We live near an airport.
When our friends fly, our home transforms into a park-and-ride.
When our friends fly, our home can also transform into a bed-and-breakfast.
We offer this service.
We hear similar reasons from our friends who don’t.
“We don’t want to be a burden.”
“We don’t want to inconvenience you.”
“We don’t want to put you out.”
Putting your friends out.
The intention is noble.
But helping is not Putting Your Friends Out.
(Unless you are that one friend with a pickup truck and everyone expects you to help move, then we are totally tracking with you.)
Is it a little inconvenient to drive to the airport at weird, early, or late hours? Yep.
It it always the best time? Nope.
Then why do friends offer to help?
Because everyone’s lives are so busy, sometimes the only time we get to connect and see folks are on those small drives to and from the airport.
Connecting with those around us that we care about is hard.
Find the small moments to connect.
The trip to the airport.
The grocery store.
Waiting in some line.
Dropping off their car for an oil change/repairs.
The ride to and from [soccer, dance, hockey, or whatever] lessons.
Remember you are not Putting Your Friends Out.
Maybe they are just trying to connect.
Some of my fondest memories are small moments doing the most routine things with my closest friends.
Treat them well.
There are a few reasons.
Reason One: Well treated employees are more productive, engaged, treat customers better, and will contribute to your bottom line. Employees (the right ones of course) are great assets who provide service, innovate, invent, and create.
Reason One is the “right” thing to do, but somethings are interfering with it.
This is not a complete list, but here are a few interference observations.
The Recession. The fears associated with economic decline cause a retreating, and no or low investment in people. Years go by, and despite economic improvement, the pattern of retreat and non-investment continues.
Old Patterns and Mindsets. Recognizing only a certain type of employee performance or style. Thinking that employees are “lucky to have a job” or “don’t have the same work ethic as we did.” Having benefits structured in a way that access to them requires long periods of service. These patterns sometimes go unnoticed by those in the pattern, but have negative results on current employees.
The Incumbent Bargain. Not realizing that the person holding the job today is well below market price. Through a series of decisions (see other observations for insight) you may be completely unaware of the current one-sided deal you are getting.
On to the other reasons (as if Reason One wasn’t enough).
Reason Two: Unemployment rates have been steadily declining. When I assist organizations trying to find talent, it feels more like trying to pan for gold, long after the gold rush has moved on. With rates below 3% in my own State, essentially there is almost no-one left, and other companies are going to start stealing your talented employees.
Reason Three: The Old Patterns and Mindsets not only create dissatisfaction with current employees (essentially incentivizing them to look elsewhere) but also position your organization at a disadvantage to attract new talent. You may find your organization is in a death-spiral of employees leaving and no easy way to replace them.
Reason Four: It is going to cost you if you have not been attentive to the market shifting around you. If the Incumbent Bargain is not on your radar screen, you may be surprised what it will cost you to replace your experienced and knowledgeable employees. More and more today I hear “we are going to have to pay what?” when it comes to replacing existing employees. The “you are lucky to have a job” may soon be replaced with “you are lucky to still have me” dialogue.
Whatever reason you choose Treat Them Well, you may be surprised if you don’t.
(Images courtesy of Family Fresh Meals)
“Leadership is a lot like cooking in a crockpot.”
“What do you mean?”
“You put all these little things together, but it takes time for them to connect and combine. Eventually you have something.”
The Leadership Recipe is not a quick stir fry.
You don’t become a great leader by reading one book.
You don’t become a great leader by applying one principle.
You don’t become a great leader by learning a little about yourself.
You don’t become a great leader because you own a business.
You don’t become a great leader when you have people to supervise.
Leadership is a long slow process.
Becoming a great leader is the result of many individual items, when combined over time creates something new.
Below is a partial Leadership ingredient list:
As these items simmer, you add a few more.
Eventually you have something.
But unlike soup, the Leadership Recipe continually requires additional ingredients.
A dash of understanding.
A pinch of flexibility.
A little spice – to make it interesting.
A healthy few cups of feedback.
Do you want to be a great leader?
Be prepared for a lifetime in the Leadership Crockpot.
P.S. Leave a comment on the key ingredients in your Leadership Crockpot.
It is a thing we are into at the moment.
Each week, I take a number.
I stand in the long line.
Numbers are called, I glance down at my number.
More numbers, more glances.
Don’t want to miss it.
The Magic Number.
A pound, sliced medium.
A pound, sliced not too thin.
A pound, sliced kinda thick.
Each time the result disappoints.
Too thick. Too thin. Never just right.
But there was yesterday.
A pause and a question.
