Give a Little. Get a Lot. | Generosity Matters.

Doing isn’t giving, although doing is required.

At work we have jobs to do. The better we do them, the more likely we’ll be valued and rewarded. That’s true even if we:

  • Dislike the tasks we’re assigned
  • Know  the job is a wrong fit
  • Question the company’s direction
  • Work with uncommitted people
  • Don’t see growth opportunities

It’s as possible to succeed in a sorry job as it is in a fabulous one, provided you do your job as required.

But that’s a bummer. Few of us want to be a star at a job we dislike, unless we can turn it into something significantly better. Generosity of spirit may be just the ticket.

Giving v. getting

When we get hired, the first thing we say is ” I got the job” as though it’s something we now own. Actually, it’s the opposite.

Instead, we’ve been given the opportunity to serve an organization so it can succeed. Our individual success is a by-product of the quality of our performance…what we give.

Jobs look different when you see them as  opportunities to give. It starts with  the attitude you bring to your tasks, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant they are. Consider these comparisons:

Downer coworkers (the self-servers):

  • Complain about everything and everyone
  • Find fault with every decision, policy, and assignment
  • Ridicule the boss and some peers covertly
  • Brag about how they shortcut their work
  • Bad-mouth the company

Upbeat coworkers (the givers):

  • Focus on the good in others and reinforce it
  • Look at the upside of decisions and support them
  • Commit to performing at their best out of personal pride
  • Treat the boss and their peers with respect, even during disagreements
  • Offer to help struggling coworkers out of kindness
  • Show regard for the company and gratitude for their employment

There are important, often unexpected, benefits to working with a giver’s attitude. Even the smallest gift of kindness and generosity turns into a benefit that touches many.

Cause and effect

There are endless opportunities to turn the drudgery of any job into an uplifting experience. Here are a two examples of ways to give a little and get a lot:

1.  Your job involves seemingly endless spreadsheets, so you’re a wiz at Excel but your coworker isn’t. When she’s struggling to meet a spreadsheet deadline, you share your knowledge and help her make it. (Your self-esteem goes up, you strengthen a relationship, and you support the team.)

2. You’re a veteran member of a work group that just added a new, talented but inexperienced member. He’s trying to get acclimated but it’s not going well. You offer to be a peer-mentor for him until he’s settled. (You rediscover your leadership skills, build inclusiveness, and set a positive example.)

Each gift from the heart makes things better for others. In turn you reinforce your sense of self-worth.

Generosity, whether time, effort, or money, is personal and individual. We give what we can and usually get back what we don’t expect.

Journalist John Blackstone interviewed, Ari Nessel (on CBS Sunday Morning 3/23/14) who became wealthy selling real estate in the Dallas area. Nessel believes the best kind of philanthropy comes from small monetary gifts. So he created a foundation, Pollination Project, providing seed money for start-up charities. Daily, he chooses someone just getting started to receive a $1,000 donation, his lifetime commitment of giving.

Nessel’s attitude about any kind of giving is that, ” …transformation happens on the fringes…and doesn’t happen on the large scale… And so it becomes a movement.”

At the end of the interview, Blackstone says to Nessel: “So money can buy happiness?”

He replied, “Generosity can buy happiness.”

Generosity matters.

Nessel’s  viewpoint also applies at your job. You can affect the culture of your workplace  through each gift of kindness you give. When that happens, it also makes your job feel better and you seed a movement.

Giving generously of your time and talent positions you to discover the value embedded in your every work experience. A generous spirit is infections and attracts contagious good.

 

 

Here One Day…Then? Accepting Self-confidence As a Work in Progress

We know it when we feel it. When it’s in our grip, we soar. When it leaves us in the lurch, we land hard.

Self-confidence, by definition, is:

  • Being sure of your own abilities
  • Trusting those abilities
  • Having faith in them
  • Feeling assured you really have them

Self-confidence is in our heads. It’s the way we assess ourselves and decide if we’ve met expectations–our own and others.

