into the fabric of what we provide, and if done right, these can positively impact our customers and employees.
One global organization boasted this leadership lingo for their employees to embrace: 8 competencies, 7 ways to succeed, 3 values, 3 brand terms, 1 mission, 1 purpose, 1 tagline. Following each of these lists came a full definition. This is the opposite of simple. Very few employees could restate much of it at all, let alone live by it.
Bottom line: Although the words existed (too many), the company leaders didn’t practice what they preached. And if the leaders don’t, neither will the employees. After all, we tend to follow the example of our leaders, don’t we?
Small things matter: This organization stated on their ‘careers’ page that people came first, yet when company descriptions like website layout were constructed, the people-centric items were listed last. Here’s the truth for that organization – revenue was the first priority; growth was second. And employees knew it.
The results: ‘Recommend this company to a friend’ hovers between 30-40% and the CEO approval rating remains in the teens. The TEENS! Additionally, the employees were not clear on the company direction, the ever-changing priorities, or their own career path.
What to do: Create or redefine a short set of simple values – no more than six. Healthy companies define values uniquely within their organization and ensure they are an important part of everyday life. Here’s how it looks - value stories are shared, peers remind each other, leaders speak to them, performance is measured by them, and the company hires and retains employees through examples and programs led by the values.
Who does Simply well:
When our car tire goes flat, we want it fixed now. In most cases we NEED it fixed now. In today’s world, we expect things quickly – our lunch, our favorite show, our packaged goods, feedback. As I sit writing this message to you, I have no home internet. It’s been down now for 24-hours. We’ve been on the phone with the provider three times and were supposed to get a call back last night, and again today. So far, nothing.
Bottom line: There are some things that MUST be immediate, or they automatically fail. Imagine these services showing up late – fire department, wedding dress, unemployment check, schoolteacher, surgeon, murder hornet exterminator, internet service.
Small things matter: My brother and I worked for a large organization early in our careers – we were both in different divisions of customer service. He told me a story about how his group was incentivized to reduce call time on the customer service line. So, the employees who hung up quicker were rewarded. Problem – many of the customer’s issues were not resolved, so they called back unhappy. Ultimately, it took longer to resolve their issue.
The results: Reduced call times = reduced costs + unhappy customers.
What to do: Invest time and money on reducing time for customers – and your employees. Provide incentives for good ideas. Rapid resolution of delivery includes software updates, shipping, and customer service. Here’s how to put it into perspective - imagine a customer’s time is just as valuable as the service or product we provide.
Who does Immediately well:
One size fits all. Ever buy a ball cap that says this? Usually they come with a slide adjuster on the back. Why? Because one size does NOT fit all. If fact, we have millions of caps to choose from, because a ballcap is one object that reflects our personality. Envision a world with all dark blue ballcaps. Although ‘blue’ is the favorite color of most people, this scenario would dilute what many of us crave – our uniqueness.
Bottom line: An organization best step up to care for the needs, expectations, and unique personal preferences of both their customers and their employees – or some other company will.
Small things matter: Our world has been hurled into a situation where most of us have been re-examining all aspects of our lives. Bubbling to the surface and graduating into something massive is the importance of lifestyle.
The results: There’s a movement for organizations to shift from an office setting into work that is more remote, flexible, and location independent.
What to do: Ask! Find out what employees prefer. Examine what future hires will want and expect. Personalize with a choice menu of sorts, especially in the areas of work location, benefits, meetings, travel, time-off, attire, and pay. Now, let’s take this same philosophy to our customer base.
Who does Personally well:
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Yes, I said ‘never’, and I know there are times when something more important will eclipse one of these five items, however, my first challenge to you is to simply remember this list. Frankly, I don’t know too many actions that are more important than these in purposefully elevating our lives, and the lives of those we meet.
Take a Shower.
You may ask why this is on the list. Well, it’s been on my list since I was a kid, here’s why: If we can shower, it means we’re quite lucky. Many of our fellow global citizens do not have this privilege. The act of showering reminds me not to take things for granted and instead to be grateful for what I have. It’s a warm and wonderful start to each day in cleansing my body and my mind. Bonus: your friends (or strangers on the train) that sit next to you will be grateful as well.
This week’s challenge: take a shower and reflect on one thing you’re grateful for (besides the delight of the shower.)
Help a Friend.
The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.” Now, I understand that his quote is 2,300 years old, so here’s a more modern take from Kristen Fuller, M.D. In her 2017 piece from Psychology Today, she shares with us “Six Benefits of Healthy Friendships”, in the areas of social skills, reality checks, healthy romantic relationships, better relationship with ourselves, improved health – plus friends comfort us in sorrow and lift us up in joy. And from me today, in 2020, I’ll just say it like this, “be the friend you wish to have and put a smile on both your faces.”
This week’s challenge: call or write to a friend who needs a boost right now.
Give a Compliment.
Let’s start with success in business – in study results posted by Harvard Business Review from Losada & Heaphy’s The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams, 2004 - top performing teams give each other more than five positive comments for every criticism. The lowest performing teams? Three negative comments for every one positive. I’m betting those results haven’t changed much over time.
This week’s challenge: give a compliment to someone and brighten the world a bit.
Find a Silver Lining.
It’s a worldwide pandemic, how can we find a silver lining when people are getting sick, dying, losing jobs, unable to gather and generally scared of what happens next? Well, yes, aiming for the negative is one way to look at it. Here’s another... aim to find a treasure. Here’s what I see – people are spending more time with family, slowing down, supporting each other, sharing their talents and coming together in ways that have rarely been done before – on video conferencing, six-feet-apart socials in the driveway, in lines of cars honking to celebrate birthdays and graduations, and with free online music concerts. Plus, I believe along with Dennis Prager that we have a moral obligation to be happy.
This week’s challenge: take five minutes to watch Dennis Prager’s video “Why Be Happy.”
Ok, now I’ve gone and done it. I’ve added one of the dreaded topics we should rarely discuss with colleagues – religion. Yikes! Let me say this – if you don’t believe in prayer or you’re an atheist, that’s fine. Then, please take this item and formulate your own wisdom around it. Here’s my reasoning – if praying doesn’t work, no harm done. If it does, wow!