“Are you making breakfast sandwiches?”
“Then I know exactly what you need.”
A perfect thickness.
A satisfied customer.
How often do we try to meet the customer’s description without understanding the reasons why they need something?
Descriptions are helpful.
Reasons are magic.
“It was easier when I was making cabinets.”
“Why, what was different?”
“At the end of the day, I could see and feel my progress. Now I just deal with people and it is hard to know if I accomplished anything.”
As I reflect on my own work. I can relate.
A lot of what we do is less measurable, less tangible.
It is certainly easier when you make something. It wasn’t there before. You built it. It now exists. You can see it.
Ideas, thoughts, managing, leading are harder to quantify.
But we are still making.
Creating and expanding organizations.
“Maybe it would be easier to ask yourself a simple question at the end of the day: What Cabinets Did I Make Today?”
“What do you mean?”
“Think about your work now in terms of cabinets because that is where you started. Take your interactions with customers, sales gained, estimates written, and turn then into cabinets.”
“You are a little weird.”
“Yeah I know, but keep tracking. This will tie your current work to the familiar and fulfilling work that you keep longing to do again.”
“I can try. So when I complete four estimates in a day, that may be a cabinet? Instead of not feeling like I am making progress, I can look at that pile of paper, and see a cabinet?”
“Yes, making cabinets out of your current work.”
Maybe that is how we can all calibrate our time, our effort. Think about our work in terms that are familiar and comfortable. A lot of our lives can feel like spinning our wheels instead of Making Cabinets.
What Cabinets are you making?
What [insert your cool creative thing here] have you built today?
Go. Make a difference. Make Cabinets.
Together we discussed friendship, which was one of my favorite experiences. But recently I have noticed that friendship (or relationships in general) are built and fueled by conversations.
Over the past few months I have been observing conversations.
But conversations are weird.
Some are like duels.
Some are like speeches.
Some are veiled.
Some are superficial.
Only a few are deep and memorable.
I recently shared some of these conversation observations with a class. Not just any class, but the last class of the year. This particular class has become a yearly tradition and it isn’t lost on me that the final chapter of the year (right before the Holiday Season) is a class on Emotional Intelligence.
Before I shared, I asked.
“What does it take to have a good conversation?”
The answers came.
“Listening. Letting other people speak. Making eye contact. Not being distracted. Not looking at your phone. Asking questions.”
Great answers. Great advice.
It was the last one that really resonated with me. It is what I have been observing.
You need all of the first things, but it is the last part that may make the real difference.
Demonstrates that you are interested in others and not just about yourself. (I have a friend who has made extreme strides in this area, and jokes about how they used to be as a reminder. During a conversation they will jump in with “Enough about me, now I want to hear what you think about me.”
Questions help you to learn about others.
My assignment to this class was to spend the Holiday Season practicing having conversations. This practice starts with asking questions. It may be helpful to try out a few of these questions over your Holiday Season as well.
And the list goes on.
Be careful about asking a question, then jumping in with your own answers to each of these questions. Remember my friend’s quote, this is about them, not you.
Go try it out and let us know how it goes.
P.S. Sometimes conversations drift towards things that are not as important (Politics, Sports, the Weather) and I have a fun trigger phrase with a few friends when we drift off. Whenever one of us dwells too much on the latest game stats or news story, one of us remembers to say, “Are you Sad?” (Because we must be avoiding real conversation out of sadness…) We all chuckle and get back to focusing on things that matter most.
Helping people understand themselves is a large part of what I do. There are various tools to assist with this process, but a solid go to assessment includes the DISC (Thank you creator of Wonder Woman) combined with Driving Forces. This combination helps people understand both their behavioral style (How they do things) along with their motivations (Why they do things).
One of my favorite opportunities to help with this understanding is part of a three-day learning experience for supervisors. I have the opportunity to spend a few hours walking these 20 supervisors through their styles.
Typically during the periodic breaks, many of them come up and want to discuss their results in more detail.
“Hey, I know it says that I can be perceived as harsh, but that is not who I am trying to be, how can I change this perception?”
“When it describes me as picky how can I balance that with the job that does have a need for accuracy and follow through?”
“Wow, how did this thing know so much about me?”
But it was a few days ago that something really caught my attention.
The session began, and one person in particular was noticeable.
I could read the body language. Arms folded, looking annoyed.
Shaking their head No.
Hardness in their face.
Then the break.
I knew what would be coming next.
They were the first to come talk to me.
The tone was aggressive.
They were on the defense.
“Hey, this thing is not right. It is not accurate.”
I paused and looked down at the page.