Every day, readers find their way to my posts on self-confidence using search phrases like:

  • I’ve lost my self-confidence and I don’t know why (or I do).
  • I need help getting my self-confidence back.
  • No matter what I do, I can’t find self-confidence.

I get it: I’ve uttered those words myself.

It’s universal.

Everyone struggles to build and maintain self-confidence.

The way we see ourselves changes. The way we process feedback changes the way we see ourselves. New experiences test our abilities either adding to or detracting from our self-confidence.

It’s a moving target which makes maintaining self-confidence a work in progress.

Most of us don’t like that. We want our self-confidence to be a constant, something we can draw on anytime like a fat bank account. But that would take the growth factor out of living and working.

We can’t grow and get better if we’re all comfy about our self-confidence. We need to be kept off balance a bit, so we will push ourselves.

Consider this:

No matter how accomplished someone is–how famous, how rich, and how long they’ve been on top–loss of self-confidence will occur time and again.

So when our self-confidence sinks, we need to stop all the woe-is-me talk and get cracking.

The only real way to build or restore your self-confidence  is to act, to keep doing whatever will re-energize your belief in yourself.

You may have to turn to family, friends, and/or advisers to get you thinking more positively, but in the end, it’s about you getting busy.

Famed country singer and actress, Dolly Parton, after a meteoric early career, had to face an unsuccessful movie, tensions with big players in the industry, and the loss of her personal support system (long time friends who were moving on with their own lives.) She felt alone and became unglued.

She wrote in her autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business:

I collapsed. It seemed that all my support systems had disappeared. The very foundation of all my beliefs had been shaken. The dreamy little kid from the mountains had become a fat, disillusioned, hopeless woman.

She stopped singing, playing guitar, and writing. She felt that people had given up on her because they thought she’d lost her drive. After some lengthy, painful soul-searching, she snapped out of it, writing:

It’s okay to think that about Dolly Parton, but better not stand in the road in front of her. I was about to come roaring back.

Self-confidence is a commitment to yourself, no matter if the cards seem stacked against you or how you were raised.

Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern, a veteran of over 80 films, revealed on ABC’s Live with Kelly & Michael, that as a child he was considered, by his parents, so uninteresting that he had to raise his hand at the dinner table in order to speak.

Dern clearly found a way to build his self-confidence anyway.

What to do?

When your self-confidence flags, you might follow these steps to reinvigorate it:

  • Figure out what caused its decline (Answer: who, what, when, where, how)
  • List prior achievements that initially built your self-confidence; internalize them.
  • Commit to being optimistic.
  • Recommit to patterns of behavior and actions that brought prior success
  • Learn and adopt new approaches that make sense.
  • Keep working, participating, and putting yourself out there.
  • Build momentum, assess your progress, make mid-course corrections, and keep going.

Self-confidence comes from building your capabilities and doing things successfully

As people, we are all a work in progress, and our self-confidence is our engine. Get ready to rev it up!

 

Getting Nowhere In a Hurry? Take a New Route. | Manage Your Day-to-Day

It’s wonderful when a book moves me to recalibrate my routine and reclaim my creative goals. That’s what happened when I was invited to read and blog about Manage Your Day-to-Day edited by Jocelyn K. Glei at 99U. This book delivers the goods as  the structure, content, and style harmonize. I keep it within reach.

We work hard to find the right job and even harder to progress in it. manage_book

So, it’s discouraging when our days feel:

  • Harried or unsatisfying
  • Repetitive or fragmented
  • Controlled by the needs of others
  • Menial and incomplete

The hours can be long and the unrelenting demand for information exhausting.

There’s an edge to our days when we’re concerned that we’ll miss something and inadvertently disappoint the expectations of others.

Working your way

You’re the one who controls the way you use your work day. It may not always feel that way, but it’s true. It comes down to setting boundaries, adopting right habits, and managing the expectations of those around you.

Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei at 99U, targets the drags on your time and psyche through short, tightly focused articles by 21 accomplished business people, writers, and academics who get at the heart of big issues and provide realistic ways for change.

