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Up with the Good, Down with the Bad

By Dad’s bedside in the hospital where he was recovering from pneumonia, he scratched the phrase on his notebook.

For many of us, especially in our youth, these teachings are often overlooked or resented in some way because we think that we don’t need this type of advice. We’ve figured it all out, in our own mind.

But the truth is, we haven’t figured it all out. We haven’t experienced as much. We haven’t lived as much life.

Great fathers, like mine, are trying to teach us whether that is overtly or just by role modeling. As we advance in our years, these lessons come back to us when we find ourselves in the same fatherly shoes with our own children, and most of us have a greater appreciation later in life.

When our fathers physically leave us, our duplication of the same teachings/lessons to our children is one way we can keep our own fathers with us.

This Father’s Day, as I reflect back what my Dad has taught me, here are some of them.

Relate to People

Know people’s names and where they are from. Find a connection with them that is unique and remember it.

Be Forgiving

All of us have imperfections. Sometimes pointing out someone else’s imperfections doesn’t really serve a positive purpose. Overlook a great deal.

Keep Learning

Dad said recently, “Still, I am learning.”

Up with the Good, Down with the Bad

Get on with it. You can stay focused on the bad, but that doesn’t help you long-term. Instead, focus on the good and constantly improve.

I hope for each of you on this Father’s day that you too reflect.

I love you Dad.  We’re all-in to help you get better.handsdad

I’d love to hear what your reflections are. Thanks for allowing me to share mine.

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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.

HELP! We Need More Staff!

morestaff

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.

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.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

My mother said this often and had incredible resiliency coupled with an unwavering focus both on moving forward and not dwelling on the past.  In fact, if something bad happened to you, she’d give you license to be upset for 24 hours, and then, in her mind, you should be ready to “move on”.  She was very consistent in her approach, whether it was dealing with one of her seven children, or the cancer she died from 16 years ago.

These traits are somewhat unique from my own self observations and those of other people.  Mom had the perspective that bad things will happen to good people, but it was more about what you did about it than commiserating about why.  My college friend Bob Bell was injured when we were freshman and became paralyzed.  He ended up writing a great book on the topic, and I remember someone in an interview asking him “Why do you think this happened to you?”  His response: “Why the F* not me?”

At work, many of us have been through some significant challenges with reductions in the workforce.  These initially are devastating –I know personally—and leaving on someone else’s terms is devastating.  I remember one leader lucky enough to leave before “the date” saying that leaving on his own terms was the most difficult decision he’s ever made.  At least he was in control, and I remember questioning and being angry about his use of the word “difficult”.

Difficult is having to tell your family you’ve lost your job–leaving them speechless–except the 9 year-old who asks if you are going to lose your house.

Others, in organizations that have provided job stability for decades, do not even have context that employment is fragile for many of us.  To some of those folks, getting reorganized into something they don’t want to do—and keeping a job—is like the end of the world.  To them, laid off people would say, “at least you still have a job.”

Each of us has our own context and perspective about a given situation.  But in all contexts, it’s about adapting, overcoming, and making the next steps be on your own terms.  Simply put, moving on.

When we experience some difficultly, whether it is a layoff or a reorganization, fundamentally we all still need to decide for how long we want to analyze and dwell.  Mom would apply the 24 hour rule and recommend that we get on with it and ground ourselves in the reality that this is where we are planted–right, wrong, or indifferent.

What holds us back?

Well, blooming forces us to take action and be creative, which is hard and scary.    It forces us to eliminate excuses and complaints, which makes us vulnerable.  It forces us to reach out to our networks and ask for help, which can be embarrassing.

Someone close to me lost their job about a year ago.  Just recently he accepted a position to teach a college course, something he likely would have never have had the chance to do without the job loss.  He told me that was the best news he’d heard in 52 weeks, and was always something he wanted to do.

Me?  I can’t believe that 9 months later, I’m in my dream job.  It took a lot of support and help to get here.  To those that supported me, I’m forever grateful, for all of it–the phone conversations, the text messages, the coffees, the lunches, the LinkedIn messages, and the hugs.  I’ve vowed to help anyone I can—day or night—who needs help with job transition and networking.

Mom, I’ve “moved on”.

Seeds can be planted and flowers can bloom in the least expected places.  Bloom where you are planted—you are in control, it just sometimes doesn’t feel that way initially.  But you are.