Tow Truck Driver Attentive

Image by Greg Reese from Pixabay

His name was Chris.

He was the second tow truck driver that day. (We learned about turnpike authority, State Police and tow truck jurisdiction that day, but that is another story.)

We talked and asked him a few questions. Questions about the job, what he likes, what he doesn’t like.

We learned that most people are so upset when their cars break down, that they are mean and rude to the tow truck driver (the very person there to come to the rescue). We learned that the work is long (12 hour shifts) and is a little boring. We learned which cars get towed a lot, and which ones never get towed – except for accidents.

But then things shifted.

Chris began to ask us questions.

Where were we going? What did we do? What type of program were we presenting? Will we still be able to make it there in time?

Chris, and his questions continued.

How did we get into this line of work? What was it like getting started? Did it take a lot of money, effort, or time? How did we create content?

His questions showed he was listening. He would reflect on our responses, wait for each of us to speak, then follow up with additional questions. Sometimes going back to one of our original answers and asking a follow up or asking how it connected to the new idea or response.

He asked about our clients, how we find them (or how they find us) and how we market ourselves, and our competition.

He was more interested and attentive than many people in our own circles. As consultants and coaches, we are used to asking the questions, we are used to teaching people how to coach and listen and ask questions. We are not used to this type of attentive behavior.

It was amazing.

Being listened to and heard is something that feels special when it happens. There are so many ways to be distracted today, especially during a conversation. We half listen while doing other things, and often we “keep it light” and never really talk to people about the deeper things.

Ironically we were on our way to teach about Coaching and how to listen and ask questions as a coach.

Thanks to Chris, we now have a new standard as coaches on how to listen and ask questions.

We want to strive to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive.

Tow Truck Driver Attentive: to become the kind of coaches (and people) who listen well, ask questions and display genuine curiosity and interest in those around you.

For the next week, try to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive to those around you. In your various circles, listen and ask questions. Follow up and be curious. You may find or learn something new and make those around feel important and special.

Thanks for the example Chris.

You showed us a little magic on an otherwise stressful and tough day.

Sincere Appreciation

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay 

People do things well. We want them to know.

People do things well. They want to know.

We want to express appreciation. We want it to be sincere.

They want to be appreciated. They want it to be sincere.

We have barriers to showing appreciation. Fear, Ego, weird “great, great, great, great, great” patterns.

They have barriers to receiving appreciation. Fear, Ego, and that damn Narrator.

How do we show sincere appreciation? How do we satisfy the need?

Try these three simple steps.

  1. Tell them what they did.
  2. Explain the positive impact it had.
  3. Express appreciation.

What does this sound like?

“Mary, I wanted to let you know that the report you created for that customer was very helpful. They were confused, and you brought clarity. They went from hesitant to signing with us. Thank you for your hard work, your ability to simplify issues for the customers is very helpful, I am so glad you are here on the team.”

“Bill, I noticed last night that after the long day at work you spent time with the kids helping with their homework. Your patience and ability to explain the homework in more concrete terms helped them “get it.” Thank you for the sacrifice and for giving them the gift of your time, especially when you are tired.”

Jessica, thank you for taking out the trash as well as the recycling. Since your sister has been away at school, you have had to take on a few more responsibilities around the house. Your taking initiative to pick up these chores has helped us all with the new workload around the house. Thank you for pitching in and helping, it makes a real difference. Want to go get some ice cream?

Sincere appreciation helps them know they are seen.

Sincere appreciation helps them know their work makes a difference.

Three simple steps. Now we just need to act.

Try it out and let us all know how it goes.

And to help lead the way, I am going first.

Dear Readers of this work. You read, view, comment, share, and like this blog and have been doing so for years. Your participation has made me feel like I not only have a voice in this space, but can make a difference in the lives of others. Thank you so much for reading this, especially with all the choices you have out there. Your words of encouragement or even a “like” helps me break through my own narration that I shouldn’t keep doing this. Thank you for being here.

Want to go get some ice cream?

Throw the Wrench

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

It was the opening line of the email that caught my attention.

I don’t want to throw a wrench in this, but…

The accepted definition of this phrase or idiom “Throwing a Wrench into the Works” means to damage or change (something) in a way that ruins it or prevents it from working properly.

But that is not what was happening here.

They were not trying to damage or ruin the project.

Their wrench was an idea to improve the situation.

But sometimes the project is already moving forward, and we are afraid of Wrenches causing delay or disruption.

Sometimes we have invested in a strategy or direction, and we are afraid of Wrenches causing us to move or admit we may have to accept a sunk cost.

Sometimes the world has changed from when we started the initiative, and we are afraid of Wrenches causing us to start over and change course.

How about a new definition of what it means to Throw the Wrench.

To Throw the Wrench is to speak up and offer an alternative.

To Throw the Wrench is to express your reservation or concerns.

To Throw the Wrench is to help an organization from making a mistake (or further mistakes).

Maybe more than ever, we need you to Throw the Wrench.

As organizations, we need to listen to, learn from, foster, and encourage the Wrench Throwers.

