Tag Archives: work

Monday Morning Moment – Building Our Own Personal Surge Capacity in the Longer Stretch of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Long Running Living

Let’s talk about capacity! I’m still working on my Monday blog on a Tuesday. One of the fall-outs of COVID.

What started, in our country, as a sprint in March is turning into more a long-distance run. 6 months now. 184 days thus far of physical distancing (for this medically at-risk person).

Remember how we first thought it might be just 2 weeks of quarantining to eradicate the threat? OK, I was super-naive.

We’re becoming weary of certain words and phrases. Pandemic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. New normal. We’re all in this together. Even social distancing. [I was thankful when that phrase went out of vogue and “physical distancing” replaced it. “Social distancing” put a wrongful prescription on its hearers. We need to physical distance, yes, but never social distance. We have learned.]

Remember when surge capacity became a worrisome phrase in our daily news cycle. Will our hospitals have enough ICU beds and ventilators to properly care for the rising numbers of persons with grave cases of COVID? That was the fear. We heard the daily troubling reports from New York state officials. Those reports were heard, and hundreds of ventilators were sent, as well as the provision of field hospitals, even the arrival of a huge hospital ship.  Peak hospitalizations with COVID have passed for now. Surge capacity tested and proven ample.

Why does this matter?

Each of us has our own surge capacity (related to stress, trauma, loss). During COVID, we are all having it tested. Some more than others. I think of parents trying to juggle work, child care, and monitoring schooling. Teachers preparing in-class lessons and teaching remotely as well in the various hybrid programs. Essential workers. First responders. Hospital personnel.

Here is a general definition of capacity-building. It is where we are.

Capacity-building is defined as the “process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes. – United Nations Academic Impact

Remember when we first started experiencing COVID (at least in the news)? We had big plans for the physical distancing and working remotely and the time we would recoup in that experience. We would take a college course, learn a new language, renovate the house, or declutter our lives.

Then we were surprised at the sluggishness that we encountered. The dullness. The quiet that gradually turned into isolation.

We mentally prepared for a sprint, but the rules changed. We had to change how we ran to set our minds and bodies for a longer run.

Science journalist Tara Haelle recently posted an excellent piece on human surge capacity. “We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.”

[Her article is one of a collection of three articles at Medium.com on capacity, power surge, zoom fatigue, and workplace diversity and inclusion.]

Haelle writes in detail on our surge capacity and how we can endure and actually build capacity for this season of prolonged uncertainty. Her main points follow (read her piece for greater detail).

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

We don’t want to fall victim to what seemed like it would be a sprint but has turned into a marathon. Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant tweeted wisdom about the problem of becoming sluggish or judging that in others. [I do disagree that we’re all socially awkward now…just pointing to his Tweet.]

Photo Credit: Twitter, Adam M. Grant

Moving into the 7th month of COVID experience, we are making decisions on how to better maneuver. Still committed to safe practices but re-engaging in life with people we love…people whose influence and very presence we have missed in these physically distanced days.

Life is precious. There is a balance in what is real and how we can build capacity to meet that reality. Otherwise life becomes something less. We know what’s working and what’s not. If not, we can counsel with each other. I say we go for it…stretching ourselves out for the long distance run, bringing all those we can along with us.

Forgive the “motivational speechiness” – it’s what happens when I think too long on something and yet lack the answers. Recognition, desire and hope all together birth action…so let’s get after it!

Please post in Comments what is working in your life to build capacity. See you on the road.

[Postscript: The image below is one sort of those “both-and” situations Haelle prescribes. We as parents teach our children had to be resourceful and responsible in hard times, and we also teach them how they might make the world a kinder place for us all.]Photo Credit: The Purposeful Parenting Movement, Facebook

I’m Listening – Talk Has the Power to Save Lives – Radio Show

Monday Morning Moment – Humor at Work – Celebrating the People Who Make Us Laugh

Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

Don’t you just love to laugh? That laughter that rolls naturally, uncontrollably up when someone does or says something delightfully unexpected. Genius. We need humor in our lives. It has all sorts of health benefits but mental and physical…and it just feels good.

Humor in Health Care: Irreverent or Invaluable – Alice Facente

Laughter Is the Best Medicine – Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, and Jeanne Segal [an awesome help guide for upping the humor in your life]

Not the humor of putdown, sarcasm, teasing, or the joke’s on you. We do laugh at that sort of humor sometimes…but it doesn’t really feel good. Be honest…well, maybe to the one generating it.

The High Cost of Negative HumorAnn McGee-Cooper, Duane Trammell,  Gary Looper [incredibly helpful; includes a graphic on negative and positive humor]

What got me thinking about humor this morning was the unending “going through boxes”, clearing out the stuff of life in our attics. Our lives has distinct chapters. One was based in East Tennessee. Dave was a research chemist, and I had the joy of being cancer nursing specialist at the local cancer center. This morning’s box had been stored in Dave’s parents’ attic for 25 years. In it was a trove of memories from those cancer nursing days.