Scott Belsky, founder of Behance, writes in the foreward:

No matter where you work or what horrible top-down systems plague your work, your mind and energy are yours and yours alone. You can surrender your day-to-day and the potential of your work to the burdens that surround you. Or you can audit the way you work and own the responsibility of fixing it.

The book unfolds in four sections that become the routes for a career going somewhere.

Route #1: Build a Rock-Solid Routine

All routines aren’t necessarily productive. We can spend a lot of time checking devices, meeting with people, and walking the floor, believing that somehow we’re capturing essential information we need for..well…something.

Mark McGuinness, author and creative professionals coach, advises:

The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second.

Reactive work is all that checking.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project,  reminds us to protect the time needed for creative work if we want to produce something of worth.

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently…frequent work makes it possible to accomplish more, with greater originality….    

Route #2: Find Focus in a Distracted World

Differentiating ourselves is essential to our career growth. It’s how we stand out from the crowd to demonstrate our uniqueness and creativity.

Consider this point by Jocelyn K. Glei:

In a world filled with distraction, attention is our competitive advantage. Look at each day as a challenge–and an opportunity–to keep your eye on the prize.

Our ability to manage distraction to enable our creativity to flourish means we’ve conquered the paradox noted by Cal Newport, professor at Georgetown University:

Increasingly, creative minds are torn in two opposing directions. We’re asked to apply our intellectual capital to solve hard problems….At the same time, we’re asked to be constantly available by email and messenger and in meetings…..

Route #3:Tame Your Tools

In every career there are tools of the trade; pros know how to use them effectively. Technology, both a social and practical tool, challenges our decision-making and self-control.

Jocelyn K. Glei reminds us that:

Technology should be a tool, but if we do not keep our wits about us, it can easily become our taskmaster…It’s easy to blame the tools, but the real problem is us.

So each time you reach for a device, ask yourself: “Why and why now?”

Route #4: Sharpen Your Creative Mind

What we want from our work most often is the freedom to make a difference, to produce something useful, and to be creative.

Design professional, Stefan Sagmeister says it best:

If you want to do projects that you really love, you have to be aware of how difficult they are to do. For a long time I wasn’t doing certain projects, but I thought I would love to do them if I had the time. Then when I had the time, I avoided doing them because of all the other stuff that I still needed to do, like e-mail. And it’s just so much easier to do e-mail than to actually sit down and think….we don’t have time because it’s convenient not to have the time, because we don’t want to challenge ourselves.

Re-claim your time

Time is precious and limited. What we do with ours is our choice. It’s time to break our bad habits and dig into the work that will ultimately fulfill us. Taking control of our time day-to-day is immensely empowering.

The Pain of Being Singled Out at Work. | Ending Ridicule As Entertainment

Being singled out for our flaws can become our worst nightmare.single out 73348258_07c1515a72_m

Self-criticism is bad enough. Consider how often you  tell yourself that you’re:

  • not smart or likeable enough
  • too quiet and socially awkward
  • too young or old to fit in
  • too self-conscious to lead

It gets worse when others single you out for the differences they see:

  • You don’t look, talk, or act like them.
  • You have work habits that are different (solitary, serious, or scattered).
  • You’re too chummy, chatty, or distant with others.
  • Your eating habits, work station appearance, or break time routines are atypical.

What you see as uniqueness can be dubbed a “flaw,” depending on who’s watching and judging.

Everyone’s watching

We live in a world where everyone’s watching us, often recording our actions for any number of reasons. And we’re watching back.

Some people like the attention and others don’t. With all this watching comes judgment.

Over the years, it’s somehow become okay to form and express opinions about people at work and elsewhere based on snapshot observations intended to “portray” them. Social media has provided broad and instantaneous platforms for this.

It’s become easy to express disrespect, demean, and label our coworkers by “sharing”  and re-sharing snippets of conversations (“Here’s snarky Grace at it again.”), forwarding emails (“Bert’s stupidity about how to make quota is so obvious.”), or posting images (“Can you believe that Myra wore this horrid outfit to the meeting?”).