I can see the page, the graph, the chart.
“I didn’t really read it all, but what I did read was not me! That is not how I am perceived, and I really care about doing what is right!”
They are standing and move closer to me. We are now face-to-face. I can feel them in my space.
There is another supervisor watching this interaction, they can see the same page I can see. Their glance goes from that page, to me, to the defensive supervisor. A slight smile appears.
I smile as well.
There are more words.
I look down at the chart once more.
There is a pause.
A hard look at the offending page.
A third smile.
“Wait a minute. Did I just provide you with the evidence that this report is accurate?”
I waited and then chimed in.
“Well, what I see is someone who relies on past experience, and proven methods, who may be skeptical of new information, especially that which may be critical of you, because your strong ego may get in the way. Also, you may periodically bring a more aggressive approach than needed, especially when you feel threatened.”
Smiles all around.
“I think I am starting to get it. It is not easy coming to grips with who I am. Some of this report is great, some of it feels hard.”
“Now you are getting it. There are parts of you that are really great and help you to be successful. But some of what we are here to deal with are the parts that get in the way of your success.”
“Thank you for being patient with me.”
“Thank you for providing the evidence that these reports are pretty accurate.”
Learning about your style is not always easy. The hard parts are easily rejected.
But sometimes, circumstances provide the Evidence needed to move forward.
Speaking of Money…
Why don’t we?
We all tend to agree that we need Money to do certain things, but is has become a secretive endeavor.
Sometimes the opportunities present themselves, but we have been trained, conditioned, or accustomed that Speaking of Money is not polite, appropriate, or “right.”
I was reflecting on two recent opportunities.
Opportunity #1: The back porch.
While vacationing with family recently we tended to sit on the back porch and have conversations that ranged from the silly to the sacred (A shout out to Iain for that riff.) Conversations included the weather, our plans for that day, what we liked about the previous day, what to eat, what to eat, and sometimes where to eat.
But it was the questions that came from the youngest ones that were the most fun.
“So you are my dad’s older brother?”
“Really, so you grew up together?”
“So you are saying that Grammie was your mom, and my dad’s mom?”
This went on for quite sometime. But then there was another question.
“So, this place we rented to all get together is pretty nice, how much did it cost?”
“Um, Uh, Hmmmm, Not too much.”
“No really, I was wondering what it cost, like how much money?”
“Hey, what was your favorite part of yesterday?”
Opportunity #2: The Menu.
Recently we decided to go away for holiday and instead of the traditional making of a big meal with all the prep, serving, hosting, and cleaning, we just wanted the simplicity of showing up, eating, and leaving.
To help those involved know what we were having for dinner, I shared the menu. But instead of sharing the whole menu, I folded over the part with the pricing and shared the folded version instead.
Unsurprisingly, most people who took the menu, immediately unfolded the piece of paper.
It was my youngest who asked the questions this time.
“So this food seems good, but how much does it cost?”
“Well you know, not too much.”
“Why did you fold over the menu and the pricing?”
“Hey, did you pack an extra jacket in case it is cold?”
Two opportunities. Two total misses.
The conditioning, training, or whatever it was overrode the opportunity in the moment.
Speaking of Money shouldn’t be so awkward.
Speaking of Money shouldn’t be something that freezes us.
We should look for opportunities where Speaking of Money helps provide perspective, insight, or understanding of how things work.
We may need to embrace this awkwardness and start Speaking of Money when the opportunities come this way.
We want to convey why we spent the money on vacation because connecting with family was that important.
We want to convey why we spent the money on a holiday meal so that we would not have the typical stress associated with holiday preparation.
We want to convey a healthy understanding of the costs, the sacrifices, the choices, and the reasons.
In order to do that, we are going to have to start Speaking of Money a little more often.
I got to connect with an old friend the other day.
We drove, we talked, we got coffee, and we talked some more.
We talked about new starts and changes.
We talked about career paths and work.
We talked about good times and bad.
Then we talked about organizations.
My friend watched an organization try to move forward.
The moving forward required some changes.
The changes would impact employees.
The organization forgot to Tell Them (the employees, the staff, the people that would be impacted), and their top talent began to leave.
After many people left, the organization learned a valuable lesson.
Tell Them why the changes are happening.
Tell Them the larger plan.
Tell Them why these moves are so important.
There are so many excuses not to Tell Them.
“We were waiting until everything was perfect.”
“We were not sure how the news would be received.”
“We think it will upset our customer.”
The longer you wait to Tell Them, the more other stories build.
Stories that erode trust.
Stories that assume the worst.
Stories that will undo the progress you are trying to make.