I pulled out a heavy folder 3-inches thick of notes, correspondence, articles on humor, and clippings of jokes and funny stories (will have to post some of these another day).

Neither my husband nor I are usually funny (OK, sometimes we are, and it always surprises us). We have often found ourselves in heavy work and social situations. Maybe we are safe sorts and can be trusted in such situations. I worked in cancer and hospice nursing for years. Dave currently works in risk management.

Both of us are strongly and positively affected by truly funny people. We have friends and colleagues who make us laugh. They are treasures.

We can take ourselves was too seriously. Humor – the positive kind – gives us sweet mental breaks. A ticker-tape parade even.

The 12 Steps of Taking Ourselves a Little Less Seriously – Sean Swaby – Good Men Project – another excellent resource!

When we find ourselves in a conversation that erupts in laughter, it’s pure joy. Or we see something online or receive a funny little meme on a text. Small things. Whatever burden or weighty responsibility was on our minds at that moment…shifts. Perspective is restored.

Humor makes us better thinkers and problem-solvers. [I’m not going to look up the scientific data on that for now, but I’m totally confident there are some.]

Here’s to the people who make us laugh.  You know who you are, and we’re grateful!

If we lighten up a little, and celebrate all the victories, big and small, we might find that, after all this is over, we will still be standing.

YouTube – SGN Potluck: Some Good News with John Krasinski Ep. 5

Michael Jr.

Monday Morning Moment – What Stirs Motivation, Initiative, and Innovation – What Kills It

Photo Credit: Flickr

We all have the capability of motivating those around us…or demotivating them. We can stir initiative or slow it down. We can grease the tracks for innovation or derail it.

How are motivation, initiative, and innovation defined? Considering the definitions will help us remember how crucial they are to forward progress – in serving others, in product development, and in employee (or volunteer) engagement.

MotivationInternal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal. Motivation results from the interaction of both conscious and unconscious factors such as the (1) intensity of desire or need, (2) incentive or reward value of the goal, and (3) expectations of the individual and of his or her peers. These factors are the reasons one has for behaving a certain way.

InitiativeAn individual’s action that begins a process, often done without direct managerial influence. For example, an employee might take the initiative to come up with a new product or service that the company could offer…Demonstrat(ing) initiative by sharing their ideas, helping to improve our business, speaking up about problems, and suggesting potential solutions.

InnovationThe process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.

We can celebrate situations where we experience daily motivation and have the freedom and support to run with our initiative and participate in innovation. It’s in other situations that we need internal and external encouragement to press on, even without the help or support of our managers, leaders, bosses.

Dealing with bottlenecks, micro-managing, and continually reiterating leaders or bosses can tempt us to disengage and slow down in our own work…even in areas where our passion and commitment are high.

“One of the signals that managers might need more training is when their engineers aren’t taking initiative.”Jean Hsu, Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative?

“We agree completely that micromanagement is a big mistake. It diminishes people’s self-confidence, saps their initiative, and stifles their ability to think for themselves. It’s also a recipe for screwing things up—micromanagers rarely know as much about what needs to be done as the people they’re harassing, the ones who actually do it.” – Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Photo Credit: Flickr

This piece today is really not to vent about those in authority over us who make our work or volunteering difficult (and sometimes joyless). Listed below (in the links) are several lists on particulars that stifle or kill motivation, initiative, and innovation. Especially if you are a manager or boss, these would be important to consider.

We may need to process a bit about our struggle to get a project finished or an idea embraced. This particular blog came out of such a frustration. Still, what I hope is to take the power to spoil out of the hands of our bosses (most probably that is not their primary intention) and to empower ourselves to push on in ways we can. Without being divisive or insubordinate. Empathy is one of the tools we can use.Photo Credit: Brian Solis, Flickr

Empathy is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings”.

The Truth About Why Empathy is a Required Skill in the Workplace

Empathy probably seems a bit counter-intuitive when you’re feeling blocked by a controlling boss. Think about it. Once you think through her reasoning on slowing down a process, you can then give support to your ideas with language that speaks to her concerns.  For example, a micromanager may have several critical and costly projects going at the same time and could be afraid himself of dropping the ball on some, so he slows everything down and reins in decision-making. It can make a work team nuts, but if you determine to understand something of his position, you can stay in the conversation rather than just bolting.

Hating on your boss will only cloud the relationship from both sides. Then there’s the ripple effect to other relationships. None of us really want that. See link below…wisdom.

