Snow Daze

I looked out the window of my office above the garage. Everyone else was outside on this snow day. The boys were pushing each other down, the dogs were bounding through the new foot of fresh powder, and in that moment, it felt profound.

In the back of my mind, I could hear parents complaining about our 5th day of no school due to the weather. How inconvenient. The kids were driving them crazy. All they do is fight. They are always on their devices.

Just make them go outside, I thought.

I looked out the window again to focus on the moment.

I reminded myself to be present where we I am now.  I realize how irreplaceable, how unrepeatable, this day and moment are. Thank you, kids, for the chaos.

And for several more minutes, there I was, in my own snow daze.

(Inspiration from Fr. Don Talafous, OSB)house1.

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HELP! We Need More Staff!

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I realized through a lot of career soul-searching that I’ve never uttered those words. To me, this can be a red flag.

Why?

You haven’t asked the right questions before writing that check.

Examples at companies are numerous and abundant. Call centers, for example, take repeat calls from customers every day, but they don’t know they are repeats. Their transaction-based cultures focus on helping that one customer get back on track (which is important), but rarely does they ask, “Why did my customer have to call?” or “Why didn’t that function work?” or “I wonder if that same thing is happening to other customers?” Just on to the next call, track your average handle time and try to lower it, and ensure you have enough staff waiting to take the next call so your customers don’t have to wait.  Or maybe your teams are working on too many things, and you haven’t asked the difficult questions about relative priorities or implemented the concepts of constraints (only x hours of work can be done by a fixed team, so prioritize what you need the team to work on and ask teams to stop working on work that does not add as much value).

Sometimes those transactions are not even tracked, so you have no chance at even mining the CRM or service management data for trends and patterns. So, when call volumes climb, the go-to seems to be “We need more staff.”

When contemplating whether or not to add, or not to add, (that is the question) Leadership must first ask what work those teams are doing that could be eliminated, automated, or dealt with in a different way.

By asking those questions, it forces the teams to dig deeper to identify improvement candidates and get them implemented.

I often tell people to treat their job and role as if they were the owner of the company, and it was their personal money being spent. Typically, this orientation proves the point—that we can get lazy in our critical thinking and problem solving when writing a check can take care of the short-term pain. But through this re-orientation, often times improvement ideas can be identified easily and implemented.  All you had to do is ask a few questions.

What Your Dad Never Told You

I was recently talking to a new Dad, and he asked me what was my perspective on being a Dad.

“It’s like removing yourself from the center of your universe and replacing it with someone else,” I said to him.

No one really prepares you for this re-framing, and you could speculate that some Dads don’t ever quite “get there”, but for the ones that do, it’s something that our children likely don’t understand until much later when they find themselves as parents.

We love you unconditionally.  That means we love you no matter what you do, or how you act, or what you say, or what you don’t say.  We love you this way because we are your Dad, and you are the center of our universe.

There are times that it isn’t easy being a Dad.  We worry about protecting you.    If you ever feel like we’re in the way, it’s because we’re trying to shield you from something that you don’t know or understand—yet.

We struggle when to let go and when to hold on.  Our instinct is to hold on, always hold on.  But there comes a point where we rationalize that our grip, on you, must loosen, as you experiment down your own path.  We do this because we believe in you.  We pray that somehow, somewhere, our guidance and support of you has been engrained into your DNA so that you can have a happy and successful life.

You give us so many moments that make us proud, too.  They remain in our minds, forever, painted like the pictures we took of each moment, of each achievement, of each milestone.  You gave us those moments, at those times, but also you gave them to us forever.  As you grow up, the puzzle pieces of your life will start to fit together, but we’re always there as the border pieces, surrounding you with who you are at your core and the lessons we taught you along the way.

We’ll always have each other.  No matter what the circumstances are, no one will ever take that away from us.  Even when we’re gone, we’re not gone.  You will take little pieces of who we were and weave them into your life because those pieces are the pieces that you’ll never ever forget about your Dad, because you were the center of your Dad’s universe.

Happy Father’s Day 2018 to Dads that are with us, and those that have left us.

Utah! Utah! Utah!

It was near the end of World War Two and my father’s cousin, Ed Pugsley, and his squadron  were being briefed about their next bombing mission in their B-29.  The co-pilot and his crew were part of a mission to bomb an oil refinery north of Osaka, a mere 8.5 hours and 1,500 miles away in what was their 16th bombing mission.

But if the surrender came while the crew was in-flight, they would receive the special radio code “Utah! Utah! Utah!” and they were to turn around and come home after dumping their bombs at sea.

“You never saw so many guys pressing their ears against their head sets,” Ed told his son.

Staying focused to the mission, the crew found their target and headed home, perhaps disappointed that the call didn’t come.  But about one hour into the return flight, the call came into the headsets–“Utah, Utah, Utah”.

