A Thanksgiving Reminder for Us All

My dentist happens to be in Washington, IL. I was out of town on business when this occurred and just got back on Friday night with NO clue how truly catastrophic the damage to that community was from the twister. Pictures and news stories don’t do it justice.   But now I understand why I was receiving e-mails and phone calls advising all patients that the office was closed last week. And why we were asked to please call and advise if we would not be able to keep our appointment. And why my phone was blowing up with texts, pictures, calls as I drove through Indiana and Kentucky on Sunday. Thanks, everyone, for checking on me!
As I drove down the road to their offices, other than lots of traffic at Menard’s and plenty of police cars around, all seemed somewhat “ok”. And then….the world changed in front of my eyes. To the right side of the street the destroyed Georgetown Apartments complex. No access allowed to any residents at this point.  It’s just too unstable. Any belongings inside are lost for good and not retrievable.  Next to that, a golf course with a clubhouse/shop and trees missing. Gone. And beyond that, there was a long stretch of nothing but rubble. As I turned into the entry way on the left side of the street, shared with the Tractor Supply store, there sat a white SUV sitting on top of a mountain of twisted metal, where nothing existed before the storm. And in the parking lot behind the dentist’s office that sits up on the street……what was left of a motor home that clearly had literally flown over the roof of the building and ended up there. Boarded windows. A tarp over the roof. Metal signs gone. Trees sawed off at the base. Beyond the parking lot and skirting the edge of downtown Washington a diagonal line of nothing but piles of debris stretching to the far side of town, approximately 1/8th of a mile wide according to all the news and photos. WOW!
As I sat in the lobby waiting for my appointment a young lady on crutches caught my eye as she struggled just to get to the door. Without really thinking about it, I jumped up before she got to the two sets of doors into the place and held them for her. Thank you, thank you…like clockwork, came out of her mouth. When she checked in rather than sit, she stood. Obviously a regular, the office manager at the front desk asked her if she would like to sit. “No thank you. But thanks for asking.” As she talked to me, she shared she had been buried in rubble and had a compound fracture of her leg. It was easier to stand than to sit right now, clearly in extreme pain and trying not to moan but a whimper was unmistakable and understandable. But rather than talk about her experience, she asked “Are you okay? Do you live here? Is everyone in your family allright?”. Unbelievable. Clearly not thinking about the extreme challenges she had ahead of her.
And then the office staff. My dental hygienist and the dentist, were the ONLY people in the office who did not live in Washington. And they were the only ones whose homes were not impacted severely by the storm. Not a hint. Everyone was into the business at hand. And asking others how they were doing and if everyone was okay. Not ONE single mention of their plights. Only a consistent and regular outpouring of courtesy, care, recognition of others first.
And my last stop, the bank back in Peoria. A planned lunch with a friend and client, Jeff, was another reminder. The person in charge of the office and tellers, Carrie, was missing. You know when Carrie is in the building! She was out for an undetermined amount of time. Yep, Carrie had “lost everything” in the tornado.
Okay, so in what seems to be the most tragic and close to home event in my lifetime, there was a pattern here. Maybe one we ALL could learn from in normal times. Not just in the midst of a tragedy, at the beginning of our major holiday time of year. Reminders we could apply to work and our personal lives outside of work.
  • You are not in this alone.
  • Someone might have it worse than you, no matter how bad things seem right now.
  • Sincere “thank you’s” for specific actions go a LONG way and carry more weight. And they breed an environment that is contagious and welcome anytime.
  • It’s okay once and awhile to let people know you care.
  • It’s not always “unacceptable” to share how you’re REALLY doing, otherwise how would people really know! Maybe we can help.
  • If people can be so outwardly focused and thinking of others first in the midst of tragedy…..that is leadership and behavior we can use more of in “normal” times.
  • And the most powerful message of all, we will survive and recover from this.
Now tell me, wouldn’t it be great to see this happening more every day? Under the best of times? In business and in our everyday lives? It couldn’t hurt.  And many of you have been through disasters and extreme challenges of your own.  But the lessons reinforced by this one for me rings true for all of us.  You CAN do it.  You can make it through.  And you don’t have to go it alone even when it feels like you are doing so.  Don’t give up! The people of Washington, IL and the surrounding area didn’t. And today Washington is mostly recovered, but they will never forget what happened.  And the folks I know that live there and went through this experience will truly be giving thanks for the blessings they do have this Thanksgiving.  I hope you are able to do so as well.

