Tag Archives: email

Monday Morning Moment – Friends, Family, and Fellows at Work in the Digital Age

Photo Credit: The Art of Social Media” (CC BY 2.0) by  mkhmarketing 

My mom was an excellent communicator. She wrote emails like they were letters. Long and newsy, full of the details of her day, and her specific encouragements on the trials of life. Of course, this came out of her only daughter and family taking off to live overseas. With three of Mom’s grandchildren! I will never forget how she bought her first and only computer to be able to communicate regularly with us. She died before the advent of smart phones and social media. Believe me: she would have figured those out as well – to communicate with those she loved.

Dave works in a setting which requires much of his communication to be electronic. He talks about how it has been world-changing in terms of being able to have real-time communication with colleagues. Even time zones away. Email, conference calls, and a myriad of smart phone applications make work practices easier. Especially that of inclusion and having the right people at the decision-making table.

The challenge is when electronic communication is almost but not quite communication. A quick texting conversation or series of emails do not substitute for a face-to-face meeting where nuance and clarification are more easily secured.

I have a friend and one-time colleague who calls me regularly on her way to or from work. Those conversations are so rich. We haven’t lived in the same city for 25 years, but I know her…her take on things, her challenges, and the wealth of her wisdom for my own stuff. We text occasionally, but she has excellent command of the phone-conversation-catch-up-with-friends skill.

The article linked below came to my attention this week. It got me thinking on this topic more. We want to be good at friendship, “family-ing”, working well with our colleagues, right? At least we don’t want to do harm with relationships as we focus on others at the moment. This article is so packed with good stuff, I’m leaving it right here for you to read yourself:

How to Be a Better Friend in the Digital Age by Amy Maclin and Molly Simms

In thinking about our relationships and communication in the digital age, here are my notes to self:

1) Stay in the present. – When in the company of friends or family, or in a work meeting, put electronic devices away if at all possible. In your purse or pocket or another room. Cell phones always with us (at meeting or dinner tables) smack of self-importance, really. I struggle here, so preaching to self. Remember the days when we wrote the things we wanted to remember on pads of paper or a napkin? Maybe you’re not distractible but once I pull out my phone to make a note or take a picture of the food, say, it becomes an uninvited guest at the table…drawing my attention away.Photo Credit: Pexels

You may not have this problem of distractability. We can always make an electronic record later of what we wrote down. We cannot reconstruct conversation we missed while fiddling with our phones. Nor can we recoup that sense of full attention for those in front of us, lost while we were on our phones or tablets.

2) Be proactive in communication. – This may be a challenge for most of us. I am grateful for updates from bosses who want their employees in the loop. Also, how wonderful to get birthday and anniversary cards in the mail (?!)…from proactive loved ones.

Letting friends and family know news, plans, and other details (of special interest between you) sooner than later sends a message. They matter to you, and their time matters as well. If these same people don’t hear from you, in time, they will come after you…better to be proactive, loving in this way.

3) Be quick and appropriate in responding. – [Outside of situation #1] Take the call when possible instead of letting it go to voicemail. Text back even a quick response, with a more complete communication to follow. [Because of their disruptive nature, some texts seem now to be treated as emails to be answered later and in a clump. I get that. Unless the texts become emails that also go unanswered. Just saying.]

Consider the best way to respond. A text may require an email response to be effective. An email may require a phone call in followup. If positive communication is the goal, we go after the medium that best suits.

4) Our social media presence communicates different things to different people. We all know this intuitively. Something to think about if we’re using it for work or to maintain contact with friends/family. Social media, in general, is not a personal vehicle for communication. Definitely broadcasting. Unless you engineer it to be personal. I get how some have elected to go more private, more narrowcasting (see link below). We must remember with this medium: we think because we’ve communicated to some, we have communicated to all. A caution if we care.

Networking: Broadcast or Narrowcast?Genna Rodriguez

5) Avoid the fallout of negative or neglectful communication. – It always seems to have a greater impact than we intended. Or, should I say, a worse outcome. The “unfollow” or “blocking” or social media rant can be not only hurtful but relationship-altering. Not answering phone calls, texts, or emails will eventually stop those from happening…at a cost. Whenever a crucial or hard conversation needs to happen, a face-to-face meetup is best. Even if, because of geographic distance, it has to be via an electronic device (Facetime, etc).