Opportunities for ridicule abound and it’s time to stop it.

Be aware of yourself.

As our deficiencies are being noticed and judged, we’re unwittingly judging others.

At work, we want to secure, protect, and/or advance our position in the organization.  We can see our coworkers as either supportive teammates or threats to our status, even when they may not be.

Fear, insecurity, and desire to feel powerful often lead coworkers to undermine their colleagues. It often starts as teasing before it accelerates into direct or indirect ridicule, bullying, or harassment.

When we observe someone else being ridiculed, we can feel a few things:

  • Relief that it’s not us
  • Humor or justification depending on the situation
  • Horror at the unfairness
  • Compulsion to stop it

What we do in the moment or even afterward, tells us a lot about ourselves.

Ridicule reveals our dark side: Its unfairness is made evident when knowing the other side.

Case in point:

Recently, a  muscular man attending a major league baseball game was captured on camera  trying desperately to open a plastic water bottle.

He  struggled mightily with the bottle, even using his shirt for a better grip, to no avail. He eventually returned the unopened bottle to the vendor.

Sportscasters on ESPN and many other news outlets played and replayed this tape incessantly, laughing at, and yes, ridiculing this fellow’s:

  • Workout regime and gym
  • Actual strength/muscles
  • Attempt to use his shirt for a grip
  • Struggling attempts and then giving up

This was a very nice guy who you can see in this video from his Today Show appearance. He was simply trying to:

  •  enjoy a baseball game
  •  help the water vendor who couldn’t open the bottle

For his trouble, he got a heap of mockery and ridicule plus numerous Google listings, all at his expense. He became entertainment because others, who were not as muscular, had an opportunity to demean his physique. It made the ridiculers feel stronger, I guess.

The sad reality is: At any time and on any day, that man could be you at work or elsewhere.

Ridicule as pastime

It is painful to be ridiculed. The price paid is a cut to your self-esteem. There is no place for it at work or anywhere else.

It’s become so easy to turn each of us into a picture or a video, exposing us to ridicule and violating our desire to work and play unimpeded. Let’s all commit to doing better.

Photo by emdot via Photoree

Respect, Recognition, and Appreciation Matter. | Assessing Your Give and Take

Self-esteem can be pretty fragile.appreciation 4759535950_7bca6684c8_m

Each of us has the ability to pump up another person’s self-esteem or scar it.

A lot goes into developing and maintaining pride in ourselves, especially considering our personal and situational obstacles.

So we need to be caring.

Make others matter.

Most of us crave positive feedback. We want to know in concrete ways that our bosses and coworkers:

  • respect our talents, good intentions, and integrity
  • recognize the contributions we make to the success of the team and company
  • appreciate our efforts, kindnesses, and selflessness

Others want what we want. The question is: “Are we giving it?”

  • To everyone?
  • Just to people we like or who are like us?
  • To those we feel we need to “repay”?

The esteem we show to others is good for us. It’s how we create a bond that:

  • builds dependable relationships
  • helps coworkers try harder
  • develops confidence to overcome challenges
  • buoys up courage to take risks
  • creates community

In all likelihood, the esteem we show to others comes back to us in subtle and sometimes surprising ways.

Respect, recognition, and appreciation are equalizers. They say to the recipient, “I value you” for your:

  • skills and work quality
  • honesty and integrity
  • kindness and generosity
  • dependability and decency

Value is personal not positional.

None of us can do every job that needs to be done. Just look around where you live and count the number of things you can’t build, fix, or solve.

Then look around your company and count the number of jobs you aren’t qualified to do from the top of the organization chart to the bottom.

The only way all of us can live the lives we want is for everyone around us to do their jobs well. For that we all need to express our gratitude.

Assess yourself.

Consider the way you engage with craftsmen you hire at work or at home. Assess the amount of effort you put into expressing respect for their expertise, recognition of the challenges of the work, and appreciation for the outcome.

In my experience, a unique alliance forms, a strategic partnership, and shared engagement in the work where the results exceed the expectations of you both.