We need the Wrench Throwers to speak up, offer ideas and alternatives, and let us know before we make large mistakes.

One idea to foster the kind of organization that encourages people to Throw that Wrench is to create a contest for the best Wrench Throw. How about prizes and a celebration of speaking up and offering alternatives.

My closing advice to all of you: Throw the Wrench.

Growing or Evolving

Image by Shepherd Chabata from Pixabay

Sometimes growing is the result of a solid strategy in the marketplace.

Sometimes growing is the result of timing and circumstances.

Sometimes growing is a little bit of luck, and a lot of hard work.

But one day the growing slows.

The growing stops.

We keep trying the strategies, the timing, the luck, and the hard work to keep growing, but we begin to shrink instead.

The world and the marketplace has changed.

The timing and circumstances are no longer the same.

The luck is no longer there.

The hard work seems to work against us.

Growing fooled us.

Being bigger with more clients, or more marketshare, didn’t make us better.

What worked before won’t work today (or tomorrow).

Instead of measuring the growing, we need to measure the evolving.

Are we evolving with our customers’ needs?

Are we evolving with the marketplace?

Are we evolving our services, our offerings, our strategy, toward the future? Are we relying on the past?

Growing works for a while, but evolving will keep you in the game in the long run.

Has growing mislead you? How can you and your company start evolving? Contact me and together we can discover the path to evolving.

Thank You

The phone rang.

It was a long-standing client.

I was quick to answer the call. I assumed they needed something right away.

They only said two words.

“Thank you.”

I was not sure how to respond besides “you’re welcome” so I also asked if they needed anything.

Nope. We just wanted to say “thank you” for our call a few weeks ago. We were a little stuck and needed some direction and talking it through really helped. We also realized that we typically call when we need something but don’t really ever call afterwards, but it seemed important to say “thank you.”

After that call I felt more inspired. More energized.

They didn’t have to make that call, but they did. They didn’t have to say “thank you”, but they did. And it made an impact. My work felt more meaningful, more important.

Where can we make those calls, and use those words? Who is helping, guiding, or assisting us in our journey? Who needs to hear from us?

Try it out today, make at least one call. Be grateful, say “thank you” and imagine the impact we can make.

Delegation and Trust

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

I used to give an assignment to leaders and supervisors at the end of a session.

“Go back to your organization and find a project to delegate down to someone else.”

The reason for the assignment was simple. We had discussed the importance of conveying trust in others and to build their capacity within the organization. We reviewed some some key points from Dan Pink’s book Drive and discussed how delegating projects would resonate with the key drivers for all employees: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Weeks or months later, I would check in with these leaders. Almost no one delegated a project.

I asked why.

“You don’t understand, I got back to the office and am so busy, I just couldn’t find the time to sit down with someone and explain it, it was easier to do it myself.”

“They wouldn’t do it right anyway, and when you think about it, I was saving them from failing.”

“I need this done a certain way, and don’t want to worry about if it is done right.”

The lists, and the excuses kept coming. For the few leaders that did delegate projects, many of them picked the worst project on their list and passed that down to someone.

Each excuse was almost a direct hit against the primary drivers for employees.

Autonomy – people want some self direction and control over their working environment which may mean taking on projects and doing it their way. Lack of delegation sends the message that you are in complete control and there is no room for others to develop their own way or style.

Mastery – people want to be good at things, and that means trying new things, working on new projects that develop and refine skills over time. Lack of delegation keeps their skills shallow, and maintains your expert status.

Purpose – people want to feel like their work matters, and their time is meaningful and makes a difference. Lack of delegation makes others feel unimportant, and worse conveys that you do not trust them or value them and their contribution.

I had to change the assignment.

“Within 2 weeks, find the project or assignment is BIG and IMPORTANT that would give you the most satisfaction, organizational recognition, and reward and delegate that one. AND find your partner here today and tell them about this project then call each other each week to ensure it is delegated.”

At first you could have heard a pin drop.

The big and important one? YES!

The one that would give the most rewards? YUP!

Now when I check in with these leaders I hear a different story.

“It was pretty scary to give up a big project like that, but I was surprised, they took it on and completed it. They seem more energized and are looking for the next project.”

“They went in a different direction then I expected and that made me worry, but the result was better than expected and frankly maybe better than I would have been able to do.”

“Not only are these employees taking on more projects and responsibilities, I find that I have more time to do my core job and I am less frantic and busy.”

So the choice as leaders is simple. You can keep everything to yourself (most likely out of fear and control) or you can learn to pass down important projects and assignments. When you choose to keep it, you convey a lack of trust and your work will continue to be hectic and busy. When you choose to pass projects to others, you convey trust and importance in others, and build their capacity.

One leader candidly expressed their fear in doing this.

“What if I delegate these important things down, and my employees become better at these things than me? Won’t I be working myself out of my job?”

My response was simple.

If you are the kind of leader that can build the capacity of teams in a way that you are no longer needed, you most likely have a much larger and more important career as companies will pay a lot to replicate that in their organization.