This week’s challenge: say a prayer or think of someone who needs your love right now. Then absorb these words… “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
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Three months into a global pandemic and I see the good in it. Odd to say, I know. I’ll call it my silver lining. It helps me get through each day and it’s become apparent to me how beautiful the people in our world can be.
Now, I fully understand this will be much tougher times for many of us. My prayers go out to each of you if this time has become more of a struggle in any part of your life. My hope is this brief post will open up some joy in a world of unknown.
Here are four observances I’ve seen in others. I, too, am embracing them. Hope you’ll join me.
To me this is the first thing I noticed. It’s slowed down in wonderful ways. Over the past few decades, the pace of seemingly everything has accelerated beyond what our fellow humans can confine. Everyday demands in work expectations, parenting, social media ubiquity and endless content streaming have led to a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ and ‘FOMO’ mindset. The result has been significant increases in anxiety, stress, depression or worse. We needed a smack in the face – something that would slow us down, have us reexamine our lives and force us to prioritize our purpose. It’s here. Let’s welcome it. In other words… stop and smell the roses.
I’ve seen incredible creativity in organizations adapting to the stay-at-home situation, while keeping productivity and spirits high. My company has moved to video conferencing check-ins where we showcase our favorite coffee mug, wear our most nostalgic t-shirt and simply host ‘how are we doing’ meetings. I’m getting together with friends for virtual happy hours, my daughter and I had lunch together on Facetime, and my wife and I have found we’re grateful for more time together. Even the dogs seem happier with their longer walks! To all those that are caring for us during this time – grocery workers, nurses, police, firefighters, truckers, manufacturers, farmers… and so many more. Thank you, bless you, and wishing you health and wellness.
I find that people are still coming together – staying away, yet coming together. I’ve always believed in ‘people first’. I’ve seen companies thrive, simply because they purposefully elevate people to the forefront of everything, including their decision-making, organizational structure, learning opportunities and even taking into account the family dynamic. Seems logical, but how many examples do we see where we see these things before people… money, expansion, indulgence, stuff. I’ve seen a resurgent on neighborly acts and an employee-driven, heart-led approach.
My daughter discovered board games and invited three friends to join. Board games! She’s 18. Come on! I did not believe it, but there it was right in front of me. She even asked if we had MORE board games. She’s also the one who roller-skated through the kitchen and redecorated her room. When my wife and I picked up our jaws from the floor, we realized how great it is to have her home from school. Also, my wife sent me on a 20-mile round trip for a porch pickup croquet game. Croquet! I didn’t hesitate. Now she’s getting out the hula-hoops. Board games and yard games. I like.
As much of the world shares in the joy of Easter in the coming weeks, I think it relates nicely our circumstance. Easter is a celebration of new life after dark times. Yes, times may seem dark. However, I’m seeing the new life happening now. Are you?
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Under 30 years old. What can they bring to the table in the workplace, we might say? A lot.
They are Generation Z. And all indications conclude that this generation is becoming a powerful force in personal responsibility, self-care, mobility and innovation. They’re young, intelligent, fiscally conservative and have a bunch of fun nicknames – Gen Connected, Screenagers, iGen, Digital Integrators, The Zeds, Dot Com Kids.
My wife, Roseanne, and I call our Gen Z kids, Sophia and Madison. Our twins are beginning their careers each in an area where we (and they) believe will make a positive impact in the world – hospitality and culinary. Why? Because both areas bring people together, in person, in a beautiful way.
If we own a business or supervise others and must hire, I recommend employing one of the 2.5 billion Zedders born between 1995 and 2005. Here’s my reasoning…
As of now, Gen Zedders spend 8-10 hours a day socializing with friends and family. Move that mindset into the workplace and envision how productive they can be in the areas where people, products and services come together. Wait, isn’t that every workplace? Coach them properly on service excellence and drop them into front-of-the-house positions to attract and retain a wider range of consumers and clients.
According to People Guru, over 70% of Z’s want to start their own business. I believe this also means they will view a workplace as if it was their own. They will work hard to learn, serve and deliver. Naturally they will ask questions, try new options, solve problems and work in teams. What comes of this? Improved business environment, service excellence and superior products.
iGens want to do good. And they want their businesses to follow suit. People Guru tells us that over 90% say an organization’s impact on society affects their decision to work there. I’ve learned that once there, keeping them happy and engaged can be done if employers understand them. My number one recommendation in retaining employees of any age is this – ask them! And then deliver on their requests. Here are some hints on what attracts the iGens from the HR Exchange Network – unique career advancement opportunities, innovation opportunities, group work, remote work and a flexible schedule.
Nearly 75% of these Zoomers are connected within an hour of waking up and, according to Paradigm Sports, they are exposed to more information in ONE day, than GenX or Boomers would see in an entire lifetime. Their natural leadership style is collaboration and contribution. Employers be aware - they will look for mentors in this space, replacing the old guard of command, control and competition from their peers and bosses.
Dot Com Kid’s attention span is 8 seconds. Yes, it is the same attention span as a goldfish, but here’s why this is a good thing: in less than 8 seconds people develop a first impression; they decide whether to stop or keep reading past the headline of our article/advertisement/story. Now let’s take that to the workplace. If we don’t get our audience’s attention we can’t… develop a relationship, sell a product, fix a problem, hear our employee concerns, deliver impactful messaging, educate or build awareness. Let these Dot Commers be our guide.
And here’s a nice bonus…
Nearly 90% are extremely close to their parents, says Paradigm Sports. Aww 😊 Here are a few things that mom and pop understand about their kids – and what we should grasp about these Post-Millennials:
Go get ‘em! They’re here and about ready to pass the Millennials in the numbers joining the workforce. The Z crowd is shifting the future of business. I believe with them on our team, our business will thrive in making our vision a reality.
Now, imagine these industries – and consider who you’d want as a signature member of your team, an old-schooler or the fresh eyes of a Gen Z? Hospitality. Sales. Culinary. Digital Marketing. Technology. Design. Communications. Environment. Entertainment.
You know my vote.
P.S. If you like this one… you may enjoy “Hire Them. They’re Over 50.”
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Excuse me… what now…why would we do such a thing?
