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Monday, November 12, 2018

We vs. They

Let's talk about pet peeves for a moment. 

We all have them. I'm not talking about the silly people who sing the wrong lyrics to songs I know by heart, the crazies who wear their sunglasses on top of their head, indoors (for hours) or the maniacs who back their cars into parking spaces. I'm talking about pet peeves as it relates to the workplace. For me, there's a simple litmus test of employee engagement that comes down to two simple words - "we" and "they".  

We've all been there. You're at the counter placing your lunch order, telling the waiter what you want for dinner or checking out at the  retail store and you have a special request or a substitution or some special request and you hear something like this, "they won't let you do that" or "they are going to charge you for that" or "they don't allow us to do that". 

[insert nails on chalkboard here]

They. Who exactly is they? Management? Your Team Lead? The owner? The "man"? Listen, I get it. You're working this job to make ends meet or to get through school, but let's get a little more involved here. I understand that there are rules and sometimes things simply can't be done, but "we" sounds so much different. "We aren't able to accommodate that request because..." or "we are going to charge you an additional $1.00 for the guacamole on your taco salad, will that be okay?" or "unfortunately we no longer offer free shipping to that location, because..." 

Has a different ring to it, right? They sounds so cold, so disconnected and well, not very engaging. They told me the rules and now I'm passing along what they said to you, the customer. On the other hand, we sounds committed and bought into the program. We sounds engaging. We doesn't have to mean that you agree with the rules, the policy or the direction, but we tells others you're committed to the cause. We doesn't sound like finger-pointing. The end result is likely going to be the same, but the level of engagement is completely different. 

And don't think this only applies to fast food establishments, retail outlets and customer service jobs. This is alive and well in the corporate world as well. How many tough conversations have started something like this, "So, Bob, management wanted me to talk to you about your performance" or "Well, Sally, the boss told me that I need to write you up for being late"? But that's another blog post for another day.

I'll end with a solid example of employee engagement from the classic movie, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". Brad is a young manager, committed to the cause and clearly engaged in the business. 

Let's be like Brad.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Motivation Monday: Let's Go Sailing!

"A smooth sea never yielded a skilled sailor" - English Proverb

Today I'm sharing one of my all-time favorite quotes. This one has come in handy, on so many occasions, over the course of my career. It's a reminder, to me, that nothing worthwhile comes easy and that the trials and tribulations that we endure (and overcome) make us better professionals, better employees, better managers...better people. 

I've found that the hardest part of becoming a "skilled sailor" isn't actually surviving the tough times and the twists and turns, but rather learning from the mistakes of my past and finding a meaningful way of sharing that wisdom with others. Weathering the storms of our lives and our careers is something we've all got to do. Whether we want them or not, the storms are going to come. But what are you going to do with that wisdom, those experiences and those lessons learned...that's the real question.

I'd encourage you to seek out one person this week, to mentor, and do your part to help them become a "skilled sailor". 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Motivation Monday: Let's Get This Started (Again)!

About 15 years ago, I started sending out motivational quotes (you guessed it, on Mondays) to my colleagues at AT&T Wireless. What started out as a small, simple thing in the Chicago/Detroit markets blossomed into something bigger and better than I ever imagined. Initially, I just sent an email to the group distribution list for the two markets I was supporting, with a pledge to stay away from two topics - politics and religion. Simple enough, right?

As the weeks went on, the feedback started rolling in. For the most part, people appreciated the quotes and I got a ton of encouragement to keep it going. Some folks weren't as into it and asked to be removed from the distribution list. No harm, no foul. But now I had to create a custom distribution list in order to remove individual names. Pretty soon, I had a distribution list that I was curating, adding more and more people as the weeks and months went on. Over the years, my personal distribution list grew to about 150 names. Some of the people on my list were people I'd never met and/or connected with, they'd found out about my motivational messages from someone on my list and asked me to include them. This was, obviously, before tools like LinkedIn and Twitter arrived on the scene. Good, old fashioned e-mail.

Fast forward to today and there are no motivational messages on Mondays. My distribution list is a printed email, sitting in my desk at home. A few years ago, for no real reason at all, I stopped sending out my Monday messages. It wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened. Like some many other things in life, I got pulled in other directions, other priorities came up and the weekly messages fell off my radar. Until now.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed sharing the quotes I selected and quite frankly, the high I got from others when they told me how much they appreciated my message and why. So, I'm rebooting the Motivational Message and calling it Motivation Monday (#momonday). I hope you'll follow along.

Which brings me to my quote for the day. Actually, you'll get two for the price of one today. First, because they're both fitting. Second, because it's my blog and I can do what I want : )

I'm in the middle of a job search right now, which means that I have some extra time to think, to reflect, do household chores that have been neglected. So as I was trimming my overgrown hedges yesterday, I got to thinking about my job search and how I've been blown away by how much a few, specific people in my life have helped me during this time. People who have humbled me by their eagerness to help, willingness to make introductions and their genuine interest in helping me out. People I would've never expected it from. Not because of who they are, but because of the relationship that we have. Some of these folks are long-time colleagues that I've recently reconnected with and some of them are loose acquaintances. Just proves that people will surprise you. I couldn't help but think of the famous Anne Frank quote, 

"Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart."