I can imagine the relief that the war was finally over, but this battle wasn’t over for the crew.  As Ed later explained, the most notable accomplishment was that in terms of time and distance, this was the longest propeller driven combat strike in the history of the world.  “We were in the air 17 hours and 15 minutes.  Traveled close to three thousand miles.  When we got back to base we landed on fumes,” Ed explained.

This was officially the last mission of World War Two.

Ed was 19 at the time.

Ed died earlier this year, and his story was captured by his son Don at his eulogy.  Like so many in this “Greatest Generation“, Ed was strong and brave, but to me he was an incredible leader.

This Memorial Day, I thought about Ed and his team–what it was like, how they felt, what scared them, how they worked together, and what they talked about.  I can’t even imagine being in their shoes, at their age, and doing the things they were doing for our country.

All I can say is thank you for your service.

We’re In The Same Boat Now

Crickets–Why Acknowledgement is a Contribution

I took on my own stretch assignment at work, offering to lead two Working Out Loud Circles.  In these circles, the participants are learning about making contributions.

In my own words, contributions, in this context, are things you can do that just plain make you a better person to work with, and be around.  I found it extremely helpful to see ten contributions summarized in Week 8 of the program.

As I thought about my own practice of the ten contributions, there was one that was similar called “offer attention” but I coach others more overtly to contribute in a way just as important as the others—Acknowledgement.

So what do I mean?

How many times have you called someone, or sent an email, or a text message—or all 3—and never heard anything in return?  The kids call this getting ghosted when a friend does it to you.

Casper.  At work.  Who would’ve known?

How many times have you contemplated, seemingly for hours, about how to send the right message, with the right words, to someone else, like a boss?  Then, when you finally muster the courage to hit the “send” button, you wait with nervousness, wondering what he/she will think, or say, in return.

And you wait.  And wait.  And wait.

Nothing.

And then the doubts start to enter your mind.  Did I piss him/her off?  Did I over extend my boundaries?  Did I make a fool out of myself?

You check your email box, hitting “send/receive all messages”.  It’s like you’re now borderline crazy.

And still nothing.

If you’ve been there, you’re not alone.  But the remedy is very easy.  It’s called acknowledgement.

Just acknowledge that you got the message.  You don’t even have to craft a lengthy response.  How about this:

“Thanks for the note, I’ll take a look.”

Or

“I appreciate that you reached out.  I can’t commit to anything at this time, but will consider your ideas.”

Just…say…something.

From my experience, people that practice this simple contribution are more engaged, more inspiring, and establish authentic connections more often than people that just ignore the message.  Do you want people to play the sound of crickets to their friends after sending you a message as a mockery to your impending blow off, or do you want to practice making a small contribution to another person just by telling them you acknowledge that they reached out to you?

Take 60 seconds and acknowledge the other person—you’ll never regret it.

Have You Lost Your Curiosity at Work?

I get energy from curious people at work.  It seems that from my experience, curious people can typically help you get things done in a better way.  Curious people ask the question “why?” multiple times until they understand the root cause of something.  Curious people respond when you ask them for feedback on what could get better.

But what happens when your workforce seemingly has lost its ability to be curious?

Curious people ignite the flame of critical thinking and problem solving; not-so-curious people can extinguish that flame.

For me, lack of curiosity typically relates to general apathy.  In the workplace, that could mean not raising your hand, or letting someone else raise their hand, or just going through the motions.  Your calendar may be full from 8-5, but logging into that conference call to have your name show up in the panel that you were there—even though you didn’t contribute anything to the meeting—makes you feel busy.

It can also point to another sign—that you are too comfortable.  This happens after years of steady employment where you’ve been allowed to just go through the motions, show up when you needed to show up, but nothing externally or internally is creating a sense of urgency to do anything different.  Perhaps you tried at one point but became de-motivated when things didn’t work out the way you envisioned them to.

One flaw in all of that is that it assumes that motivation can only come externally—from someone or something other than yourself.  The boss passed you over for a promotion.  The Department reorganized you into a new area.  The company decided to continue to invest in the legacy technology that you’ve worked on for decades, so you should be set.

I think there is too much risk to behave this way in the workplace.  Leaders are searching for curious people as it demonstrates a different level of engagement.  Leaders what to know how to make things better, and curious people are motivated to contribute to that outcome.  And finally, leaders need curious people.  Without them, something externally will disrupt the situation, without a doubt.

Curiosity equates to motivation.  Motivation equates to making things happen on your own terms—not the boss, the department, or the company.

I’ve learned this perspective over time and through experience.  I observe people across the entire spectrum of curiosity and motivation.  Re-framing to putting things on your own terms, and taking control of your own motivation and curiosity can not only lead to a happier work life, but one that has a higher potential of success and satisfaction.