Here’s my reasoning…
Over the past quarter-of-a-century, I’ve been fortunate to be in team leader positions for several organizations working with wonderful people. During this time, I’ve witnessed remarkably positive impacts in a multitude of industries generated by some of the most talented and united teams. Other teams I’ve been a part of? Well, I’ll just say there was a lack of love and lucidity.
In America, we’re blessed to be living in the most diverse country in the world. And because of this, all of us have the advantage to find the right blend of talent. When we do, we have the opportunity to deliver superior products and services across any industry.
The united teams I’ve led were naturally diverse. United and diverse? Sounds like an oxy-moron – but toss in time and trust and these are the ingredients for a flavorful mix of tasty achievements. Each of us offers a diverse perspective to a team. It shows up innately and shines through in our reasoning, our suggestions, our relations, and in the actions we take.
The number of years on this earth is on the list of diverse ingredients. “Salt of the Earth” as they say! Adding this seasoned spice is a valuable attribute for any team. Today, there are five generations in our workforce. Imagine a team of five, with one person from each generation. Now imagine the multiple-viewpoint approach to finding a solution with this team. Unstoppable, if you ask me.
Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. has shared with the world the 12 stages of life. In two of these stages Early Adulthood (ages 20-35) and Midlife (ages 35-50) we see much of their focus is on enterprise and contemplation. The first bracket is pre-occupied with finding a mate, exploring career options, and establishing friend-circles. Our midlife-selves are engrossed in taking a break from worldly responsibilities and reflecting on the deeper meanings of our lives.
Mature adulthood (ages 50+), Armstrong states, are those individuals that “have raised families, established themselves in their work life, and become contributors to the betterment of society.” Benevolence and Wisdom shine within these folks. They are in the prime of their working career having learned the importance of self and service. At this point they want to work, more now than ever. Many are supporting kids in college, have house payments, and wish to establish a level of security for their families.
In my career, I’ve hired from every age group. There’s a magic in 50-somethings. Here’s why they bubble to the top, in my assessment:
1. Wisdom. Wisdom brings with it a calm and confident individual. They have a proven track record. They’ve done good work, made the mistakes, and learned from their rich history. Without this, we repeat mistakes from the past. I’ve worked at some companies long enough where I’ve begun to see 20- and 30-somethings developing the same types of programs that were unsuccessful the FIRST time it was tried at the organization, years prior.
2. Respect. Many younger folks haven’t learned the depth of this important character trait. With a value of respect to everyone, many good and important actions can follow, including service excellence, customer satisfaction, and generosity. There’s a book titled “You can’t teach a kid to ride a bike at a seminar.” This is a clever title that hits us in our face with its bold validity. It’s been a couple generations now since service excellence has been at the forefront of business priorities. Fresh companies with the Southwest, Ritz Carlton and Nordstrom’s overall value of respectful face-to-face interactions are becoming rarer and rarer.
3. Accountability. In most cases, integrity builds as we live through our 30’s and 40s. By the time we hit 50, we’ve established a strong work ethic. We own our work. We share our learnings. We build other leaders. This value takes a while to fully grasp and seems to slip past many people early in their career.
4. Benevolence. Younger people on the team will benefit from the knowledge and reliability of a confident adult who works smartly and also serves the community. Bonus: Younger worker satisfaction and loyalty increases when both their job role and organization contribute to a better society (social capital.)
5. Loyalty. They stick around. They’re mature enough to understand how to build genuine relationships. Trust comes much faster since this group is savvy to the workplace environment. They know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, so they make things work where they are.
Here are some other things I’ve heard - and what I recommend we consider in response…
“Hire younger and we can mold them.”
“Hire younger for half the price.”
“50+ are too costly.”
“50+ isn’t cutting edge.”
Now, imagine these industries – and consider who you’d want as a signature member of your team, a 50-something, or a newbie? Hospitality. Construction. Sales. Healthcare. Finance. Manufacturing. Airlines. Education.
You know my vote.
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One year ago, on January 1, 2018 I challenged myself with something I wasn’t sure I could do. One pushup for each additional day of the year. Every day. All year long.
On January 1. I did one pushup.
On March 31, I did 90 pushups. (31 for January + 28 for February + 31 for March.)
On June 30, 2018, I did 181 pushups for that day. At that point, during the first six months of the year, I had completed 16,471 pushups. By December 31, 2018, my goal would be 66,795 pushups for the year. Because, exponentially my pushups continued to increase daily.
At my six-month point, I wrote about the lessons I learned. At the time, they included:
– Strength: in mind and body
– Confidence: a sense of purpose
– Patience: in my pace and in the overall goal
– Humility: that I could physically attempt a goal like this
– Adaptation: in my daily challenge, especially as things got tougher
It’s now January 2019 and my year challenge is officially done. Did I reach my goal of 66,795 pushups? No. And that’s why I will share with you five of my most memorable lessons during these previous 365 days, and my attempt at a ridiculous number of pushups.
1. Procrastination Is Deadly
Yes, there were days that slipped by me where I didn’t do my pushups. “No!” they yelled. “It can’t be true!” Seriously, it happened. In fact, I had to remove my Captain America shirt because I didn’t truly earn it on those days.
Psychology Today tells us there are three main types of procrastinators, (a) arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait until the last minute to reap a euphoric rush, (b) avoiders, who put off tasks because of fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them (ya, this is where I fall) and (c) decisional procrastinators, who are unable to make a decision. Why? Because not deciding absolves them of responsibility for outcomes of events.
Now, some of us reside in group c and we need to understand there are big costs resulting from this group, including eroding personal relationships and teamwork in the workplace. Additionally, these people suffer such problems as insomnia, immune system, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
In doing my pushups, I missed several days, and my procrastination consequences resulted in doubling or tripling my number of pushups in subsequent days. Sometimes that amounted to 600+ pushups in a single day. At that point, I needed rest.