So, while this never started out to be an "I'm thankful for..." post, I am truly thankful for a few folks who have restored my faith in humanity and been a huge support these last few weeks. A good reminder, for me, to pay it forward as often as I can.

The second quote is one of my favorite and one that I think of quite a bit. As most folks can attest, being in the middle of a job search can be a grind. It's easy for some (not me) to get depressed and feel insecure and hopeless. The reality is that the struggles we're each going through are nothing compared to what others are going through. In a job search, you meet A LOT of different people, who are all in different stages and coming from different places. Every day I'm reminded of this quote below from Socrates,

"If all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be content to take their own and depart"

We've all got troubles, no doubt about it. But when you compare your own struggles with what some others are dealing with, it tends to put things in perspective. It's also a good reminder to never assume anything about anyone. None of us have any idea what kinds of struggles, battles and demons another person is fighting day in and day out.

So, there you go. Two quotes for the price of one, a reboot of the weekly motivational messages and a healthy dose of gratitude and thankfulness this week.

Have an awesome week and a Happy Thanksgiving!

ps. I am 'job search' mode, so be sure to check out my LinkedIn profile and hit me up if you come across an awesome HR opportunity!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

There are not enough likes,



or thumbs up

that can express my appreciation and gratitude to those who have given everything for our country.

Thank you.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Leaning In: A Lesson in Leadership

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a post about leaning in. Not the Cheryl Sandberg-type of leaning in or a post about women in leadership positions in the workplace. This is a post about actually, physically "leaning in". Leaning in to listen, leaning in to understand and leaning in to learn.

Several years ago, I was doing some HR consulting work for one of the largest pizza chains in the United States. I spent six months working on a number of different HR initiatives such as incentive compensation, performance management and process improvement. Most of my time, however, was spent recruiting, specifically Operations leaders and key corporate positions. Over the course of this contract assignment, and regular trips to their corporate office, I was able to spend quite a bit of time with the CEO and his senior leadership team. There are a number of great lessons and things I took away from this experience, but there is one moment that stands out more than others.

We were looking for a Division Vice President to fill one of the vacant leadership positions in Restaurant Operations. After dozens of phone screens and a handful of phone interviews with senior leaders we whittled the candidate pool down to three final, lead candidates that we brought into the corporate office for in-person interviews with the CEO and the senior leadership team. Over the course of a few days, the three candidates came in, put their best foot forward and made their case for the job. I was on point for facilitating the debrief session. I collected feedback from all of the interviewers, created an agenda for the meeting and was prepared to lead the discussion and land on our final, lead candidate. The stage was set. 

As we started the debrief session, I noticed that the CEO was asking us for our feedback on each candidate, before providing any feedback of his own. This was intentional and he eventually shared with us that he preferred to hear what we had to say about each candidate first before providing his input, as he felt that his leading the conversation sometimes skews the conversation, one way or another. Self awareness...I like it. Reminded me of the some of the leadership lessons found in, "It's Your Ship" by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff. As we continued the debrief meeting, we came to one of the candidates and I'll never forget the CEO sharing this insight. He said, "I found him (candidate) to be a very easy guy to talk to. He's affable. He's the kind of guy that I would love to have a beer with or talk to at a dinner party. But, I just didn't find myself leaning in and thinking, 'What can I learn from him? or 'How can he help me see things differently?'. Now with this other guy (other candidate), I found myself hanging on his every word. I was leaning in and thinking, 'This guy's got some incredible experiences that I can learn from. What can I take away from this conversation to make my business better? How can he help me be a better leader?'"


I walked away from that conversation thinking two things. First, this is the kind of leader I'd like to work for. Neither his title or his position have gotten in the way of him realizing that everyone has a story to tell and we can all learn something from everyone we come in contact with, even candidates. Second, I now have this real-life sound bite in my mind of "leaning in" and the kind of impact it can have, regardless of which side of the conversation you're on. (For the record, we did extend an offer to the candidate that the CEO was leaning in to and he's still in place today.)

Here's my challenge for the senior leaders reading this post - are you taking the time and energy to set your position, title and ego aside to really listen, and learn, from others? 

Here's my challenge for the HR pros reading this post - when you have leaders that display these kinds of qualities, be sure to embrace, recognize and reinforce them. On the flip side, use this as a guidepost when you're coaching your managers and employees around making a more meaningful impact on the organization and earning the trust and respect from their leaders. 

Here's my challenge for the candidates reading this post - are you telling your story in a way that engages others? In my opinion, the best candidates are oftentimes the best storytellers in that they have found a way to share their experiences and their talents in a way that is engaging, informative and dare I say it, captivating. When you think about your career and the professional journey that you're on, are you able to make others lean in