Stretch, Change and GROW

Change can seem scary and if we think about it long enough and rationalize it to the ultimate degree….unnecessary. Thinks are fine the way they are now. My response to that would be, “Things are and will be fine for how long?”. Without change there can be very little growth either personally or professionally. Can it happen? Yes. But at a very small, measured pace and purely by circumstances thrown your way. Let’s examine further.
Top 10 Reasons NOT to Change
  1. It’s safe.
  2. It’s familiar just where I am NOW.
  3. It doesn’t stress me out.
  4. I know how to “do it”.
  5. I am good at it.
  6. No extra effort is needed; just put it on auto-pilot.
  7. It doesn’t require a lot of thought on my part.
  8. I haven’t had any complaints!
  9. We’ve been doing good just the way we are now.
  10. AND….If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!
Be honest and ask yourself if any of this ever rings true for you. It certainly has for me throughout my working career and throughout my life as well. Some of us are more open to change than others. That’s just the way we are hard-wired. And some of us like TOO much change. Change just for the sake of change or simply from shear boredom can be even more destructive than no change at all.
It’s a well-known and obvious fact that the speed of change today is at an all-time high for pace and frequency of change. Accept it. It is NOT going away or going to slow down. And while it can be stressful to be caught up in that, much good can come from shifting our viewpoint and trying to become a more active participant in change, both at work and personally. After all, if we don’t we are simply going to be left behind. And when in the business world, if we don’t frequently review, plan and alter our businesses one of our competitors will or has already done so.
I am constantly reminded when I venture out into new territory how much change can be a good thing for us. Exhausting at times. Daunting? No doubt. Scary….you bet! But once we make it through to the other side and look back at where we were and where we are now after having gone through that change process, it feels GREAT! And that process has undoubtedly made us stretch outside our comfort zone, tested our self-imposed limits and helped us grow.
Bear with me as I share a small, short story that prompted me to write this article. It came to light while on a trip this past month in the mountains of Colorado. On my second day in Breckenridge I decided to check out a new area for a “little day hike”. On the web site, it appeared to be a reasonable 7-mile hike round trip with great scenery, a well-defined path and probably very few people to encounter. Perfect for me! While I had checked it out on a web site for that area in Summit County, I had NOT printed out the maps or directions. It seemed simple enough. Sooooo…off I went on a supposed recreational hike and then back for a late lunch in the town of Frisco. Wellllllll….not exactly.
At the 3 to 3.5 mile mark after some steeper and rockier than expected terrain along a gorgeous river valley I came to the infamous fork in the road. To my recollection, it was just about 1.5 miles more and I would reach the end of the hike I had planned. Just turn right, follow the Gore Range Trail and in about another hour, voila. Then head back down a happy guy. Almost immediately the trail became MUCH steeper, narrower and as time went by a little treacherous in spots. Up and up I went, reading the instructions I had handwritten before heading out. Finally, after one more meadow with more and more altitude gain and a trail that never ends, I stubbornly had to admit it was time to give up. I must be lost. I was!! So, back down I went hoping to be at the bottom in an hour or so. Of course, I ran out of water and food and didn’t have my watch, was in No Service on my smart phone, etc. etc. Exhausted, I made my way back finally encountering one local on his way up. When chatting briefly and asking for the time I realized he was the first human being I had seen in over four hours. Yikes! Five and a half hours from the time I started, I made it back to the parking lot. And right there was a U.S Forestry map and trail write up in black and white on the sign board heading through the gate. I had just gone approximately 12-14 miles round trip, with a supposed altitude gain of probably 2100-2300′ and was heading for the base of a 13,300′ peak out in a wilderness area for 3 to 4-day backpack trips. No wonder I was wiped out! BUT…I learned a lot in the process.
I learned once again that my own limits and capabilities are much greater than I thought they were, both physically and mentally. I certainly had to tap into both to get through that experience with nothing more than a big blister on my foot. I was reminded that all of us are capable of more if a challenge is put in front of us, expected or not. It served as a great reminder that even the best laid plans sometimes go off track and we need to be flexible, sometimes steely in our determination, slow down and think a new plan or path through rationally and unemotionally to get on the correct path and reach our ultimate goal. And that we are capable of SO much more than we think we are actually. Once through it, I felt more empowered, like I had really accomplished something I really had no idea I could or would. And it made me immediately start to think of other ways to feel that same thing and that same flush of success in the process, both professionally and personally. I hope you decide to stretch your limits and grow, too. Color outside the lines. Take some chances. But have an outcome in mind.
It’s worth it!