Workplace Wisdom – Dave’s Observation on Work (and Other) Relationships – What You Think of Others Matters – Deb Mills

You can help here, respectfully, by thinking through other ways to get to the solution of the problem or impasse. Empathy is a discipline that keeps conversations positive and inclusive of all those needed to make the decision on a new direction.Photo Credit: Career Contessa

Empathy at Work – Why It (Really) Matters – Jacqueline McElhone

Besides empathy, I have also discovered a different path. Maybe like you, I am one of those persons who generates ideas like other people generate the responses “we tried that” or “that’s good, but”. Creatives aren’t always well-received in the decision-making hierarchy. In recent years, I went through a season of de-motivation and diminished initiative. Life is too short to spend long in that mindset.

I finally shook off the troubled slumber of that season, in three ways:

  • Making the decision to continue working with the same organization, but
  • Looking for other avenues (non-profits, start-ups) to express the energy and passion of these ideas which I believed would make a difference.
  • Playing with and developing these ideas in an environment of inclusion and all-voices-wanted-at-the-table.

It wasn’t long that my confidence and sense of how to work smarter helped me to re-engage my workspace, with empathy. The bottlenecks may still be there, the control may still be weighted, but I am the one who changed. More ready for the battles and taking them less personally.

You matter. Your ideas, your solutions to problems, your presence at the table.

Thoughts? Would love to hear them (in Comments).

Photo Credit: Needpix

What Kills Motivation at Work – Justin Reynolds

7 Ways Toxic Managers Stifle Employee Motivation and Productivity – Kristin Marquet

7 Ways Micromanagement Stifles Creativity – Wayne Hastings

Nine Rules for Stifling Innovation – Rosabeth Moss Kanter

10 Ways Weak Managers Stifle Innovation – Liz Ryan

10 Things Companies Do That Kill Employee Motivation – Paul Petrone

Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative? – Jean Hsu

Monday Morning Moment – Micro-actions and Micro-behaviors – a Conspiracy of Small

Photo Credit: Edmund Burke, Pinterest

Micro-actions aren’t not the myriad of tasks that appear on our daily to-do lists. I’m defining micro-actions as all those brief, intentional acts we do that help us “get to goal”, “avoid mission drift”, or communicate value to those around us. Micro-actions can show up on in our daily habits (like my making the bed every morning, or Dave daily bringing me coffee). More often than not, they are  spontaneous – fitting the situation or need of the moment.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mathew Sweezey

Micro-actions can include acknowledging the creativity/good sense of a teammate, writing thank you notes, taking a parking place farther from the building, making the difficult phone call (regarding a death or serious illness), stopping by the desks of coworkers just to say hi, sharing the praise for a project well-done, ordering a pizza for a young family.

Small, positive actions…that could have gone undone and unnoticed if undone…but the impact!! The impact can be substantial for a teammate, family member, or neighbor.

Take these wise words from Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris:

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.” – Danusha Laméris

What micro-actions do you incorporate in your day, regularly or occasionally? Please comment below. Also we would love to hear your stories of a “micro-action” someone did with you in mind.

Micro-behaviors go deeper than micro-actions. They are defined as  tiny, often unconscious gestures, facial expressions, postures, words and tone of voice which can influence how included (or not included) the people around us feel.  Micro-behaviors become habitual and unconscious. They expose how we think and reveal our current worldview…our preferences, our prejudices, our bias. Our micro-behaviors send messages to others without us even being aware. A look (or look away), a tone of voice, a move toward inclusion or exclusion.

When our micro-behaviors (or those we observe in others) are positive, they are a not-so-subliminal uplifting experience – communicating affirmation, belonging, care. It’s when they are negative that we need to check them (when we become aware) and decide is that really what we want to communicate. Is that really who we have become toward certain segments of people?

Our American culture has shifted away from civility and community and more toward sarcasm and tribalism. [See Alan Weiss‘ piece on Tribalism vs. Community] These changes show up in our micro-behaviors.

Author, educator Karen Swallow Prior, in her book Booked, writes about satire in a way that reflects our culture’s bent toward sarcasm:

“[Jonathan] Swift helped turn my contempt for the foolishness I saw in others into compassion. While contempt leads to the case of isolation, compassion leads to a freedom found only in community…It was so easy to see [foolishness] in others, much harder to recognize it in myself. “Satire is a sort of glass,” Swift said, “wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Did I love satire only because in it I saw everyone else but me? Was I as blind to my own faults as Swift showed others to be? It seemed so.” – Karen Swallow Prior

Photo Credit: Facebook, William Curtis

Micro-actions and micro-behaviors…something to consider on a Monday. How can I take a few minutes here and there through the day to encourage or empower a colleague…or stranger, even? What am I communicating when keeping eye contact during a conversation and showing genuine interest in the other person? On the converse, what does my face fixed on my phone or computer screen, or my head down, shooting through the lobby toward my office, say to those we might have greeted but didn’t…discounting them by our behavior?

Thoughts?