2. Rest Is Essential
My muscles began to breakdown in the month of August. Let’s see, that’s around 210-240 pushups a day, every day. Sounds reasonable, but when I had already done 25,000 pushups in the weeks and months prior, it began to wear me out. My mind was there, but my body was tearing apart. Literally, if I had continued at that pace, it would have begun to have a significantly negative impact on me. Rest. It is an imperative ingredient to our success, whether it be resting after a physical workout, resting after small business victories, sleeping 7-8 hours each night, or allowing time for ourselves in meditation, massage, or meal. Lack of resting my muscles - this was the main reason I did not hit my December 31 goal.
3. Goals Are Necessary
Many of us set them in our work lives; how many of us do the same in our personal lives? There are five key areas where we must be mindful – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Short change one of these and the other five will most likely feel a dent as well.
Goals need to be long-term and short term. Most importantly, insert easy to attain goals along the way to reaching the larger ones. This provides hope, rewards, and inspiration to ourselves. And it’s an excuse to recognize our accomplishments.
4. Recognition Is Powerful
Lack of recognition continues to show up as a top reason why people leave their job. Why not use this example to keep ourselves fulfilled? Many of us are our worst critic. It’s a new year, let’s take it easy on ourselves. I mean really, unless it truly is brain surgery, it’s not brain surgery! Everything we do isn’t going to make or break our world. There’s enough stress and anxiety out there to kill off the dinosaurs… hey wait.
What I learned along the way with this simple exercise, so to speak, is it provided natural rewards along the way – I felt stronger, I had daily achievements, I accomplished much. One of the most powerful things we can do is tell another person what we’re going to do. Telling at least one other person provides an incentive and a level of accountability for both of you. After all, if we don’t do what we said, they’ll know! The best part for me - my wife and friends encouraged me. But after all that…
5. Sh!t Happens
This isn’t just a “saying.” It’s true! Plans change, the family gets the flu, the car needs four new tires, we run out of wine, Tide pod challenge begins, money runs short, grandma moves in, the teenager says she wants to take a ‘gap’ year, your team misses the playoffs, Sears goes out of business. Yeah, 2018 was flying in all directions.
Bottom line, we know it happens. Therefore, our best laid plans will need to be adjusted. Life is an adventure. That’s why I like to take the scenic route.
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As I creep into a deeper age of wisdom, my curiosity continues to multiply. I’m slowing down, literally, in more ways than one. Dare I say, physically. But more importantly and wonderfully, I’m slowing down perceptually.
I’m enjoying the gifts of time, relaxation and using more of my five senses. I’m becoming more observant. Although my wife may disagree that ‘observant’ is on my list of strengths.
I am more observant. Maybe not with the things that are blatantly obvious, like the time my wife held a surfboard for a friend’s Christmas gift and it took me two days to notice it leaning against our family room wall. I’m much better discovering the small things, like when someone rearranges my couch pillow.
In the rush of life, there seems to be a constant push to be better, faster, produce more, work more, buy more and talk more. So many of us forget the importance of pausing, listening, observing, contemplating and relaxing. Wow. Just saying those last few words drops the tension in my shoulders.
I tend to find the calming spots to unwind more often. As I begun this article, I’m sitting outdoors near a hotel pool on a beautiful sunny day in Southern California. I’m away from home, and yet amid the chaos of work, traffic, travel, and living out of a suitcase for a week, my Saturday afternoon is quite nice. Now, as I finish this note, I’m in a Colorado coffee shop after the dinner hour accompanied by nice music and only three other people in the entire building. Ahh.
As my personal tradition, I make it a point every year to purposefully stop and smell the pumpkins and peppermints from October 1 through January 1.
Here’s how I do it…
Enjoy the beauty. It’s all around us. Let me know how it goes.
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If we know our audience well, we don’t have to come out with a blatant (and blanket) statement, like my subject line, to grab our audience’s attention. Instead, the engagement we’re seeking is understood. Why? Because we’ve done our homework.
Once the homework is done, both our subject line and our subject content can be much more laser-focused on the needs of our audience - the subject line to attract their attention and the subject content to keep their attention. Meaning, content that educates our audience and continues to entice in some way. In the realm of strawberries, it could be something like one of these facts:
These are generic statements, although interesting to some degree, they cast the audience net quite wide. In other words, we’re going for the masses. What’s more powerful in attracting and keeping our audience is if we can personalize our message to smaller groups – like, say those nice folks in Delaware who may be interested to know May 21-27 is Strawberry Week in their state. Or citizens of California who may want to know that their daiquiris can be made very fresh since their state produces 80 percent of strawberry crops in the U.S.
Who cares about strawberries? Well, maybe we all do. In many cases it is appropriate, and perhaps necessary, to cast our communications net wide to hit the masses. Certain truths can be a powerful tool to draw-in our audience, like the facts that strawberries:
These prior statements can be made even more impactful through personalization. Imagine these scenarios in promoting strawberries and encouraging our audience to act…
Still doubtful? Then turn to sex. Umm, I mean, sex sells, as they say. In France, they believe strawberries are an aphrodisiac. So much so, that strawberries are served to newlyweds at traditional wedding breakfasts in the form of a creamy sweet soup. The French. Seems they’ve cornered the romance thing in just about every aspect.
The innate interest of our article or story can be found in the subconscious of our audience. And therefore, if we tap into where their mind already is – we can be much more persuasive. The result – our audience will continue to read, absorb, understand, and act – if that is our intent.
If you’ve gotten this far and you don’t like strawberries I must say…
Sources: Food Republic; Country Living
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I’m fascinated by numbers. High school math, not so much. But numbers, wow! And equations and theories and philosophy and science – WOW! Here’s what I mean…
On January 1, 2018 I challenged myself with something I wasn’t sure I could do. One pushup for each additional day of the year. Every day. All year long.
On January 1. I did one pushup.
On March 31, I did 90 pushups. (31 for January + 28 for February + 31 for March.)
It’s now June 30 and I’m half way to my goal – or so I think. Today I completed 181 pushups. Now here’s where it gets ludicrous. As of June 30, I will have completed 16,471 pushups in these first six months of the year. If you told me to complete 16,471 pushups in six months, I wouldn’t believe I could do it.
Speaking of ludicrous, here’s a fact that is both true and false: I’m halfway complete.
TRUE: specific to time, I’m 50% complete. It’s halfway through the year.
FALSE: specific to number of pushups, I’m less than 25% complete.