There are always reasons and excuses not to communicate.
But there is a simple solution: Tell Them.
Even bad news is more widely accepted when you are straightforward, open, and transparent.
Instead of being afraid of what they will do with the information, we should be more afraid of what they will do without it.
Comparison is a thing I do.
Comparison happens when I interact with you and cannot help but observe how smart, funny, insightful, amazing, determined, gifted, and completely awesome you are, and then measure this against myself and find a deficit.
This comparison deficit transforms itself into insecurity.
This insecurity finds ways to interfere with other aspects of life, including my relationship with you.
But during a recent conversation with a friend, I discovered a better option.
What if I just started to look at your smart, insightful, amazing, determined, and completely awesomeness as a gift?
A gift that you have to bring into the world and make it a better place.
What if I just spent the next few weeks or months in Gift Appreciation Mode?
Would Gift Appreciation Mode help rewire how my brain works?
Gift Appreciation Mode would allow me to just watch your smart, insightful, amazing, determined, and completely awesomeness, and instead of comparing or judging, I would just sit and appreciate it, like a fine work of art.
Gift Appreciation Mode could act like a ticket to the best museum of awesomeness around me, and all I have to do is walk around, view the exhibits, and appreciate those gifts for the beauty they bring into the world.
Comparison is harmful.
Gift Appreciation Mode brings healing.
Comparison excludes and separates.
Gift Appreciation Mode opens and connects.
I hope the Gift Appreciation Mode museum of awesomeness has a gift shop at the end, or at least one of those cool audio tours. I wonder who we could get to do the voice…
I can still remember the words.
“Don’t talk to strangers.”
We are reminded of these instructions when we are young to keep us safe.
But we get older.
Sometimes these words remain.
We go about our lives.
We keep to ourselves.
We don’t talk to strangers.
Our circles remain small.
Strangers cross our paths.
We could just smile politely and go back to our world, phones, books, or lives.
Instead we fight this urge to remain quiet, and begin Talking with Strangers.
We learn about their lives and their journey.
We meet second grade teachers who love Dr. Seuss and are almost moved to tears when you talk about making a difference.
We meet bankers who believe in small banks that are connected to customers.
We meet curriculum developers and admission specialists.
We meet heart transplant coordinator something something and another thing (perhaps about assisted living) that was hard to remember.
We learn about stories of big extended families.
We learn about why they meet for coffee and how they connect around the holidays.
We learn about moving away and coming back home.
We learn about passions that parallel your own.
Our circles expand.
I agree, “don’t talk to strangers.”
Talking with Strangers is so much better.
I don’t typically do this, but a special shout out to Doug (Petey), Deb, Bob, Amy, Leslie, and Becky. Yes you did make it into the blog, and I didn’t even have to change your names. After trying so hard to remember six names, it seemed like a shame to waste it!
I am considering placing a help wanted ad.
Help wanted: The Librarian for the library of my memories and thoughts.
Not just any Librarian.
A cool Librarian like my friend Deb (the nocturnal librarian).
Duties include cataloging all of my old memories and thoughts, and being a gatekeeper of sorts.
Let me explain.
Memories are weird things. They seem accurate, but may not be exactly what happened. Our memories may evolve each time we access them.
According to Daniela Schiller (assistant professor of neuroscience and psychiatry) “if we retrieve an emotional memory and then experience it in a different way, it is going to change…this means that memory traces are dynamic, so each time we retrieve a memory it might change.”
I have a tendency to carry around some weird, embarrassing, or somewhat traumatic memories like overdue exaggerated library books. Picture walking through life with two arm-loads of books. Arm-loads that are so heavy that your arms are out and away from your body, like flightless wings. Books that have become written, retrieved, changed, and re-written.
That book about the time I was supposed to play the clarinet while the chorus sang, but I stopped playing in front of all those people.
That book about the time I was lost in the woods.
That book about being scared in my grandmother’s old creepy house.
That book about snakes (any snakes, volumes 1 through 263).
That book about being completely frustrated in school.
The books about the awkward teen years (Volumes 1, 2, and 3).
That book about [insert other emotional memories].
This is why I need the Librarian.
The Librarian would set up some much-needed rules and structure.
The Librarian would come up with creative reading programs that are balanced and provide perspective.
The Librarian would make sure that I could only take out a certain number of these books at one time. Inspect them for changes when they returned, and make me pay a fine for keeping them too long.
The Librarian position is open until filled. The pay is flexible based on experience, and has a generous benefit package. The workplace is fun, a little weird, but interesting. Please submit your resume and cover letter, and we look forward to hearing from you.