How Can You Spot Really Good Leaders? They Practice These Simple 2-Minute Habits DailyMarcel Schwantes

Be a Pal, My Dudes – Erika Hall

#MicroActions on Twitter

#Microbehaviors on Twitter

Hack the Culture with Micro Changes – Marcella Bremer

Micro-actions, Fragmentation, and Influence – Peter Roy – Asian Efficiency Team

What Are Micro-behaviours and How Do They Impact Inclusive Cultures? The Little Things That Make a Big Difference – Caroline Arnold

Micro-Behaviours – What They Are and How They Impact Inclusion – Jan Hills

How Micro-Actions Can Help You Conquer Your Goals – Megan Nye

The Top 6 Micro-Actions for Entrepreneurs

5 Friday Faves – Pink Panther on Guitar, Avoiding Dehumanization, the Power of Words and Names, After School Restraint Collapse, and Using a Timer for Work

Welcome to your weekend…unless it’s not. Here are my favorite finds for this week. A couple are longer than others. Pick and choose. Hope it’s helpful.

1) Pink Panther on Guitar – In 1963, The Pink Panther comedy film debuted starring David Niven and Peter Sellers. So popular, it launched a cartoon series, followed by several sequels and a 2-film reboot in the 2000s starring Steve Martin.

YouTube Video – 15 Life Lessons from Peter Sellers – Classical Pink Panther Moments and More

The jazzy theme for Pink Panther was written by American composer Henry Mancini.

Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, has masterfully arranged and performed the theme. It brings back waves of nostalgia from those films/cartoons. All through my younger years, the Mancini theme was part of high school band performances and jazz dance concerts.

This piece is something altogether different and yet delightfully familiar, at the same time. Enjoy.

Here you go:

2) Avoiding Dehumanization – For some time, the verbal bashing of people in the news and on our own social media has been unsettling for me. Character defamation, name calling, shaming, and blame-shifting are escalating and inflaming.

When we find someone’s speech or behavior inhumane or dehumanizing, how does it help the situation if we call them out by behaving similarly? Does that not put us in a similar camp with the one we consider offensive?

Author, researcher Brené Brown speaks to this much more articulately than I:

“Here’s what I believe:
1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called b**ch, wh**e, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.
3. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.”
3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing p*ssy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.
4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”
5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed.

There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.”  Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook – Sherri Gordon

We need to call ourselves to the same standard we expect in others… I sure don’t mean this to sound preachy. Many times, in various situations, I’ve wanted to call out someone’s words as being hurtful or disingenuous or their behavior as deceitful or self-serving. We want to do something!! Words are the cheapest action we can take. Does it change anything to verbally criticize someone on social media? I don’t think so.

Psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud, in his excellent book Necessary Endings, counsels us how to deal with three different types of people – the wise, the foolish, and the evil.

  • Wise people – Dr. Cloud points out that wise people can take feedback and use it in a helpful way. In dealing with wise people, talk to them (not about them).  Put the truth out there in non-judgmental ways. Because they can handle feedback and will most probably use it to make changes, the way to deal with people in this category is to keep talking. Bring your concerns to the table and thoughtful and respectful ways. Communicate your own willingness to work for change, by actually working for change. No blaming, nor rationalizing behavior (yours or theirs)…staying in “good faith” relationships can actually invigorate the process of changes.
  • Foolish people – “The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.” Again, talking about the person rather than with her doesn’t change anything, and, in fact, can inflame the situation if done publicly and she hears of it.Dr. Cloud advises, when dealing with the foolish:  stop talking. Nagging will not improve a situation with a foolish person. Rather, set limits and, if possible, create some sort of consequence for the problem you wish you could talk to her about. Limits gave you some space and protection. That consequence alone may drive the person to look at their behavior and change it… At least, it takes the responsibility for change off of you and on to her.
  • Evil people – If the person you want to castigate on social media (or whom you want to believe news reports on her behavior) has shown herself to be evil, then don’t expect change. It can happen, but not by your behavior reflecting hers. As Dr. Cloud talks about putting limits up for yourself with foolish people, you put limits on the evil person when at all possible. He quotes the Warren Zevon song, “Lawyers, Guns and Money“. Maybe somewhat facetiously but also seriously, Cloud is warning to use what resources you have (within the law) to put distance between the evil person and you (and those you love). Antagonizing them in the news/on social media helps no one…and it dehumanizes everyone in its wake. [Guns have become a difficult and divisive subject. Guns is used here in the context of wars against evil or protecting oneself or one’s family against evil.]

Necessary Endings – Summary by Rex Williams for Actionable Books

3) The Power of Words and Names – Just as name-calling (see above) only dehumanizes us, we can use words and names as agents for giving life and honor. They can actually elevate a person, people, or situation. They can move people toward their best selves.

Words mean things.