Why only 25% complete on pushups? Because the daily number of pushups increases exponentially each day.
How many pushups will I complete by the end of the year. 66,795.
Frankly, this is the first time I’ve added it up. Hence, one lesson I’ve learned from this personal test – sometimes is better not to know the full scope of the challenges ahead!
Here are my most memorable five lessons thus far. These, I believe slice through all aspects of our lives – home, work, family, friends, school, hobbies, and the unexpected.
In mind and in body. The first 60 days I just did it. Day by day. The next 30, I began to feel the drag. It was tough! And every day it got tougher. I found out quickly that March is a bitch! It’s the first 31-day month and it seems to never end. Because of this, my mind began to edit itself. I woke knowing I needed to accomplish something for my own good. Interestingly, my undiagnosed OCD also kept me on track. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, in case you were wondering. Meaning, when it came to the pushups, I had to complete them at least one full month’s worth at a time. I’m at the point now where I can hit 90 pushups non-stop. Something I couldn’t do before.
I feel stronger. I feel accomplished. I have a bit more sense of purpose. Strange, yes, but it’s true for me. I do a lot of things for others, and many times days go by where I forget to care for myself. This small act allows me to remember to take care of myself, daily. And besides, I don’t think I’ve really ever stuck fully to my new year’s resolution… have you?
I’m of average strength, unlike the remarkable Jack LaLanne. R.I.P. Therefore, I never expected to complete 365 pushups in a single non-stop session. I desire to, and maybe one day I’ll get there, but it wasn’t an objective. The single goal was to get through it, however I could. Pace and patience became more influential as the days progressed. I took breaks, yet I completed the entire set in a single time period. In other words, I didn’t spread my set across the entire day. This, however, is something that may change in the second half. It reminds me of a book on leadership by Marshall Goldsmith, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” He’s an expert at helping global leaders overcome their sometimes-unconscious annoying habits and attain a higher level of success. It’s a book that’s on my ‘to read’ list. At this point, the title alone has helped me reflect on this task.
I’m grateful that at this point in my life that I have the ability to do pushups. There are many that struggle with life challenges that will not allow this type of thing. We all have our challenges. I did this to see if I could set a goal outside of my comfort zone and tackle it. I’ve done this before, but not so much at my own discretion. Usually it’s a work project, a volunteer opportunity, or a 5K run! I’ve learned one significant secret to happiness is gratefulness.
Those with disabilities must adapt. Their minds open up and their bodies change to allow progress, sometimes in ways much more astounding than expected. Those without arms, learn to write and eat with their feet. Those without sight or sound or smell become perceptive with their remaining senses to balance their circumstances. I adapted to my circumstances. I moved quickly when I felt strong, skipped my exercise when I became ill, and made it up on other days when I felt better. I kept my daily goal within reach and never let it get too far away.
Ultimately, what I’m learning is we need to challenge ourselves. And to get most things done, it’s important to examine the situation from multiple angles. When we do, the results can be powerful and surprising.
Part 2 of this written feature will occur when I complete my goal. I’ll be sure to share what I learned from July through December. So, we'll chat then, on Monday, December 31, 2018.
* this is math. I’m not an expert in this area. I did surface level research and I am directional accurate, however I may not be precisely correct. If I’m not, I’d love your final answer.
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An apple will turn brown and shrivel if it just sits there. It happens to us, too. Our body shrivels if we sit too long - as does our brain. Atrophy is defined as “to cause to wither or deteriorate.” Cells of the brain and central nervous system may atrophy in old age because of restricted blood flow to those areas. Yikes! Let’s get the blood flowing, people!
I say, rather than wither, let’s be “fresh.” Now, the dictionary has more than a dozen definitions of the word, including smart-alecky, uncured, inexperienced, sassy, supplementary, and brisk. I wish to discuss none of these. The “fresh” I’d like to address boasts these wonderful adjectives:
To me, “fresh” also means “keeping our edge.” What I mean is - we hone our skills, we experience life boldly, we study, discover, practice, and comprehend absolutely. Fresh is appealing.
Here are five areas that have helped me continue to pursue “freshness” on a life-scale within the 8 to 10 range…
Amend our style
Here, I’m talking our fashion, our polish, our refinement. For instance, if we’ve had the same hairdo since the 80s, perhaps it’s time to trust our stylist for a more modern approach. Men, we have the option to grow a beard or shave our beard. If we grow, let’s keep it trimmed. If we shave it off, let’s just don’t do it during hockey playoffs or we’ll jinx our team out of the run for the Stanley Cup. Every now and again, all of us need to walk into a few clothing stores that aren’t on our familiarity list and see what’s fresh. The folks in those shops usually have pretty good taste and would love to help. Or, just bring a lady with you. My general rule is, if the ladies like it, I’ll wear it.
Bonus: We need to stack this planet with wonderfully moral characters, so whatever we do when it comes to change – let’s keep our character. Unless, of course, we’re an ass. Then let’s look in the mirror, call an expert, and get to work on our self.
Converse with a stranger
My daughter and I were fortunate enough to share a taxi with a nice couple as we arrived in New Orleans one summer. The couple was in their late 80s and very friendly and talkative. They told us of a nice swing band at the Ritz Carlton playing the next evening, so my daughter and I decided to go. It was terrific watching them show the youngsters how to dance. A wonderful evening occurred, all because we were open to a chat.
Bonus: Be cool with this one. Let’s not be creeps. Or converse with creeps. This isn’t a trolling expedition, it’s about hearing the stories of others. Sharing stories and hearing others’ adventures creates wisdom and memories.
Listen to the unfamiliar
Classical music for instance. These are the genius composers of music, played by genius musicians. It can be candy for our ears. Visit a park to listen and we’ll most likely hear kids playing, birds chirping, river water, and the breeze, among other things. If we don’t hear these things, we’re at the wrong park! Yes, I enjoy a Hallmark movie every now and then. Don’t judge.
Bonus: Periodically, take away all sound by using noise-canceling headphones. Back in the day I did this with the Clash song, Train in Vain and realized there were not one, but two singers in harmony. It was a spectacular sound that I never knew prior to that moment.
