Invested in Your Job or Just Doing It? 7 Acts of Ownership | Embracing Crises

crisis 7836782464_fd003c0198_mSome days our jobs feel mundane. The work has become repetitive, our colleagues predictable, and our roles unchanging. Our don’t-rock-the-boat boss gives us less and less room to be creative or engaged beyond our daily tasks.

When this happens, it’s tempting to just put your nose to the grindstone, follow the job description to the letter, and lower your career expectations.

Deep down, you know this strategy isn’t good for you.

It’s your job, so work it.

Remember how important it was to get your job and the effort it took? Whether your job is one of a kind or one of many, it’s a specific area of the business that’s in your care. The way you perform matters.

If your job weren’t important, the company wouldn’t be willing to pay you for it. While your job description states the duties, you, personally, bring your standards, commitment, and honor to the work.

Recently, some terrible tragedies have been in the news. In the U.S., there was a devastating hurricane and an unfathomable mass shooting of elementary school children and their educators.

No first responder or school teacher has a job description that includes duties to perform when threats to human life fall upon him/her in enormous and unanticipated scale.

Most of us don’t have to face life and death situations in our jobs. But there are situations that we won’t/can’t tolerate–circumstances that call us to action.

It might be:

  • Bullying, bias, or discrimination of coworkers
  • Business decisions based on faulty or incomplete information
  • Product defects, known or suspected
  • Unsafe equipment or procedures
  • A sudden calamity in your work area, a stricken coworker, or destructive weather

When we’re faced with such situations, we discover how invested we are in our jobs based on the actions we take.

7 intervening actions

Owning our jobs in a crisis is not about being a hero or heroine. It’s about responding in ways that align our strengths and capabilities with  needs.

The teacher who steps in front of a gunman to protect her students and the first responder who wades through waist-deep water to save a life follow an inner drive compatible with the calling that drew them to their jobs.

We have a calling too. You may know today how far you would go to intervene in a crisis while others of us may not know until we’re in that crisis moment.

Here are 7 actions to consider. One or more may be what you’d be prepared to do:

  1. Step forward–Take charge; lead others; put fear aside and do what you believe is right
  2. Buy time–Deflect incoming negatives; implement stop-gap measures; negotiate options
  3. Steady the ship–Follow established procedures/protocols; create stability through regimen; reduce panic by reliance on routine
  4. Provide comfort–Keep a cool head; settle others using calm counsel; meet the emotional and physical needs of others; rally optimism
  5. Gather forces–Foster collaboration; collect and share input needed for decision-making; engage others able to help; create community
  6. Test solutions–Pilot test potential remedies; get feedback; fine-tune the fixes; build on successes; capture lessons learned
  7. Communicate relentlessly–Develop and deliver credible messages; keep everyone in the loop; listen and address questions/concerns; reduce the stress of not knowing

I’ve always felt like I owned the responsibilities stated or unstated in my jobs. If I saw a workplace injustice, I spoke up and then tried to do something about it. When people were upset about major workplace changes, I offered perspectives that would help ease the worry.

We all have some kind of help to offer in a crisis.

Embrace the moment

All crises are not created equal. No matter how big or small, when things go wrong, those affected are off-balance, fearful, uncertain, and even confused. That’s probably you too. But you have a chance to embrace the situation in your own way, using your skills and instincts to help fix things.

Please take a moment to think about your job and your investment it. What do you think you’d do in a crisis? I suspect it will be something very good.

Photo from mycos2012 via Flickr

(No) Thanks for (Not) Giving at the Office | Selflessness at Work

“I gave at the office! ” That’s the put-off line used by many when asked for yet another donation to a charity, special cause, or fund-raiser. It’s a kind of cop out to stop the asking, whether we gave or not.

The reality is: There are many truly compelling reasons why we’re asked to contribute time and money to help people in dire trouble, some we may know and many we don’t.

We witnessed it in the 2012 devastation and loss of life caused by:

  • Hurricane Sandy on the east coast
  • Raging forest fires out west
  • Tornados in the mid-west
  • Relentless drought across the country

The news coverage connects us with the human misery, the disruption to people’s lives, and the unfathomable monetary and material loss. “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” we say to ourselves.

Many of us look for some way to help. We may send money through organizations like the American Red Cross or Salvation Army. We may hop on buses or get in our cars and go to lend a hand.

In a dramatic crisis, something in our hearts motivates us to help however we can.

Pain at the office

Our jobs can become increasingly demanding, so it’s easy to become absorbed in our own daily grind. We’re engrossed in meeting performance expectations, dealing the boss’s idiosyncrasies, struggling with changing work methods, and managing our time.

The truth is: Crises find their way into our offices. They may affect your work unit, the department, the company, or simply the coworker you sit next to.