Author, educator Karen Swallow Prior has written a fascinating book on how her voracious reading of books from childhood onward strongly and positively impacted her. To become the person she is today. The book is entitled Booked – as it should be.

Dr. Prior makes note of the power of words and names in her Booked chapter on E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In the story, a spider, Charlotte, gives her pig friend Wilbur a different understanding of who he is by the descriptors of him that she wove into her web. Powerful.

Charlotte’s Web is a metaphor for the power words have to shape us into who others see us as well as how we see ourselves.” – KS Prior

“Names are powerful words…All words are names, for all words signify something. The power of naming is a subset of the power of all language. God spoke the universe into existence and, in giving us the gift of language, He gave us a lesser, but still magnificent, creative power in the ability to name: the power to communicate, to make order out of chaos, to tell stories, and to shape our own lives and the lives of others.” –  KS Prior

I love the power of words and parallel power in names. When we lived in North Africa, names and their meanings told us about who belonged to who and what they valued in the giving of names.

How we use words and how we choose names are part of what we give to the world…and to those we love.

4) After School Restraint Collapse – When our children would come in from school grumpy and disrespectful, I would feed them. Then we always had a bit of a break before any homework or other expectation was foisted on them. Little did I know that these are prescribed interventions for something called After School Restraint Collapse.

At the first of the school year, children (and young people) are adapting to new teachers, new routines and rhythms, new expectations. They are trying to cope with all the new and keep their names “on green” or off the teacher’s watch list. By the end of the school day, they are emotionally and physically done, so to speak. Thus, the disagreeable behavior on transferring from school to home. It’s like they need to blow off steam, or get out all the pent-up energy, trying to stay well-behaved all day.

Photo Credit: Need Pix

Besides nourishment and a bit of a break, all the authors recommend that personal touch with their parents. Connecting through the day (notes in a lunch box or a book) helps. Having a no-expectations quiet affirming moment (in whatever way the child prefers receiving it) is also encouraged.

Screens only as a last resort.

After-School Restraint Collapse Is a Real Thing – Here’s How to Deal With It – Colleen Seto

After-School Restraint Collapse is Real – Here’s How to Help Your Child – Heather Marcoux

7 Ways to Help Your Child Handle “After School Restraint Collapse” – Andrea Loewen Nair

5) Using a Timer for Work – When it comes to writing, I could sit at my desk for hours on end. Sometimes, in fact, I do. However, other responsibilities clamber for attention. Using the alarm clock function has become a daily habit for me not to get lost in what is right in front of me. Just recently using a timer as well has become a great discipline. For larger tasks, I may set the timer for 30-45 minutes. For smaller tasks, and just to stay on track, I set 10 minute intervals. Before starting back up, a stretch break or checking on a teammate or a quick food or drink refreshment are all welcome.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

Sometimes, the timer works as a stop point, to move on to a meeting or another work function.  Time fairly flies anyway, so a timer has given me a sense of both urgency and intentionality. It has also helped me be aware of when I’m wasting time or it’s being wasted by someone else (of course, that bears some gentleness in dealing with either situation). Photo Credit: Facebook, Jason Morehead

A timer has helped not just with writing and other work day responsibilities but also with cleaning house. It has added a sense of reward seeing how much can be done in short spurts of time.

Clean House Fast and Efficiently Using a Timer – Ashley

___________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for reading. I hope you were able to pick and choose. A lot of words this week. Blessings on the rest of your weekend!

Bonuses:

The Why Behind the Picture – Dani Fairbairn

Rory Feek – This Life I Live – Documentary

Why Slack Employees Don’t Get Distracted by Slack – Damon Brown

12 Idols We Might Wrongly Follow – Chuck Lawless

Many Beautiful Things – a Documentary on the Life of Lilias Trotter, starring Michelle Dockery

Change the World RVA

Photo Credit: Facebook, Jeanne Barney

Monday Morning Moment – The Great Good of Doing a Favor and Some Rules for Asking a Favor

Photo Credit: All Hands

We all need a favor from time to time. Every occasion Dave helps a friend move, he says, “That’s the last time”. Then there’s the next time.

There’s great good in doing a favor because it expresses care… sometimes great care. Of course, favors can be done for selfish reasons. Business writer and professor Adam Grant has written a book on three styles of behavior that speak to this. These styles are givers, takers, and matchers. There are those of us who do favors for the joy of helping others (givers), those who more often ask for favors (takers), and finally those who will do a favor for someone who’s done one for her already (matchers).

“Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?”Adam Grant

I recently attended a conference. It was a poignant experience because the organizer of the conference is moving toward a secession plan for her role. This is a brilliant, generous, like-no-other professional I’m just grateful to know.

The conference ended and I was helping with the final tying up of loose ends. She and I passed in the hallway, and I took the opportunity to tell her how much she had influenced my life’s work. Then I laid out a proposition:

“If I can do anything at all for you, just ask. it would be an honor.”