We Have to Talk: A Step-by-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations – Judy Ringer

Also related to social media:  we often fall to being more consumers rather than creators. Our communication gets more passive, even lazy (it happens to me, for sure)…if we don’t take steps to practice being proactive in communication.

Having electronic communication – even at its impersonal worst – is better than no communication…but maybe not forever.

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Did I miss something? Please comment below.

In closing, I just want to give a salute to those in our lives who get all this. My friend who calls, a boss who doesn’t forget to followup, a family member who regularly checks in, that one who uses texts in a fun and familiar ways to touch base, and the people in our lives who practice kind and intelligent reason on social media posts.

I have a younger brother who has a non-stop work day. Long hours, leaving for work before I even wake up, and therefore getting to bed much earlier in the evening than most. We haven’t always been super close, but in these years of getting older and losing loved ones, we are now the next two oldest in our family. We are also much closer friends now than before…part of that is his initiation of calling on his long drive home from work. With hands-free technology to keep driving safe, it has become a sweet occasion between us.

Lastly, social media itself has been more a blessing to me than a curse. I have learned much from folks I follow on Twitter and Facebook. Through Facebook of all things, some once-close college friends and I were able to reconnect. What a gift!

So with all its challenges, the digital age has brought us more good than bad. If we are willing, we can hopefully keep it that way.

P.S. Communication at any level is colored by culture. My husband and I had the privilege of chauffeuring some Egyptian friends to their wedding reception. Our car was decked out in fresh flowers and streamers. Driving through the crazy Cairo night, Dave’s job was to get our friends safely to their destination, but that wasn’t all. Leading a small and festive parade, we were to let it be known to all those on the streets and in apartments above the streets, that a bride and groom were coming through. Traditionally, the driver periodically is to toot his horn in a rhythmic manner signaling those around us of an oncoming wedding party. DA-DA-dadada, DA-DA-dadada. That was the signal. Photo Credit: The Cairo Scene

Everyone knew it and what it meant. Dave was an excellent Cairo driver, BUT he was timid in doing this small duty of horn-blowing. He would only do the first “phrase” of the announcement and not the obligatory second one. It was so not right. After a couple of times of my failed cajoling, he did it one more time with just the first horn toot phrase. A huge packed Cairo city bus passed by us, and its driver finished the phrase! I LOVED IT! We all did. Dave got the idea finally and we joyfully trumpeted to all those around us from that point on with just the right and understood alert!

Ah, true communication!

5 Friday Faves – Marvel vs. DC Comics, Answering Your Email, Healing After Divorce, Recognizing Domestic Violence, and a Life Well-lived

Friday has come and gone this week…and as you read, you will see how it might have taken longer to wrap my mind around these.  Hope you’re doing well and taking each day as the colossal gift it is.

1) Marvel vs. DC Comics – This week, classical guitarist Nathan Mills arranged and performed a mashup/medley of movie themes from the Marvel  and DC Comics  franchises. The melodies are beautiful and powerfully reminiscent of the superheroes they bring to mind.

Beyond the Guitar

2) Answering Your Email –My favorite organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, wrote an excellent piece on timely response to email: “No You Can’t Ignore Email. It’s Rude.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

Email can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but not answering it communicates a lack of care for the person on the other end…and could also reveal something about one’s character overall.

“When researchers compiled a huge database of the digital habits of teams at Microsoft, they found that the clearest warning sign of an ineffective manager was being slow to answer emails. Responding in a timely manner shows that you are conscientious — organized, dependable and hardworking. And that matters. In a comprehensive analysis of people in hundreds of occupations, conscientiousness was the single best personality predictor of job performance. (It turns out that people who are rude online tend to be rude offline, too.)” – Adam Grant

“Email is not household clutter and you’re not Marie Kondo. Ping!” – Adam Grant

3) Healing after Divorce – I’ve known Sarah since she was just a little girl. She was in a class I taught at church when she was 9. That little dreamy sparkling girl was always a delight. When she was still a teen, we moved away. She finished school and got married.

