Amy the Phlebotomist

6:15 AM and an empty parking lot.

No lines, no waiting. Just a quick blood draw for that annual event.

Smiles behind masks and a friendly greeting.

Sign in and I get to keep the pen.

“Which arm do you prefer? And is there a vein they typically use?”

I offered my left arm and pointed out the visible vein on my inside elbow.

“Oh, that’s the easy one, but I prefer to use another one. It is on the outside and a little harder to find, but there are less nerves there so you will experience less pain afterwards. It’s a little harder for me. But this isn’t about me, it’s about making you have a good experience.”

As the blood flowed into those tubes with little to no pain, I learned a little more about this Phlebotomist. This was not Amy’s first career.

Hospitality, bartending, and customer service built her foundation. She spoke about how these skills shaped her perspective and how she does her Phlebotomist job now. The lessons simply flowed from her conversation.

Customer Service Lessons from Amy the Phlebotomist:

It is not about you.

It may be more effort on your part.

It is about making and/or creating a good experience for your customers.

Thanks Amy.

What a great reminder to close out this year and start the new year fresh. Imagine the difference when we make these small efforts that create a better experience for our customers, our coworkers, our family, our friends, and others around us.

Who’s ready to apply these lessons today?

Here’s to applying Amy the Phlebotomist’s lessons in the year to come!

Achieving and Grieving

“This could have been better.” – I should have been better.

“It didn’t turnout the way I expected.” – I didn’t do a good enough job.

“I am disappointed in the results.” – I failed.

During a conversation with a friend I noticed a pattern. Whenever they talked about something they achieved, it was immediately followed by reasons why it didn’t either go as planned, or why it could have been better.

This pattern applied to all achievements, big or small.

Released something big and creative into the world? It was not the right time and it could have been better, and it wasn’t perfect, and it had “wrong notes.”

Connected with and helped someone else? It really didn’t go as planned and didn’t really provide any value, it perhaps even wasted their time.

It was as if every time they tried to build a small reminder of their achievement, something would come right behind them and start tearing it down.

They couldn’t take a moment to savor achieving anything, without experiencing a loss. As I spoke it out (despite sounding rhyming and goofy) it rang true.

“You don’t seem to be able to experience any achieving without experiencing a loss, almost like you are grieving at the same time of what could have been, or should have been.

Achieving and Grieving.

Patterns are so easy to recognize…in others.

As a reflected, I experience the same pattern. Trying to celebrate, only to be frustrated and sad when things do not turn out “good enough.”

Some of the grieving of what could have been is easy to shake off, other times it seems to linger in my mind. One particular example has stayed with me longer than I thought.

A little more than a year ago, I got to run a race with one of my kids. I trained hard and was ready. We started off and everything felt good. We joked and chatted. Shortly after the halfway mark, I stared to slow my pace. Something was wrong. During the last few miles I couldn’t keep going and had to walk.

They were totally patient with me and we did a run/walk combination to finally finish. We got our medals and went to the celebration party afterwards.

As I look back, the grieving completely took over any chance of being able to celebrate the achieving. This grieving would find its way into my mind during other runs, and I found myself walking again. The grieving from a prior event kept invading the present.

Unfortunately, the Achieving and Grieving pattern is not exclusive to running.

That presentation that didn’t seem to connect with everyone.

That proposal that was only partially accepted.

The [insert your achievement here] that [insert your grieving here].

Realizing my own Achieving and Grieving pattern was a great first step. Often I failed to celebrate the achievements along this journey because they are viewed through this cloudy lens of grief.

It is time to clean this lens.

It won’t be easy but I am practicing a new pattern.

I am working to separate the Achieving from the Grieving.

When I achieve something, no matter how small, I pause to recognize it.

And since my mind seems to want a second step, I am replacing the Grieving with Appreciating.

Appreciating the work involved in the project.

Appreciating the creativity in that new idea.

Appreciating writing (this blog) again.

Appreciating these 50 year old legs that will still carry me for miles.

Let’s experiment together.

For the next 30 days, let’s try this new pattern: Achieving and Appreciating.

Keep us posted on your progress.

Chocolate Chips, Isolation, and Reflection

Image by Richard John from Pixabay

“What do you mean they are all gone?”

“I just bought them.”

“I didn’t get any.”

Me – looking for the chocolate chips

Those words left my mouth with force. A force disproportional to the meager chips.