“Well…there is something.”

Then she asked me for a favor that was totally out of my expertise and comfort zone. A favor that I knew would take hours, even days, to complete. A favor that I was sure someone else should be doing – fearful to be a disappointment to her.

Still…I had made the proposal and she accepted.

Without going into too many details, let me just say I have been up to my eyeballs in Excel spreadsheets. They are no longer outside my expertise…thanks to online tutorials…and all this experience I have now.

So the short of it is that by tomorrow, I will be finished with my favor. Next time I’m feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for her, it may stop short of offering such an open-ended favor. I’ll find a different way to express how much she means to me. Flowers, maybe.

My husband told me several times that I needed to renegotiate that favor. He knew it wasn’t a strength of mine to do what she asked.

I just couldn’t take my offer back. She is the kind of person who should have favors done for her every day…she’s just that person.

In preparing to write about doing favors, I did come across two fascinating articles on this topic.

Asking for a Favor: The Three Keys – Jodi Glickman

In brief, the three keys for asking a favor are:

  1. Set the Stage: “I have a favor to ask you”.
  2. Give a Reason.
  3. Provide an Escape Clause.

[Read the whole piece. It’s a fast read and insightful for those who ask for favors – I don’t so much, but it was good stuff to know.]

The Five Golden Rules of Favor Asking – Tynan

Tynan offers these golden rules when asking him for a favor:

  1. Your benefit must greatly outweigh my inconvenience.
  2. You should make it as easy as possible for me to do the favor.
  3. Ask immediately. Don’t small talk.
  4. Do everything you can first.
  5.  Reciprocate.

[This piece also is an excellent larger read.]

These rules are all super nice and would be much appreciated if someone asks us for a favor. I find though that if someone asks for a favor, they often are pretty desperate for help and may not have asked with the finesse Tynan would like observed. Unless they are Adam Grant’s takers.

This favor, this Excel spreadsheet favor, was not solicited, except from my prompting. I gave this amazing woman the gift of asking for whatever I could do for her. Genie-like. She took me at my word.

Now that the time has been carved out, and a new skill has been honed, I’m thankful it worked out.

Doing favors for people isn’t a regular activity of mine, but it is something to aspire to. It is a great good.

We have had so many favors done for us. Two of the many that come to mind are a lawn mowed during a time we struggled caring for a our hospitalized little girl (thanks always J.R.) and the company offered to Dave in a surgery waiting room (thanks, Harriet).

It might be a helpful activity to write down all the favors done for us, or for others that we know about. Such a beautiful thing a kindness with nothing expected in return.

If you have some data demanding an Excel spreadsheet…and you need some help…maybe just wait a few days, ok? Same with moving.

[Any stories of doing or asking for a favor? Please tell us in the Comments below.]

Monday Morning Moment – Leadership, Criticism, and the Man (or Woman) in the Arena

Photo Credit: YouTube

Monday’s are exceptional days of the week. You may enter it with one focus or resolve and then discover a golden nugget that takes you a very different direction. It happened to me this morning.

My temptation was to vent frustration over a situation where leadership leans toward being restrictive, exclusive, and narrow in focus. Aren’t you glad I am not writing about that today?!

[I’ve written previously about negativity and how to turn it around – here, here, and here. No matter how consequential the issue, criticism won’t get us where we want to go.]

As I pondered how to address the topic in a positive, redemptive way, I came across a wise friend’s Facebook post that pointed me to an edited video of a talk given by author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown.

She was addressing an audience of young “creatives”.  She encouraged them to “show up and be seen”, but in so doing, there is a consequence. We will, at times, get our behinds busted, so to speak.

She referenced a riveting speech that President Theodore Roosevelt gave in 1910, shortly after he left office. I do not remember ever hearing this speech until today. Below is the excerpt that Brown quoted:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I was deeply humbled by the wisdom of that speech.

Our leaders all have their own arenas. You have yours. I have mine. It is not my desire to exit the place where I am called to serve, to create, to fight battles meant for me…just to become a critical or negative spectator in another’s arena.

There are times when our battle is made harder by another…by one who could alter our circumstance, who could provide assistance, who could hear our cry for help…and doesn’t heed. It happens.

Yet…it doesn’t take away the cause I’m meant to hold dear…and the one for which I am to fight. It certainly doesn’t warrant me leaving my battle to judge his or hers.

Brené Brown gave a strong warning to both the unengaged leader and the critical employee:

“If you’re in the cheap seats, not putting yourself on the line, and just talking about how I could do it better, I’m in no way interested in your feedback.”Brené Brown

Scorching, right?

This Monday my thinking and life direction went a different way than at first it was headed. Are there times when we speak to leaders, imploring them to consider another way? Of course…but never so much that we take our eyes off our own work…our own arena.