Master a unique talent
When I was in my early 20s I decided to learn five things that were quirky and unique. Something that would set me apart from others, just for kicks. And occasionally, they show up in conversation or action, and people smile because of it. They are a simple magic trick, walking on my hands, juggling, unicycle, and a quick joke. Yes, I’ve heard it before… I should combine a few of these and join the circus!
Bonus: During my 30s, I came up with five more unique areas, and did the same in my 40s. I’ll continue as long as I’m blessed with a new decade. Hope you decide to join me in this venture.
No need for us to go crazy on this one. Let’s be smart and safe, otherwise we may be to blame for a missing person’s report. Instead, let’s make it simple. It can be as easy as taking another route home from work. It’s quite nice seeing something new. If you ride a bike, take a different trail. Enjoy spaghetti for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. If you work in a large building, visit some floors where you’ve never been and introduce yourself to a couple of folks. Robert Frost, the 19th century American poet, said it best, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Bonus: Take a friend or loved one and pack a couple of sandwiches or some fried chicken to enjoy with a blanket under a tree. Wine helps too.
Basically, try “fresh” things. Pretty soon, we have better stories to tell - audience-captivating stories. Stories that intrigue, persuade, and sell. So yes, this practice is great for our business as well.
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I was shaving my face the other day and things got ugly. Blood, sweat, and tears ugly. In the process of this single shave, I cut my neck, my lip, and the skin alongside my jawline. The white sink began to splatter red.
Now, at the gamble of getting gross, I’ll stop my story here (too late?) Anyway, it made me think. I concluded that a few factors are in play here – the person, the circumstance, and the tool. In most cases, the setup of these three factors is what determines our failure or success. In my case that morning, my mood was on the positive side, the circumstance was very familiar, and the tool was excellent. So, what went wrong?
I didn’t let the tool do the work.
I tried to force the tool to cut deeper and faster. I pushed. In other words, I led from behind. This can be the pattern of poor leaders as well. Poor leaders push others from behind. They force individuals to do things through manipulation and fear. They call their employees “staff”, or “workers”, or “operatives.” Poor leaders treat individuals as if they are expendable – like the cheap, flat, wrench tool that comes in an Ikea box.
Of course, we must guide the tool, as good supervisors do. Guidance is leadership. The dictionary states that synonyms to ‘guidance’ include: leadership; instruction; direction. Choose the right tool and let it perform to the best of its ability, with our guidance. Similarly, hire the right person and let them perform to the best of their ability with our guidance. The person and the tool go hand-in-hand, so to speak.
Great leaders create a vision – a daring destination – and go first to show others where we’re going. They inspire, guide, and partner with the individuals on their team. They lead by example because they love what they do, and they truly value the individuals on their team. They value the people in their lives because of who they are, as opposed to only what they accomplish.
This notion of leadership has been adopted in many ways, by many respected leaders:
The person. The circumstance. The tool. All need to align to produce the best results. Respect the tool. The tool is the instrument that is the catalyst for a job well done. The tool can be anything – a razor, a saw, a pen, a laptop. The one thing it cannot be… it cannot be your employee. If we see our employees as tools, we need an intense lesson in leadership.
Treat a person like a tool, and they’ll move on. As they should. Guide a person into success, and when they’re ready to move on, they will be a more talented and wiser individual. As will we.
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“When a meeting gets cancelled… I actual hear a sigh of relief… that isn’t good!
That’s a part of your (employee) culture.”
“We can save (companies) millions of dollars…”
“What happens when people get engaged at a company? They start to share ideas with each other… they start to care for each other… productivity goes way up.”
“If executives start walking the talk, engagement levels can go up by 50%...
you’re going to get more productivity, make more money, expand and grow…”
“I know how to make it work.”
Special thank you to Justin Spicer of Globeville Studios - he's a terrific man and a wonderfully visual artist.
Sure, we can talk about the weather. Aaaaaand, now you’ve lost me. That’s about how long I stay interested in whether I should wear a coat tomorrow or not.
Unless, it’s a blizzard, a drought, a tornado, or a biblical blood-red moon moment, the weather is the weather. Its everydayness is about as interesting as a nat. Even the meteorologists often make snippy side comments: “It’ll be a blah day tomorrow, with some scattered showers.” “We’ll need to wait a few days as this storm passes before we see the sun again.” “It’s partly cloudy today.”
Partly cloudy? How about partly sunny! Let’s kick it up a notch, shall we? Or, let’s learn to embrace it. Embracing (acceptance of) our situation is one secret to an elevated enjoyment of home-life and work-life. Here are two examples of how I spun my perspective 180 degrees:
I used to say I didn’t like the rain. I liked nearly all other weather patterns – wind, snow, sun, clouds. I just didn’t like the rain, until… one day, I decided I will like the rain. I embraced the rain, so to speak. I looked for the good in rain. It waters the grass, it washes my car, and it provides a reason for me to cozy-up inside and read a good book. More - it helps me concentrate, it relaxes me, it provides a great sound for napping, I love to drive in the rain. And after a good rain, the neighborhood is clean and the air smells wonderful.
It’s Monday. It’s Tuesday. Ouch. Those are the two toughest days of the week, don’t you agree? In fact, Tuesday has been diagnosed as the most stressful day of the work week, according to The Telegraph among other sources. And Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. – forget about it – worst day AND time! Therefore, I chose to embrace it. I offered up bagel Mondays at my workplace. I set my calendar for an extra hour of ‘me time’ during these mornings, to allow more time to acclimate. I did not schedule weekly team meetings on Tuesdays, or if I did, we met for breakfast (yes - food works in the realm of boosting happiness!)
And now, back to the weather…
If you say to me, “Hey Blaise, let’s discuss the weather today.” My head will think, and perhaps my mouth will spit out, “Ok, fine…you’ve got 10 seconds,” or the unrulier side of me may take over and say, “No. Let’s not.”
At times I’ve hosted a workshop for kids titled: How To Make Something Boring Into Something Interesting. Now, I do that for a living. I’m a writer and a storyteller. I turn the 'boring' into the 'interesting', so my audience will enjoy receiving the information. Most people work off the same concept: boring, we’re done; interesting, I’ll listen.
