The Daily Discipline of Investing in yourself

The Chick-Fil-A  Leadercast that was held on May 4th of 2012 was all about choices – and how the choices we make will determine the leaders that we ultimately become.  John Maxwell, leadership expert and best-selling author and author of his latest book, “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” (which will be released October 2012), talked about the choice we make every day on self-improvement. 

I have been thinking of these two issues:  the value of daily discipline and the benefit of intentionally pursuing self-growth.   Let me talk about one of these – the value of daily discipline.  My next blog will focus on the importance of self-improvement. John Maxwell says that the law of diminishing returns comes to play when we aren’t doing something daily.  “We don’t do what we should do – it is less likely that we will do it.”

Anne Ambrose, a pioneer in televised physical fitness and one of the nation’s most successful wellness authorities, (and graduate of California State University, Long Beach – Go Beach!) – recently was quoted in the Spring 2012 issue of Breach Review (the magazine of California State University, Long Beach),  “I make sure I get a good 30 minutes of exercise every single day, getting my heart rate up, stretching and toning.  It could be fast walking one day, yoga the next day, or using light weights.” 

What can you do on a daily basis to increase your effectiveness at work and your vitality in your energy and life?   Reading Anne’s quote, I’ve decided to increase my exercise activity from 3-5 times a week – to every day!   What about you?

Show you Care

You’ve heard of the adage, “People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”   On this Valentine’s Day, it is a great reminder to ask yourself, “When was the last time I showed my customers, staff members, team members, that I care?”

During a recent three-day supervisory class that I facilitated for Washington state governmental employees, I was impressed with how many leaders talked about the human side of leadership. In the midst of technology, changing priorities, and budget cuts, they recognized how important it was for them to show their team that they cared – about each team member individually and about how each person’s role positively impacted the success of their team.  

On this holiday and throughout the year, here are three practical ways to show you care:

  1. Say thank you –  One of the best ways to show we care is to express our gratitude.  In our instant message society, receiving a handwritten note means a lot.  A sincere thank you – whether written or spoken, tells an employee, “I notice and what you do – matters.”
  2. Acknowledge extra efforts – Think about a team member who always goes above and beyond.   Ideally, all your team members have this kind of attitude and extra commitment but practically speaking, there are some people who just do more than others.  Show you care about that person’s contribution by acknowledging that person’s efforts.  Or how about a former low performing employee who has successfully achieved his or her goals?  Show you care about this person by acknowledging this person’s efforts. 
  3. Recognize all employees – Many times, we can’t do a lot with extra salary or benefits but what we can do is recognize every person’s impact.  Take the time to show you care by making sure team members know their impact to your team’s goals.  

One is Silver and the Other is Gold

We are 15 days into 2012 – how is your year going so far?  Have you had an opportunity to create new plans and goals for the New Year?  Before you sit down and develop your new plans – take a look at your last year. It is great to start a new year with a clean slate – but even greater if you don’t relive last year’s mistakes.  Just like that old song, “Make new friends but keep the old…one is silver and the other is gold…” we can carry over things that worked and use the momentum of our accomplishments – to help us catapult our 2012!  Here are 3 helpful strategies to review your last year:

  1. Celebrate your Successes.  What goals did you accomplish?  What do you think was instrumental in your achieving them?  What did you learn about yourself or your processes that you can take into the New Year?
  2. Learn from what went wrong.  Perhaps there are some goals from last year that you did not achieve. Why? What could have been helpful for you in achieving these?  What can you do differently in the New Year?
  3. Offer thanks to those who helped you.  How many people helped you achieve your goals last year?  Have you taken the time to express your gratitude to those who supported you – and without them – you couldn’t have succeeded.

 Here’s to a great new year!  The next 3 Blog entries will contain some strategies that will help you create goals and plans that will increase your chances of success.

Two More Weeks to Accomplish your Goals!

It is hard to bgirl at laptop thumb upelieve that 2011 is almost over!  Are you feeling satisfied with what you have accomplished this last year?  I know, why am I bringing up accomplishing goals in the midst of holiday busyness?  Well, it could be the perfect opportunity to go back to the beginning of the year goals and congratulate yourself on all that you have successfully accomplished – in any and all areas of your life – work, personal, physical, financial, spiritual, and relational.    And then, find one actionable item you can check off your list that will make a significant difference to your job, business, and life. You have 2 weeks to do it!

Recently, our worship leader at church shared about her trip to Zimbabwe and how grateful the women she met were.  Did these dear women have a lot?  No!  In fact, having three meals a day is not option for many people living in some of the poorest regions of the world. However, these women were content with what they had -whatever that was. 

So, in the midst of our accomplishing our goals – it is important that we don’t lose sight of being grateful for what we have. 

And so, though this blog posting is on goals – it is a perfect time of year to reflect upon the blessings.  I love what Charles Dickens said “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Reward Contribution

As we continue our “Creating a culture of contribution” series, we focus our attention on the subject of recognition.   Here are some creative ways you can recognize your staff, team, or board members:

  •  Publicly recognize contribution. (Make sure you make recognition meaningful   – some people would prefer more personal recognition – so the best thing you can do is ask your people how they want to be recognized)
  • Tell staff what their greatest contributions were in the last week, month, and year.
  • Let people know how their contributions are valued and how they contribute to your organization’s mission.
  • When people fail, reframe the failure as an opportunity for learning. 

Numerous studies show that recognition is the key to people feeling appreciated and engaged in an endeavor.  By taking the time to intentionally share a few words of recognition, your employees and volunteers feel appreciated and engaged.  