Let’s get after it!

YouTube Video – Brené Brown – The Man in the Arena Speech (edited)

YouTube Video – Brené Brown – Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count

“Citizenship in a Republic” – Theodore Roosevelt speech, April 23, 1910

Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” – Erin McCarthy

Monday Morning Moment – The 3 I’s of Leaders Who Get Things Done and Loyalty Won

Photo Credit: ITD Assessments

Happy Monday Morning! Let’s talk about leadership. It’s one of my favorite learning curves. Not so I can tell others how to lead (a terrible temptation – like it’s my job…sheesh) but more to celebrate those who lead well. Leading well doesn’t necessarily come with the job description…more, it comes with the three “I’s” in this piece. Leading well is learned and developed through life for all of us. So no discouragement here. I am thankful for those who lead (me and others) well, for sure. So here we go, and here’s what inspired this post.

Earlier this morning, while working at my desk, I could hear the excited tones of a phone conversation. You could tell by the rise and fall of the voice that his office door was open and he was walking around. It was fortunately impossible to hear the content of the conversation – muffled by physical distance – but the intensity of the conversation was clear. Positive, urgent, engaging intensity!

While I was passively aware of the happy drone of the above conversation, a piece by writer, pastor Eric Geiger popped up on my Twitter feed. He shared the 2 Qualities in All Great Leaders. His focus was intensity and intentionality.

It inspired my thinking and stirred me to add a third “I” to his characteristics – inclusivity. [I love alliteration – happy it worked.]

Intensity – Geiger emphasized: “The passion of the team will rarely rise above the passion of the leader.” As leaders, we need intensity in our direction in the execution of our vision. This is a high-burn characteristic and can, over time and tension, lose the heat and edge necessary for razor focus. Intensity can give way to a sense of “We all know what needs to be done” or “Keep doing what you’re doing”… without the urgency that keeps us from mission drift in our work. Intensity is a heart issue – with a high sense of personal responsibility. We lead like the future depends on it…as well as today. To keep intensity in our leadership requires intentionality and inclusivity.

Intentionality – Geiger’s take on intentionality is brilliant: “Leadership without intentionality results in chaos for the people on the team and for those being served…Intentionality means having a clear understanding of your mission, your culture, and where you are headed. Great leaders fight the drift away from intentionality and toward a plethora of competing directions.”

Intentionality is not just an ongoing earnestness to serve a team or organizational vision. It is the dogged determination of a leader, fixed on the goal, to bring every resource to bear on reaching it. This is less task-orientation and more a resource-orientation. Less an “urgent need” focus (although urgent needs matter as well) and more a big picture focus. A daily plan for execution…or we too easily veer into the ditch.

Inclusivity is what I add to Geiger’s excellent qualities for great leaders. By “inclusivity”, I mean a leader’s openness to bringing varying opinions and expertise to the table and providing a vehicle to do this on a regular basis.  It is the messier, less controllable aspect of leadership. A proverb comes to mind when thinking of workplace inclusion or inclusivity:

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of oxen.” – Proverbs 14:4

Writer pastor Jason Jackson‘s brief commentary on the proverb above supports inclusivity:

“Oxen are the tools for an abundant harvest. Their cost and inconvenience does not compare with their productivity.

Solomon is not simply giving a lesson in agriculture. Here are two principles:

  1. get the right tools [people] for the job you need to do, and
  2. the cost [to the leader] of the right tool is worth it.”

Leading Through Inclusion: Traits to Help Us Be Better Leaders – Maja Egnell

Inclusivity reminds us of the great lessons on leadership we have from Jim Collins. He has written extensively on great companies and great leaders. Collins urges leaders to not only get the right people on the bus, but also the right persons in the right seat.

Leaders of Great Companies Ask: First Who, Then What? – Wendy Maynard

Inclusivity is a lot of work for the leader but it creates a much more empowering and impactful workplace and a better outcome in the end. When decisions are being made or products/services are being developed, who needs to be at the table? Same folks each time may not get us where we hope to go. It definitely will not urge a team toward the goal, or the vision, or an engaged sense of belonging.

Photo Credit: John C. Maxwell, Brainy Quote

Here’s to intensity, intentionality, and inclusivity in our leaders. Thanks, Eric Geiger, for your inspiration this morning…as well as that guy on the phone down the hall.

2 Qualities in All Great Leaders Eric Geiger

6 Questions That Reveal If You Are an Inclusive Leader – Ryan Jenkins

6 Reasons to Be an Inclusive Leader – Ryan Jenkins

3 I’s of Effective Leadership (Integrity, Influence, Impact) – Naphtali Hoff

The Three I’s of a Great Leader (Initiative, Inspiration, Intuition) – Joy Ruhmann

Monday Morning Moment – Be Kind – You Just Never Know

Blog - Another Man's MoccasinsPhoto Credit: Gelene Keever

[From the Archives]

“Never judge a man before you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”   – Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

My heart is especially tendered right now  toward some friends going through a difficult time. They come to mind often and I’m praying my heart out for them in these days.