After apologizing and making amends the interaction kept playing in my head.

Why did I react that way? What was that all about, they are just chocolate chips?

The easy path is to blame this isolation, to excuse way these reactions as a “normal” reaction to being together so often.

The difficult path is honest reflection.

Asking yourself hard questions.

Trying to determine the source of the reaction in the first place.

Scarcity.

A collage of images and feelings from younger days streamed through my mind. Struggles, fears, lack of control, and sadness all observed and filtered through an earlier version of myself.

This was no longer about chocolate chips.

As we work hard to comfort others during this time, we may need to extend that comfort to ourselves (and even our former selves) as we struggle with the emotions that bubble to the surface.

Reflect on those emotions. What are they trying to tell you?

Where are your chocolate chips?

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.

The Autopilot Problem

(Image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Autopilot can be great. As this Wired Article explains, Autopilot and the Flight Management Systems (FMS) are trying to help remove human error and allow for savings (two cockpit crew members instead of three). Autopilot also seems to help with the monotony of flying and helps calculate the most efficient route.

But there is an Autopilot Problem. The more pilots rely on Autopilot, the less they are actually flying. The essential skills needed to react to an emergency may have atrophied when those skills are needed most. Less time spent flying is less time honing and retaining essential skills.

But the Autopilot Problem is not exclusive to flying.

We have lots of things in our lives that run on Autopilot:

Jobs, Relationships, Various Roles, Parenting, Families, and Friendships.

Many parts of our lives, including our roles and interactions with others may be on Autopilot.

Sort of a Life Autopilot.

Sometimes this Life Autopilot is the result of past success or accomplishment and gives us a chance to rest and enjoy our achievements. This Life Autopilot is great when there are clear skies and perfect conditions.

We cannot use Life Autopilot all the time.

By relying on Life Autopilot, we may have lost some of the essential skills needed to survive the next storm.

Have we lost some of our skills in our jobs, relationships, and roles? Has Life Autopilot been on for too long?

Are we still good at being a leader, boss, employee, manager, partner, parent, or friend? Is the workday, the job, our connections and relationships, or our world just moving along without our active and deliberate input? Are our skills, and relationships as sharp as they once were?

Maybe it is time to switch off the Life Autopilot periodically to ensure we can still fly (preferably before the next storm hits).

 

Why I Don’t Like Working With Me (and how it explains why others don’t either)

I notice patterns.

Good patterns, and bad ones.

Recently I noticed a pattern of how often I can frustrate others when we work together.

I noticed a pattern of people around me defaulting to doing things my way, or pausing before taking action to see how I want it done.

I also noticed a pattern of how often I interject how I want things done a certain way when they start to take action.

And there is another pattern.

I noticed a pattern in my solitary projects.

I noticed a pattern of demanding perfection in my own work.

I noticed a pattern of self-criticism for any mistakes.

The other day while running with a close friend we talked about these patterns.

“I’m not trying to create such a high standard for those around me. I want them to be able to do things their way.”

The run continued. The next question exposed the underlying pattern.

“What is it like for You to work with You?”

A brutal pattern.

A pattern of unrealistic demand for perfection with no grace.

I had never considered what it was like for Me to work with Me.

My mind scanned the various projects over the years.

I still see the flaws, the imperfections, and the issues.

I also saw the list of unfinished projects, and those projects never started.

Working with me was so daunting that I stopped various projects and there were others that I could not bring myself to start.

“Maybe you need to learn to be kind to yourself first.”

The last pattern.

The pattern of fooling myself.

The pattern of fooling myself into believing that I could hold myself to a standard of perfections, but I could show kindness, grace, and flexibility to others.

But they saw the pattern.

They saw how I treated myself.

They knew they would be treated the same way.

It was time to be honest.

I don’t like working with me.

I’m too harsh, too demanding, too intolerant of mistakes.

I’m the reason why others are frustrated, defaulting to my way, or not taking action.

Where do I go from here?

I need a new pattern.

A new pattern of being kind to myself.

A new pattern of allowing reasonable standards, grace for mistakes, and progress over perfection.

Isn’t it funny how often we assume the pattern is outside of us?

What is it like for You to work with You?

How could a little self-kindness change your patterns?

P.S. Thanks for your patience in this long blog post drought. I’m working on a new website, but working with me as been rough and getting in the way of making progress. More details soon, but thank you again for reading and sharing these posts.