I recently accumulated a pretty long list of big and small jobs long overdue at my farm where the buildings were built from 1780 to 1900. The jobs ranged from releasing a frozen pocket door in the house to replacing light fixtures in the barn; from painting and repairing a large shed to replacing slates with shingles in the back of the house. There was other “little” stuff too.

Kirk, the expert in charge, is a one-time home builder, an inventor, and one of the most well-read people know. He took on my work solo because I was his last client in PA before moving to the mid-west.

There was nothing about this work that was easy. At every turn there were problem-solving challenges and surprises. It required:

  • electrical work and some plumbing
  • remodeling and construction
  • roofing, painting, and repair

Kirk says what he thinks, never sugar-coating anything. And he’s not a big giver or receiver of compliments. But he accepted my communicated regard for his expertise and willingness to help when needed.

I had been his customer before, so he knew that I respected him. Ultimately, he told me that he wouldn’t have taken on this wild array of jobs for anyone else. That was a gift for my self-esteem.

It was not about what I was paying him: It was about my respect, recognition, and appreciation.

 As you sow…

Treating people well is about recognizing their value and making that known. At work it’s easy to see our coworkers as just another pair of hands. Any time you treat others in a way that says, “You matter,” you are giving them a priceless gift which will, in time, come back to you.

Photo by woodleywonderworks via Photoree

 

 

 

Excuses–Self-Inflicted Career Wounds | A Pro Knows

You can run but you can’t hide. Mistakes, poor decisions, sub-par performance, rafa 5888490595_395af05248_munbecoming behavior, and unmet expectations stalk even the most skillful among us.

Performance missteps will happen spite of our best efforts to avoid them. In every case they belong to us. We own them and it’s in our career best interest to admit that.

Excuses cut deep.

We don’t want to goof up at work. It feels bad. When it happens our knee-jerk reaction may be to think, it’s not really my fault:

  • It just looks like my fault on the surface.
  • It’s the fault of my coworker, company policy, the customer, or the situation.
  • I’ll accept it as my fault, but I really don’t think it is.

Looking for a way out of blame is a pretty natural reaction, but routinely making excuses can become a damaging habit that’s hard to break.

I suspect you’ve worked with people who have an excuse for everything they do that doesn’t measure up like:

  • That work isn’t in my job description.
  • I was never trained for that.
  • No one ever explained that policy to me.
  • John said he was taking care of that job.

Those excuses get old fast and start to chip away at your regard for those coworkers.

Your integrity and credibility at work are a function of your trustworthiness. The more your colleagues know they can count on you to be honest, even when you were wrong or ineffective, the better their esteem for you.

It takes courage to tell the truth, own up to your faults, and face up to your shortcomings. Most coworkers and bosses find courage admirable.

Listen to the pros.

Professional athletes, as a rule, don’t make excuses when they’ve lost crucial games. What they say about themselves and their opponents demonstrate how not making excuses raises our regard for them.

In his 2013 Wimbledon first round match, fifth ranked Raphael Nadal, lost to Steve Darcis, ranked 135, in a stunning upset. When asked by a reporter whether his once injured knee contributed to his loss, Nadal answered, in an SI.com article, it’s “‘not the day to talk about these kind of things’ and that it would sound like ‘an excuse.'”

In the same article, Nadal owned his defeat when asked what he did well in that match: “Not a lot of things.”

The same no excuses standard was demonstrated by Tim Duncan, champion pro basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs after their 2013 Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat  in NBA Finals.

Washington Post writer Michael Lee quotes Duncan after the game:

We didn’t play well. We didn’t shoot well. And I played awfully…Whatever it may be. They responded better than us….They outplayed us.”

As Spurs team captain, Duncan gave voice to the team’s ownership of their loss as well as his own contribution to it.

Both Nadal and Duncan, historically, have shown and articulated respect for their opponents in victory and in defeat.

Gregg (Pop) Popovich, future Hall of Fame coach of the Spurs, sets his own example– one that we would hope our workplace bosses would emulate.