It’s things like:

  • A new employee who 1.) no one talks to; 2.) is mistreated, 3.) makes mistakes, or 4.) struggles to master the work
  • A persistent conflict among coworkers who can’t find common ground on a work issue
  • A boss who alienates certain team members because s/he doesn’t understand how the work is done
  • A failed work process that caused customer outrage
  • A workplace accident resulting in the serious injury of several employees
  • An unexpected workload that must be completed asap to meet customer deadlines

The big question is: What are you prepared to do?

  • Will you wait until someone asks you to pitch in?
  • Will you lay low because you “don’t want to get your hands dirty?”
  • Will you  step up and offer your ideas, expertise, time, and/or leadership?

When trouble comes to your office, there’s an opportunity to “give” of yourself because it’s the right thing to do.

Selflessness is part courage.

Crises are relative. A crisis to you may or may not be a crisis to me. It just matters that when people feel that the situations they’re in are more than they can handle, you have an opportunity to offer help.

Crises manifest confusion. Leadership promises to restore order. Your selfless entry into a crisis of any dimension is a willingness to address that confusion and quell some of it.

As with any disaster, we need to give what we know we can. It’s not about over-extending or over-reaching.

At work you can:

  • Help that struggling coworker by showing them how to avoid errors or helping them build friendships
  • Offer an idea that will help conflicting parties reach a compromise
  • Talk to the boss about his/her work knowledge if you have the right kind of relationship with him/her
  • Provide an idea that will help fix that failed customer process
  • Suggest a change in safety procedures
  • Work extra hours to meet that surprise workload

That’s how you “give at the office” when things get dicey. It’s about you thinking more about someone else than about yourself.

Thanks giving

Getting in the habit of giving selflessly at work and in the community enriches us. It’s a habit that builds on itself. The more we do, the easier it gets.

When we recognize the value of those opportunities to give, the “thanks giving” comes from within us. In many cases, “ thanks getting” will follow.

Photo from paperbacklou via Flickr

Is There an Invisible Leader in You? | Examples from the Egyptian Protesters

Leadership is first about caring. That’s what the good leaders do. They care about us, the customers, the product, our community, and doing the right thing. 

Leadership is also about power, particularly the power to influence and create change. When leaders use power in an uncaring, self-serving way, we’re put off. 

Power is a byproduct of leadership.  

That’s because when we lead effectively, people follow. The more followers the greater our influence, impact, and leverage. Willing followers entrust their leaders with the power to do right things. 

A follower’s role, however, can change in a split second. 

Especially when crisis hits 

What do you do? Every day company crises are in the news:   

  • A building collapses from tons of snow on its roof
  • A disgruntled employee shoots his coworkers
  • The computer system crashes, cutting the company off from customers 

This is when rank and file employees rush forward to take charge. They assess the problem, organize a fix, lead people out of harms way, and mobilize resources.

It’s not the “big wigs” that do this. They’re likely in another building or simply too far removed from the situation to jump into the fray. This is when the “invisible leaders” show up. 

The origin of invisible leaders 

Situational, frontline leaders are everywhere. We’re focused on them now, in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square in Egypt, where peaceful anti-government protesters are seeking the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.   

This protest is considered a leaderless movement that came together through electronic communication. 

What we’re aware of but don’t see are invisible leaders who operate within the throngs of protesters.  Whoever they are, these everyday, caring leaders have stepped up to organize: 

  • Medically trained people to set up treatment units for the injured
  • Groups of people to form security check points to make sure no one comes into the square with a bomb
  • A communications office to keep protesters informed 

Then there were the ad hoc efforts from invisible leaders like: 

  • Butchers in Cairo who sell meat on credit until citizens can get back to work
  • Grocers who’ve slashed prices to help their customers pay for food and even delivered staples to those too afraid to leave their homes   

Other amazing things happened. Helen Kennedy from the Daily News (February 7, 2011) reported: 

“On Friday, the holy day for Islam, Christian protesters in Tahrir joined hands to form a protective cordon around their Muslim countrymen so they could pray in safety.

 Sunday, the Muslims returned the favor.”

Some caring invisible leader(s) organized that initiative.

Then there’s Wael Ghonim, a reluctant leader within the protest, made invisible for a while. As Joshua Norman writes in his NY Daily News article, Ghonim “was Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa when he was secretly taken by police and held in detention just after protests began.”

According to Norman, “While no official reason for his 12-day detention was given, Ghonim has admitted to being the administrator of the Facebook page ‘We Are All Khaled Said,’ dedicated to the memory of a 28-year-old Egyptian man beaten to death by the police….” He also used Twitter to help organize and energize the protesters.

If and when Mubarak would step down, the movement will need to surface visible, caring leaders that Egypt will follow.

Followers that make leaders and can also unmake them.

Great leaders make sacrifices for their followers even as they ask for sacrifices. They rely on invisible leaders and followers to be the backbone of the company or the cause.

Great leaders realize that their ability to lead effectively comes from us. When leaders forget that, they place the security of their positions at risk.

As you think about your work, ask yourself what would propel you to take the lead when the chips were down. You might surprise yourself.