As I did early morning errands in anticipation of a long workday, those I passed along the way put me to thinking about the proverb above. A dear friend of mine in cancer nursing quotes it often.

There are some people’s moccasins I hope, in all honesty, to never have to wear. Some have borne their lot in life well, and others with deep bitterness and relenting anger. Even the moccasins that have the appearance of being fine and fancy must bear a cost to the owner…more than the money they paid. I prefer my own old, scuffed, marred, well-traveled moccasins.  Yet, today, my heart is full, thinking of those whose roads are difficult to walk right now.

Praying hard for someone does something to us more than we anticipate. It causes us to look at others with greater compassion. We never know fully what that colleague or neighbor or beggar or family member really has on them today. An act of kindness, or a word of hope (real hope), or a decision to be deferent – might make a lighter burden for that one…next to you.

“This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.” – John Watson, The Homely Virtues by John Watson – Courtesy

You usually see quotes from God’s Word in my writing, but the proverbs of native peoples give us glimpses of the wisdom of God as well. I close with this Cherokee story, and bid you a day sweetened by a fresh look at those around you. With hearts tendered, you just never know what difference you can make…

“An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life: A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed. “”*

*American Indian Proverb Quotes

Walk a Mile…a Day…32 Hours in Someone Else’s Shoes by Gelene Keever

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

War Room – A Film and a Strategy – Praying Our Hearts Out for Those We Love

Monday Morning Moment – Rewiring Your Brain Toward Thinking in the Positive

Photo Credit: Hubspot, Carly Stec

OK…so today started really great. Then it got a bit murky…then downright dark. I was all set to turn today’s blog into the ultimate rant! Fortunately, something else happened along the way.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Looking up meanings to words like “disingenuous” and thinking of the ways that people communicate that shut others down. Aarrgghh!

25 Phrases That Kill Workplace Relationships – John Rampton

Which of These Incredibly Annoying Pet Peeves is the Worst? – Analise Dubner

Then…I snapped out of it. Negative thinking is such an unhelpful, unhealthy activity. It is not how I want to be, nor was I ever…routinely negative, that is… until recent years. Getting older seems to bend us toward negativity. My mama sure didn’t raise me to be that way.Photo Credit: Disney Film Bambi, CineLessons, Pinterest

Somewhere in the middle of beefing up my rants on condescension  and exclusivity and those most affected by decision-making not having a place at that table (see the downward spiral?)…I took a deep breath and turned around. Dave will sometimes tell me “pull up” when he could see me mentally plunge downward…and so I did…pull up.

You may have read what I wrote previously about identifying negativity and correcting course. It seems to be a bit of a recurrent subject of late. Those pieces are here:

Monday Morning Moment – Grumpy Begets Grumpy – Understanding It, Not Reacting, and Turning It Around – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Negativity – Its Cost and Cure – Deb Mills

Today, I came across a super-simple prescription for rewiring our thinking toward positivity. The team at Daily Health Post focused on complaining as a culprit that can actually cause our brains to default to anxiety and depression. From experience, I know this is true. Check out the article below:

How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to Be Anxious and Depressed

Photo Credit: Daily Health Post

The prescription for rewiring our thinking is straightforward and easy, with practice. In fact, these four reminders could easily sit on a card at our work station to help us stay on the road and out of the ditch:

  • Be grateful. – Keep a journal and write down things/persons for which you’re grateful – morning and evening. Turn your thoughts toward gratitude when you’re tempted to go negative/complaining.
  • Catch yourself. – Shake off the negativity before your friends/coworkers intervene…or pull away. Learn to catch yourself and change course.
  • Change your mood. – If your emotions start to spiral, shift your environment. Take a walk. Listen to music. Step away from your work station. Grab a few minutes with a friend.
  • Practice wise effort. – Wise effort is the practice of letting go of anything that doesn’t serve you. If your worry won’t improve your situation or teach you a lesson, simply let it go and move on.This is much easier said then done, of course, but if you write it out, ask friends for advice, and take some time to think it through constructively, it really can be done.” – Daily Health Post

All this is common sense. Still, in an age of outrage, we must practice thinking positively until it becomes a discipline…a healthy habit.

So…as fascinating as you would have found my rant, I’m sure…better to let it go…and the stress along with it. For now. There are things, destructive hurtful actions (or communications) that might need our intervention along the way. However, we only hurt ourselves and those closest to us when we just go all negative, faithless, and brooding. Thanking God, this is not how this day will end.

The Art of Being a Great Coworker: 13 Ways to Improve Your Work Relationships – Carly Stec

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg Online