15 Years of Lessons

  1. People are all unique in their own way. Find out the key elements of them, their style, their passions.
  2. Leaders come in many shapes, sizes and personal styles. There is not just one box they all fit into. Sometimes it’s hard to spot leadership at first. But they always show themselves if we pay attention.
  3. As many more well known experts have said, written about, made a living from….trust is everything, in life and in business. With it, we can accomplish great things and make it much easier and more enjoyable as we go through it together. Without it, there will always be roadblocks to keep us from achieving our ultimate success.
  4. To build trust COMMUNICATE. Communicate honestly, respectfully, openly and in your own genuine style. But remember your audience, who you are talking with. If you truly know this person as suggested here previously, you will have a much greater chance of a successful outcome.
  5. Change is hard. But it is a constant and the more we resist it, the more stress, discomfort and frustration we create for ourselves and for those around us. It is how we react to it that counts. While often not in our control and all too frequently a surprise, a real test of our abilities is what we do with it. You are stronger and more resilient than you think. You can do it.
  6. Don’t try to literally change people, focus on the real results you want to create. Change how you go about trying to navigate that. It’s almost always that we are not getting the outcome we want. Then situationally manage and tailor your approach to what you know is their natural style and approach. It will lend itself to more collaboration and less conflict.
  7. We are who we are to a large degree. If we are truly self-aware, in touch with ourselves, figure out how to make that work. Don’t try to be someone and something you are not. Keep doing what is working. Stop doing what is not. Adapt and adopt new approaches where needed for a better result!
  8. People are a complex puzzle, but the reward is worth the effort.
  9. Show people you care, in your own way, that rings true and gets through to them.
  10. The business world and our world in general is a challenging place. But time and time again I have seen businesses and the people in it “figure it out” and succeed. And they did it as a team, despite their differences and occasional disconnects. Why? Because you are not alone. You have a team of people, as different as some of you may be from each other. That’s the norm, folks. If we were all the same that wouldn’t work at all. Celebrate your unique styles, learn how to use them for the greater good and achieve success together!

How to Rock Delegation Effectively

Leave your ego at the door. 

A big mental speed bump to delegation is that “If you want it done right, then do it yourself.” Remember, you’re not the only person in the world who can do it right. You may be the only person who can do it right at this very moment, but if you take the time to train someone, they can probably do it right, too. And (don’t pass out) they might even be able to do it faster or better than you. This is something you need to not only accept, but invite!

Stop waiting for people to volunteer.

ASK FOR HELP!  It’s not a sign of weakness.  And if you’ve got “martyr syndrome”, you’re probably overwhelmed, and you wonder why people don’t ever offer to help. When they do, maybe you turn them down, just to be polite, and quietly wonder why they didn’t insist.  Actually, many people are quite oblivious to what others are going through. Let go of any frustration you might have and don’t expect them to change.  But you can!  It’s ultimately your job to communicate your needs.  Please don’t view asking for help as some form of weakness.  It’s not.  But trying to do everything yourself is a weakness and not good for the organization as a whole – or you!!.
Attitude is everything.   Your tone of voice, body language, WHERE you delegate or ask for help are extremely important.  I know, basic stuff, right??  Well, I had two questions last month asking what to do when a boss delegates with a “tone” in their voice as if they are a dictator making demands rather than asking for help.  How do you think that’s going to turn out, LOL?  Give it the right setting(an office or conference room if possible).  Be collaborative in your approach to the person getting the task, work, project.  Lean forward.  Smile.  RELAX.  Pause for them to absorb it and ask questions.  LISTEN.  And be sure to express supreme confidence in their abilities to perform the job at hand superbly.  Confidence breeds confidence!  AND competence!

Delegation is not dumping.

If you really want to reap the benefits of delegation, “delegate don’t dump”.  Try to never give someone the impression that all you’re giving them is “garbage” work.  Don’t imply that you are just dumping unpleasant assignments on them that you or no one else wants to do.  Certainly not the first time or two you give them something new to do.  And later, when that does become a necessity based on shear volume, try to spread that around and be honest about the work.  It’s not a glamorous job but it needs to be done and I’d really appreciate your help on this.  Something to that effect.
Recognize your helper when it counts.  Delegating tasks to someone else is necessary if you are to take on more and more responsibility. It’s counterproductive when you delegate the task, your helper works hard, and then you take all the credit. Recognize and praise the efforts of others on your behalf.  Catch ’em doing something right, as I have always preached!
Say Thank You.  When someone does something for you, it is important to say thank you, acknowledge the help and let the helper know they are appreciated otherwise you appear ungrateful. People are more likely to offer to help again if they feel appreciated.

Here is an opportunity to learn how well you delegate. This exercise will help identify your strengths and determine where improvement would be beneficial. Rate yourself as follows:

1(rarely)-2-3-4-5(almost always).