Two sweet children later, her Facebook page revealed the sad news of divorce. I was shocked. How could anyone walk away from this one? [Even after all these years, and too many divorces of people I love, it was still unbelievable to me.]

Sarah has always been one of these guileless, gloriously goofy girls who just lays life out there…and she did on Facebook. The goofy faded a bit…with the single mom reality of her life. Still I was glad to have news of her, even just on Facebook.

The deep hurt of betrayal and divorce no longer defines at least her public face. She is beautiful and joyful. I’m sure there is still hard but it seems outweighed by what’s good in her life now. Wonderful to see for those of us who love her.

With her permission, the following Facebook post tells a poignant and tender and hopeful part of her journey. Yay, Sarah!

With time comes reflection, with reflection comes growth. Today I am reminded of a time in my life that I honestly do not like to talk to many people about. A time I was my most broken. A time I never thought I would survive. When I was first divorced I felt so empty and hopeless. Trivial thoughts would run through my mind that would cripple me with depression. One specific thought that crippled me was, “I will never receive flowers ever again.” Looking back I laugh at such a trivial thing being so important to me at the time, but for some unknown reason this broke my heart. I remember the self-loathing and the self-hate talk I poured out onto myself as I told myself how much I was truly alone.
At this time I was allowing a single mom and kids use my bathroom, shower, and laundry when I was at work or whenever, because they had no bathroom that worked in their home.
Nightly, I would come home and fall on my face at the front door and lay there crying and mourning a lost relationship. I was so tired of the daily dance of faking being the upbeat Sarah that was o.k. (which I honestly sucked at). Many a night I remember lying there at the front door with snot, tears, and hiccups, wiping my eyes, feeling sorry for myself about flowers. One night I remember looking up and noticing a dozen roses in a gorgeous vase sitting on my kitchen table. I then began to hysterically laugh at the irony of the situation.Photo Credit: Flickr
In my most brokenness God chose to show me in a funny way that He was real and present and the only constant in my life. No one had known I had these thoughts of never receiving flowers, and I did not know the single mom I allowed to use my bathroom was a florist.
Looking back now a few years later I see how God had me in His hands all along. I would not trade these experiences in my life with anyone because stories like this one and many others are what makes me who I am.Sarah Morgan LaDuke

4) Recognizing Domestic Violence – This has been a tough week. On Wednesday, we lost Dave’s father (after a massive stroke following years with Parkinson’s). Also on Wednesday, a woman, very dear to many in a community we still call home, died…killed at her workplace by her estranged husband.

I have known both Kelly and her husband for around 30 years. Now, most of those years, we lived overseas. Still, thanks to social media, occasional visits, and keeping up through mutual friends…we thought we knew them…as happily married with a beautiful family and adorable grandchildren being added.

The “happily married” is hard to know for any of us…but to come to the place that one spouse would kill the other…devastating all those children…those grands…a whole community of people…how does that happen?

Unseen.Photo Credit: Kelly Sterling, Facebook

My early childhood years were marked by a neglectful father, but not an abusive one. As an adult there were times that I suspected abuse in the lives of people I loved. It’s very risky to get to the heart of such a situation. You can lose a friend. You could possibly escalate the situation. You could be wrong. Or terribly, horribly right.

I have no answers here for myself or others. Just sadness over Kelly and all who love her. Sadness also for those in-laws who are living this nightmare too…for the friends and coworkers tormented by “Could we have done more?”

That question is never satisfied… The one thing we can do for sure is be a safe place for that person…After that, we can keep learning about domestic violence, keep listening to those in our lives, and lean in wherever we can…wherever we are allowed.

Kelly, you are so loved and we will do what we can to help your family heal and to learn from your life.

Domestic Violence Against Women; Recognizing Patterns, Seek Help – Mayo Clinic

Support a Friend or Family Member Experiencing Domestic Abuse

5) A Life Well-Lived – John Mills is my husband’s dad. For the last several years, he has battled with Parkinson’s. Julia, his wife of over 60 years, was his wingman and first mate. Over quite some time, she and he have lived faithfully “in sickness and in health”.