What can you say today that will help your staff or volunteers feel recognized?

Recognize Good Work

Have you ever been in an organization where exceptional, hard working, high performance contributors were rewarded … by giving more and more work?  One of the better ways to ensure that people will continue to contribute is to simply recognize good work.  Let your people know that good work is valued and give continuous feedback regarding their performance and contributions so that they can continue to grow and be successful in their jobs.  If more of a challenge is what motivates someone, consider providing other career or leadership opportunities for these high-performers so their enthusiasm and commitment is continually renewed.   Or these may be just the people you can count on to serve as mentors or trainers to others on their team or committee.

 A few more thoughts on this point:

  •  Recognize effectively– Not every person likes being recognized the same way –so know your team members and ask them how they want to be recognized.
  •  Define what “good” means – Create clear expectations for your team so that each person knows what the definition of “good” is – set clear job goals and performance expectations and include deadlines.
  •  Expand your view of work – Work can be defined as the actual task as well as the manner that task is carried out.   Broaden “work” to include people’s interactions with others, their ability to work as a team.   

Offer Benefits to be involved – Part 1

A crucial step in creating a culture of contribution is to ensure people are seeing the benefits of their involvement.  Whether you run a work team in an organization or are a leader of a community or professional organization, we all have a “radio frequency”  dialed in at “WIIFM” (What’s in it for me) – and one of your roles is to communicate the benefits of their involvement, through words and actions. Here’s an idea: 

 Communicate (in creative ways) how involvement is an expectation (in the work setting), and the means by which people can get the best value of their membership (in a volunteer organization).

 How do you accomplish this? 

  • Orient new employees that their participation in weekly staff meetings is part of their job expectation (and make sure they know some ways that you expect them to participate)
  • Orient new volunteers and members and train them on the benefits of involvement
  • Make it easy for new volunteers and members to get involved
  • Allow opportunities for each person to facilitate one of your staff meetings
  • Tie your evaluation system to people’s involvement
  • “Educate” your team members on the productive ways to get involved. (For example, I’ve heard several managers say  “If you are going to complain about something, make sure you come up with 1-2 ideas on how to fix the problem.”). 

Lessons from a Goat

GoatfinalMy husband and I have rather a unique way to spend time together – we visit “our goat.”   When times get stressful or when we want to get some exercise or if we simply want to get some fresh air, we walk out of our condo community and in a few moments, find ourselves strolling among fields and farm houses.  This one particular field that we frequent often is abandoned – or at least we thought it was.  To our surprise, we discovered that there was a goat that was tied up to a trailer and every few days, this trailer (and this goat), would move to different parts of the field.  We got to know our goat, affectionately called “Mr. Goat,” and began to look forward to our visits with him. We never knew where he would be in the field. But if he was close enough to the end of the field we could pet and talk with him.  We liked our new friend and indeed, the goat seemed to like us too. (At least we thought so – he would belt out some pretty loud noises when we greeted him!).    

What can we learn from a goat you ask? 

  1.  Goats, like people, thrive on personal attention. It is so simple to offer a smile to someone, send a greeting, and just say “thinking of you.” Whether it is a work colleague, neighbor, or someone who is helping you at the grocery store, it is the personal touches that can make a difference between someone having a bad day to someone having a great day. Those in customer service know that you have the choice every day to “make someone’s day.”  We all do.  Who needs your personal attention today?
  2.  Sometimes we need to do something completely different in order to feel rejuvenated.  Talking a walk and visiting a goat is an out of the ordinary occurrence. But the mere fact that my husband and I are leaving behind, -even for a few minutes – our emails, writing projects, phone calls, and projects to connect with each other and to our goat – gives us new perspectives, energy, and motivation to tackle our work with new creativity when we get back to the office.
  3. Goats can be replaced by Jack Bauer.  A few weeks ago, our goat was not in the field. We looked for that little trailer he was tied to and realized that his job (eating the grass in the field) was done and he had already left for his “next assignment.”   John and I have replaced Mr. Goat with our new past time – watching past episodes of “24”.  I’m not sure if this stress reliever is as rejuvenating as our goat:  I never had trouble sleeping before we watched “24!”

Negativity Breeds Negatitivty

2008-2009 003I’ve been trying to work on my attitude this year.  I wouldn’t say I have a bad attitude all the time, but there is something about marriage that can bring out the best (as well as the worst) in me!  Suddenly those attitudes or complaints that I used to keep inside or just share when I’m with a close friend, are now “exposed” to my husband on a daily basis.  

 Our attitude is showing all the time and  how we act affects everyone around us.  And here’s what I am learning – negativity breeds negativity. Someone has a bad attitude, a negative comment or a complaint and that negativity snowballs into creating negative teams, departments, and even organizations. 

I can “smell” a bad attitude the moment that I walk into a potential client’s organization. I can see how the receptionist treats visitors or how two employees interact with each other.  Is the person warm and friendly? Or is the person cold and abrupt?   Does the receptionist treat every person like a guest?   Or are people treated like “interruptons?” 

How easy is it for us to “catch” a bad attitude! My  husband can pick up on my negative attitude less than a minute after he walks in the door.  And how I treat him can affect his own attitude.   I say to my audiences all the time – watch your attitude.  Is yours worth giving away?  So, to any of you who feel that your attitude needs some adjusting – I have this bit of advice.  Every morning, when you get up, you have a choice on what you put on.  I will be putting on an attitude of hope, optimism, and cheerfulness – even when things don’t go my way.  How about you?