In an article at ESPN.com, Marc Stein quotes Hall of Famer Chris Mullin on Pop:

Pop is incredibly humble. He gives out all the credit for the wins and he takes all the blame for the losses. He’s a prototypical leader.

There’s an old adage that says if you aren’t making mistakes at work, you aren’t doing anything.

In pro athletics, it only takes a few mistakes to lose a game, so when we see them, their impact becomes bigger than life. Fortunately, that’s not so in our jobs.

Stop the festering.

Excuses are obstacles to your growth, your reputation, and your confidence. If you don’t avoid making them, there will be a career price to pay.

Pro athletes know that recovery from poor performance means committing to getting better, not making excuses. That strategy works for us too. When you under-perform, acknowledge it, ask what you need to do to get better, and then work at it.

It’s time to go like a pro.

Photo by Caronine06 via Photoree

 

 

 

 

Fired, Downsized, or Eased Out–Helping Employees Save Face

It’s awful. Letting employees go, no matter what the circumstance, is a dreaded task for respect 4621075758_6c21beb236_mmost managers.

That’s often the reason why they:

  • put the task off for too long
  • tell HR to take care of it
  • find a way to do it remotely
  • botch the conversation

Good managers understand that when they have to let one of their employees go, it’s the way they do it that will be remembered and become lore.

Be clear about why.

Employees are fired, downsized, or eased out for any number of reasons:

  • Poor performance, rule violations, improper conduct, or breaking the law
  • Company reorganization, elimination of a product or service, merger, process redesign, or technology changes
  • Inability to adapt to change, resistance to direction, or loss of performance value

In each instance there should be a valid set of circumstances to support separating the employee from the company. Whether they accept it or not, employees deserve to be told specifically what has led to the loss of their jobs.

This means the manager who delivers the message must understand and be able to articulate those facts clearly. That’s what often scares them.

No one likes to deliver bad news. In the working world, losing your job, for any reason, feels like career capital punishment.

Sure, there will be opportunities for future career steps–more than likely a job that’s a better fit in a company with a more compatible culture and a boss that you click with.

But when that hammer hits, most employees just feel the crush of it. Finding that new door that will open seems like a million light years away.

So no matter the reason for the “letting go,” the manager who must deliver the message knows that s/he will be facing a difficult conversation that may result in hurt, backlash, argument, or conflict.

Do what’s right.

When we get hired as managers, we’re expected to come to work with our big girl and big boy pants on. That means being present to do what’s right, particularly when it comes to our employees.

You can run but you can’t hide.

Any time you have to let someone go, the onus is on you. Your reputation (yes, brand) as a manager is enhanced or damaged by the way you handle the situation.

I’ve seen and heard about employees who learned they were  being let go when they:

  • came to work and found a dumpster in their offices
  • were met by HR or company security as they came to work and were immediately sent back to their cars with the news
  • called into HR and while there someone from the company was packing up their personal effects
  • got the news by phone or email, even while on vacation

I  worked with a high ranking corporate attorney who didn’t have one personal item in his office. When I asked why, he told me that’s so when he left or was asked to go, there was nothing for him to take along.

It’s about respect and humanity.

Telling employees that it’s their last day is stomach-churning and uncomfortable. You can’t predict how your employees will react and that doesn’t really matter.

What’s important is the way you treat them in their most unsettled and scary hour. That’s what they’ll remember and say about you after the dust settles.

Your respect and humanity toward your employees in those meetings are what enables them to retain a good portion of their self-esteem and self-confidence going forward.

No matter how awful their reactions may be toward you, you need to show them respect, patience, and caring.

That means you need to:

  • Prepare your conversation using respectful language and tone
  • Acknowledge their disagreement agreeably
  • Speak calmly and listen attentively
  • Encourage them to move forward

Losing one’s job can feel pretty humiliating. So anything managers can do to help employees save face and rebound is a gift. Our job is not to ruin our employees’ careers but to help them to plant their roots in the best soil and grow.

Photo by B.S. Wise via Photoree