This week, as I mentioned above, John died. Not of Parkinson’s as we had feared he would…but of a massive stroke. He lived one week after the stroke. Julia brought him home and we all cared for him with her. Just for those days, after she had done the caring for much longer. It was hard seeing him so helpless after knowing him strong for all the years before Parkinson’s.

We all hope to finish strong…to live a life worthy of the years we’re given. John lived well. He didn’t require a lot. He worked hard for his family because it was what men are to do. He was a quiet man; an elegant man; a gentle man. He cared deeply about things. God. His family. His country. He had no ambition for center stage or the head of the table. His integrity, dependability, and goodness placed him in leadership, but he never strove to be a leader. He would be just as happy out in the woods with his rabbit dogs, or fishing on the Chesapeake Bay, or picking summer vegetables or flowers for Julia.

Marrying into the family, I learned something of these simple pleasures from John…as well as how to love long over a lifetime, and how to wait patiently for what comes next…To be honest, I’m still learning. He, however, has finished…well.

How can some of these be my faves for the week? Well…they are here because I wanted to mark them…those hard passings shaped this week more than anything else…and will for some time to come. They are where my head and heart are today. Hope your weekend was a sweet one…lean in whenever you can.

Bonuses [Because I missed last week’s Friday Faves because of travel, you will find bonuses also on the NFL and on abortion from previous weeks]:

Photo Credit: Gregg Swanson, Facebook

Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain – Srinivas Rao

Dr. Ross Greene, Educating Kids Who Haven Been Traumatized – Cissy White

Patrick Mahomes’ MVP Highlights the NFL Honors Awards – James Brady

Black History Month

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tymm Hoffman

Article in Harvard Law Journal concludes: The preborn child is a constitutional person

 

 

Photo Credit: Kirsten Hill Schueler, GSBC Women [Phone Lockscreen]

Monday Morning Moment – Relational Wisdom – the Way It Could Be – at Work & Home

Blog - Monday Morning email

Monday morning emails can be treacherous… This morning when I woke,  my husband told me he’d just heard from a valued colleague that he had secured another job. Dave was expecting this because of previous communications they’ve had with each other. Through an organizational re-structuring, there are many whose jobs are changing. This email was good news because this person will be a tremendous addition to any team – good news and sad news. We will miss this man on our team but we celebrate a great job match.

Then another email came in. It was from the person who will be his new supervisor. It was full of respect and regard – a courtesy email that is not necessarily company culture these days but an email that shows understanding and empathy. When change comes, even good change, there is still that adjustment, that grieving of the good that was. Those two emails speak volume about emotional intelligence or relational wisdom…and that’s something we always need in the workplace…and at home.

The holidays have a particular call for wisdom to soften difficult expectations, disarm family conflicts, and personalize interactions to fit the needs of those nearest to us.

Blog - Monday Morning Moment - MarriagePhoto Credit: rw360.org

One very simple way we can tune into holiday celebrations is to deal with our own stuff. Keeping our minds on the goodness of the holidays helps. It’s easy to find daily Advent readings for the month of December…depending on your favorite author or blogger, they’ve probably written some.

Related to both our work and home relationships, Ken Sande, founder of Relational Wisdom 360, has given us a great gift, and we don’t have to wait another day for it. He has written 33 Ways to Enjoy Highly Relational Holidays. A fast-read blog a day on relational wisdom, starting on November 23 to take you right through to December 25.

I attended Dr. Sande’s Peacemaker course years ago during a challenging work season, and what I learned then continues to be a tremendous help to me today. If your work or family situation is somewhat intimidating, don’t despair. There are those in our lives (Ken Sande is one) who will come alongside and help/mentor us, if we’re willing to take care of our own hearts and minds.Monday Morning Moment - Post traumatic growthPhoto Credit: coldspringcenter.org

As Thanksgiving approaches and Christmas not far behind, I hope you can look forward to happily memorable times together with family. As far as work goes, just like with the emails above, we can do our part to make our workplace a kind and honoring experience – our part (not someone else’s) in making it the way it could be…the way it should be…Blog - Monday Morning Good Work BraceletPhoto Credit: GoodWorksBracelet.com

What helps you thrive in stressful situations at work? What has made a difference in bringing peace and joy to your holiday celebrations? Please comment and share with those searching for that wisdom.