Merriam Webster defines it as follows: interesting is an adjective that describes the thing that a person or people are responding to. Things that we like and want to know more about are interesting. If we turn something boring into something interesting, we’ll capture our audience. Consequently, if we wish to speak of the weather, here’s how to kick it up a notch:
More interesting topics, specific to weather patterns:
The last one, yeah, I’m doing a bit of research. This may be a Spring project.
More interesting topics, period (how dare you speak of this!):
Careful with these last two. Let’s be civil, people. Limit, or don’t, bring these up in the workplace – unless our workplace is a church or a government facility. Now, where can I purchase a small palm tree…
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For me, the biggest Heartbreaker was when Tom Petty passed. A living legend for more than 40 years gracing us with his talent for songwriting, his grit, his love for his fans, and for his legendary stage performances.
Petty’s 40th Anniversary Tour was led by this man who had broken his hip, and yet continued to perform until the end. Literally. He had a fractured hip for the 53-date tour. Tom loved his job and he was remarkably dedicated to his band and his fans, of which, 600,000 of them were lucky enough to see him live on his last tour.
Imagine, loving our job and being so dedicated to performing well, that we’d continue to work through this type of adversity for our team and for our cause. It is possible, if we want it.
Tom Petty’s servant leadership can be an example for us. It’s inspiring in so many ways. His reflective storytelling pours out within his tunes. During his live concerts, he most often complimented other artists by playing their songs. He was genuine, humble and giving. Did I know the man personally, no. To understand what type of character he was, I didn’t have to.
It’s the same for us. People know our character – our reputation – whether they meet us or not. Especially in these prolific days of data capture, social media, and the town gossip. Somewhere out there on the nearly 5 billion pages within the internet, our character floats around and is accessible. And as we float around speaking to folks, expressing our opinion, sharing our stories, producing work product, and posting photos, our character continues to expound. Word gets around.
Petty released thirteen studio albums as the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, in addition to three solo albums. He was the lead of the band Mudcrutch and one of the five musical all-stars on the albums produced by the Traveling Wilburys. In total, he wrote 200 songs, give or take. And they were good. Word got around.
Tom Petty didn’t compare himself to others. He did his own thing. He was original. And we are too. Each one of us is a unique brand with talents to share, if we so choose to share them. Since Tom did such a good job sharing his talent, I’m listening. Pun intended. Here are a few tunes that will help us handle what life tosses at us, compliments of Mr. Petty:
Listen To Her Heart
Here Comes My Girl
Dogs On The Run
I Won’t Back Down
Thank you, Tom. Rest in Peace.
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Today, I’d like to offer up the backgrounds and circumstances of two people and let you decide which one has an advantage.
The one that has an advantage? The correct answer is A.
Here’s the reality. The two people - they’re both me. Each description is simply a matter of how I decide to view my circumstance. Person A has an advantage because he is thinking positively. Henry Ford knew this in the early 1900’s when he said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t - you’re right.”
Scientific evidence backs this up as well. Professor Barbara Fredrickson is a social psychologist from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and has been a researcher in human emotions for the past 25 years. She suggests that positivity is the mindset that helps produce emotions such as joy, amusement, happiness, serenity, gratitude and inspiration.
She said a few more things that caught my attention and made me, literally, sit up straight:
Therefore, for the fundamental rhythms of my heart and the easiness in my torso, I choose to think, “I can.” Together, let’s try an experiment: For the remainder of this year, let’s focus in the areas of our talents and surround ourselves with the things we enjoy. Let’s do this with business and personal decisions. It won’t be easy, and it’s for the good of our health and wellbeing. So, I say we do it! Who’s with me?
Quick note: when I say that I’m close to my sibling and in another case, I rarely speak to him - both are true. We’re brothers, 15 months apart and we’re close. And yet, we only speak about once a month. I can only figure this is the case because we’re men, and these men don’t have a lot to say to each other. Although, I’d do anything for him, and he would for me as well. That’s just us. I love him.
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“My charter is to make sure that people in companies don’t live for the weekend…
...that they are excited about Mondays and Tuesdays…
...because they are doing their life’s work…
...and they are surrounded by people who are doing the same.
That’s the kind of organization that I help to create, and that’s the way I live my life as well."
Special thank you to Justin Spicer of Globeville Studios - he's a terrific man and a wonderfully visual artist.
What do these three-word amalgams have in common?
For us music fans out there, we’ve most likely guessed it by now. They’re all band names. Today I will suggest words can be a catalyst to our success, or a detriment. Why? Because words are powerful. Words can be the most significant method to manipulate. Interrogators know this. Salesman know this. Teenage girls know this.
Words are also powerful resources for connecting, branding, encouraging, and inspiring. Use them wisely, for they can create wonder with proper storytelling, blunder with improper use, or thunder if AC/DC had its way. Let me illustrate this through a simple story.
There once was a band who mastered their talent in their garage for years. They could play in any chord, in any key, on nearly every instrument, and in any genre. They had the job skills.
This band melded together in friendship, openness, and trust. They were innovative, creative, and had moral character. They were a fit.
The group had a unique sound, they understood the industry and created music that appealed to their niche. They had a differentiator in the marketplace.
They got hired for gigs at local establishments, they proudly displayed their band name on the marquee, they sent flyers to locals, displayed ads in music magazines, and delivered social media to music fans. They had a good marketing strategy.
On the days of the performances, the band was pumped and ready to go – but nobody showed. They didn’t connect with their audience in a way that made them react and respond. They had poor communications.
The name of their band - “Closed for Remodeling."
My point – all elements of a strategy and plan need to align. And since I’m in the field of communications, I will boldly say that communications is the most important element. That’s right, I wrote these words. Why? Because, I repeat, words are powerful. They allow us to create an intended action and deliver results.
Now, consider these band names:
Regardless of whether we like the music these bands produce, in general terms, their band name is terrible. Even the members of the Goo Goo Dolls admitted they made a mistake with this one. Imagine we’re in a band and we have the opportunity to give ourselves a name. Anything goes! The world of words is ours for the taking. We have talent and a record deal, and we settle on the band name, “The The.” What I figure, is the sex and drugs may have gotten in the way of the rock ‘n roll naming convention for some of these band members.