Surviving Christmas – Advent Devotions for the Hard and Holy Holidays – Anne Marie Miller – free ebook

Advent Devotional Readings Online by Lifeway

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: a Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp 

Life Skills – Stewardship of the Essential in the Workplace – 5 Helps

2014 July Blog pics 002

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.                      Proverbs 16:9

“He who believes in Me [Jesus], the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12

5 Helps to Keep Essentials in Focus

1) Pray – do business with God on the issue of stewardship of work.

2) Re-visit your job description/annual goals. Do they match up?

3) Determine when you’re sharpest or freshest & guard that time.

4) Practice intentionality with meeting invites & other distractions.

5) Do what only you can do whenever possible.

Books, blogs, and experts abound in the field of leadership and workplace productivity. A challenge for me at work is the constant press of the urgent, and the seeming necessity of meetings upon meetings. I actually don’t really mind meetings; processing in group is my method of choice for information-sharing and developing strategies. Yet, there are those colleagues of ours whom we depend on for deep thinking and creative planning and who need time in quiet to accomplish that.  Too often their work-day is packed with people (either across a meeting table or through electronic communications). They’re then less able to be proactive in their thinking and more prone to reactive decision-making.

Shane Parrish (@farnamstreet) wrote about this phenomenon several months ago. The title of his article was intriguing: “Most of what you are going to do or say today is not essential”.

I don’t want to spend my life doing things that don’t matter, especially in the huge investment of life at work.

In the above article, Parrish continued: “If you’re a modern knowledge worker, odds are you’re going to go to work, read some emails, reply to some emails, attend some meetings, grab a coffee, have lunch, attend another meeting or two, catch up on emails, and finally head home. You’ll be busy from the moment you get to work until the moment you go home. When you do find a nook of time, you’ll likely be bombarded with beeping, dings, calls, and other people who only need a sliver of our time. After all, they too have something urgent to do. They too have a deadline.

After a long day, you’ll come home mentally and physically drained. Eventually you’ll reach a tipping point and say enough is enough. The very next day you’ll head into the office vowing to change things. You’ll start to think about how to work more productively when, ding, a meeting invite pops up for an urgent meeting to decide the fate of a product.”

Later in the article, he said, “Sure we do more busy work, but we’re doing less real work. To get any real work done we come in early, stay late, or both. That’s the only way we can get some peace and quiet.”

We must take a step back from our hectic workday and refocus our thinking on why exactly do we have our jobs anyway. Why were we given the responsibilities we have or how are we to use the authority/influence we have? Are we being good stewards of what is absolutely imperative or are we just ticking off what is necessary? We have to recapture the essential elements of our work before they’re lost in a muddle of ineffective organizational structure.

There has been lots written on effective leadership, workplace productivity, and time management. For me, these 5 helps encourage me in resetting my priorities when I lose balance or energy or joy in the work:

1) Pray – really do business with God on the issue of your stewardship of your work. Are you being faithful in the essentials?

2) Re-visit your job description and annual goals. Do they match up or have your time and mental energy been outsourced to other activities eroding your creativity and productivity?

3) Determine when you are the sharpest or freshest and guard that time of the day for the most essential thinking and decision-making you need to do. “Silence” the distractions for that block of time.

4) Practice intentionality in dealing with meeting invites, drop-ins, phone calls, or email. Urgent matters will come up and may need only your attention for some part of them. Just beware that you don’t fall into a habit of doing what may come easy – for example, filling up your day with meetings generated by others leaving you with little time for  your own responsibilities.

5) Do what only you can do whenever possible. You’re in the position you’re in, hopefully, because you are just the right person for that job. What is it that you need to be focused on? You don’t just ignore the other needs of the office or organization that vie for your attention, but you help work out how best (either through a process or another person) those needs are met.

What has helped you in stewarding the essentials in your work life? What are your particular challenges?

Shane Parrish – What You Do Today Is Not Essential

Biblical Time Management

Michael Hyatt on Cutting Your To-Do List in Half

Time Management Matrix

5 Tips for Increasing Workplace Productivity

5 Real Tips to Get More Done at Work