“Words That Work.” It’s a wonderful book by Dr. Frank Luntz. In it, Luntz offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the tactical use of words and phrases affects what we buy, who we vote for, and even what we believe in. With chapters like "The Ten Rules of Successful Communication" and "The 21 Words and Phrases for the 21st Century," he examines how choosing the right words is essential. Oh, and yes, it comes in all forms of readable consumption – hardback, soft cover, audiobook, radio interviews, etc.
Words. Use them wisely, for they are our communications. I will conclude by reverting to band names through some fun and pun. These are a sampling of my favorite pairings, who at some point should have toured with each other, if not just for the marquee presentation alone.
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Brace yourself, this starts off rough. And there’s a point to it, so bear with me. I know good friends or family members with at least one of these conditions, and so may you: cancer, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, depression, ADHD, dyslexia, blindness, deafness, infertility, PTSD, severe arthritis, alcoholism, drug addiction, and homelessness.
Recently, I found out a valedictorian of a high school in my county, an A-student, and well-spoken young man was homeless. This reminds me of a statement by Ian MacLaren, a noted Scotsman and author, who cared deeply about those around him. He offers wise counsel with the words, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.”
Today, I’d like us to consider how well we really know the people in our lives. I mean REALLY know them. The world today is like that moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy’s house is lifted by the wind of the whirling tornado - people fly in and out of our lives. Unlike Dorothy in that moment, it is something we CAN control.
Growing up, I was the kid who knew a lot of people, but very few at any level of depth. I didn’t purposefully set out to do this, it just happened, perhaps because of my immaturity. My brother, who’s just 15 months younger, had an approach quite unlike mine. He knew a few people at a remarkable depth. In time, I matured and adopted his method, for those that I truly admired. The shift has been wonderful.
As I’ve gotten to know individuals at a deeper level, life has become more profound, relationships more meaningful. It has been enlightening and compelling. People are incredibly giving and helpful, regardless of the ask or the situation. And those that aren’t aligned with my values, I purposefully haven’t allowed them time with me to influence. Therefore, here’s what I’d like us to consider:
Questions for all of us…
· The relationships I care about, how deep do they go - besides a beer and a game or a wine and a whine?
· How many of my LinkedIn connections have I spoken to, met with, helped in some way, or thanked in some way? (Do I even have a LinkedIn network?)
· Have I donated lately to a cause that helps our fellow human beings? (time, items, money, etc.)
Tougher questions for all of us…
· What actions have I taken to make my workplace better for me and those around me?
· What actions have I taken to make my community a better place to reside?
· What actions have I taken to make my world a better place to live?
These types of actions don’t have to be enormous to better our lives. My example is this… do I walk in my work place, hop over a crumpled paper on the floor, and complain how dirty the place is - or do I pick up the piece of trash, toss it in a wastebasket, and make it better for me and everyone around me?
Likewise, the interactions with people in our circle of friends and peers do not have to be enormous. They simply need to be thoughtful. Genuine. And it can make an exponential and positive difference. Pay it forward, so to speak. The Boy Scouts taught me when I was young to leave a campsite (or wherever I was) better than when I arrived. It’s one of my favorite life lessons.
Next time, we leave our table at the coffee shop, our buddy’s basement after the game, or in those rare moments when our eyes raise up from our mobile device – let’s look behind us. How does the scene present itself for those in our wake?
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This, I believe, is one reason why they’re so successful. We want a place to go outside of our work or home. A place to sit, talk, and enjoy each other’s company – or be left alone. Starbucks made that happen.
How? They displayed lots of chairs, couches and tables. They erected fireplaces and outside patios. They built in locations where people naturally gather – outside of shopping centers, inside of shopping centers, inside of grocery stores, and near hospitals, colleges, and office buildings. And they sell coffee and tea, and in some locations, alcohol. These are the beverages most people drink when we sit, talk, and enjoy each other’s company - or want to be left alone.
I embrace loitering too. Why? First, it’s easier than fighting it! Secondly, it allows me to accomplish several things by removing me from the norm and commotion that is life. In this unique and lively space, I get to write, read, relax, ponder, produce, and people-watch (not in a creepy way; I enjoy the characters that wander this earth!)
Yes, I said ‘produce’. I’m a writer, thinker, team leader, visionary, and content producer, among other things. I don’t make this stuff up. My Enneagram tells me I’m an “enthusiastic visionary” (a busy, fun-loving type: spontaneous and versatile) with a wing of “loyalist” (a committed, security-oriented type: engaging and responsible). Now that I know this about myself, I set myself up for success, by surrounding myself with things that inspire me – people, coffee, WiFi, and a nearby electrical outlet.
This alternative (insert coffee shop of your choice here) space allows me to open my sensors and create. I’ve also met some extraordinary people in these spaces. “A coffee shop is a great meeting place,” said Blaise as if everyone already wasn’t aware of this. It’s also a great place to look up “Enneagram” to find out more about yourself and ask deeper questions to the people you meet.
As we begin this new year, I hope to see you in a cool meeting place “loitering” outside of your home or workspace. I challenge each of us to embrace the things we love, share the things that inspire us, and buy a cup of coffee for a friend. If you see me in one of these spaces, please come up and introduce yourself. And if you mention this article – I’ll buy you a cup of joe.
Yes. I wrote much of this note to you in a coffee shop. More dark-roast, please.
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I’ve met so many wonderful people in 2017. Thank you for your time, genuineness, encouragement, and optimistic spirit. I will continue my weekly content throughout 2018. It is fun to write, and my wish is that it provides to you a unique perspective, some enlightening content, and a smile every now and again.
Over these next two weeks until the end of the year, may you be blessed with love from your family and friends. And I offer this to each of you…
Happy New Year! May our 2018 be better than 2017. Cheers to a year where relationships blossom, divisions narrow, joy spreads, love sinks deep, friends and families bond, and we all give to our fellow men, women and children.
That’s it for me until January. Thank you all for supporting my weekly content. If you like it, please share, like, visit www.FiveLevelsConsulting.com, and let me know. If you don’t like it, please let me know why. I’m always looking to improve by learning from the wisdom that surrounds us.
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"freedom at work"