Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: Get Involved in Make A Difference Day

DLPk7ggWAAAjC08.jpg-largeSaturday, October 28, 2017, is Make A Difference Day. Twitter: #MDDay. This event is one of the largest single days of service across the country. Projects range from cleaning up public parks and building homes to serving meals to the needy. The annual event began in 1992, sponsored by TEGNA, Inc. with the support of Arby’s Foundation and Points of Light.

You can either start a project or volunteer for a project that is already organized. Find a project in your community here from the Make A Difference website. When I searched for events in my zip code, I discovered 20 projects that are happening in my area, from park clean-up and reading to underprivileged children to building an inner-city garden hoop house and knitting warm scarves and mittens for the homeless. Also, check your local television stations, radio stations, public libraries, schools, park systems, or nonprofit organizations to find projects right in your community. Or if you are feeling ambitious and want to travel out-of-state, participate in a larger scale project or historic site preservation. You will feel inspired when you read the stories about the 2016 project awards.

Beyond this one national day of service, consider simple things that you can do to be of service to others every day.

At the end of the day today, take a few minutes to pause and reflect on what difference you have made – in the lives of people who you have touched or in your community. When you invest that time in assessing your impact on the world around you, you will value and appreciate your many contributions. You will feel great pride in what you do. You will inspire and motivate others to do more.

First, it begins with you. Take care of yourself and your health so that you can continue your good work. What did you do for yourself today that made you feel good about yourself? Did you start your day with nutritious food? Did you walk a few laps around your neighborhood to improve your stamina?

What did you do for others today that brought you joy? It could be something simple like packing a note in your child’s lunch, or involving a neighborhood in creating a delicious meal together. Did you open the door for a disabled person at the office? Did you help an elderly person carry her food tray to her table? Did you stop and visit a friend or relative who lives alone and enjoys your companionship? Did you give someone a chance to lead others because you believe in that person?

What did you do for your community today that made a difference? Did you bring your talents to a nonprofit organization’s board? Did you help to make an important decision that will have a positive impact on your community? Did you volunteer at a local fundraising event? Did you help build a home for a family in need?

If you want to invest more time in making a difference, then focus on that outcome. When you choose to do more for others, to make someone else’s life more comfortable, or to make your community a better place, the opportunities will come to you. You can also bring your own big ideas into fruition. Anything is possible when you have a strong desire to make positive change a habit.

Natural Disasters Provide Lessons in Crisis Communication 101

crisis1From crisis comes lessons learned…hopefully.

The recent devastation in Texas, Florida, and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, left thousands of homes and businesses destroyed, people displaced from their homes, in desperate need of basic essentials like shelter, food, and water, and sadly, lives were lost.

When you know a crisis situation is coming, you have some time to prepare a communication plan. Authorities had learned from Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, and others in recent years. When you apply lessons learned, tweak and adapt along the way, then you have a solid communication strategy.

With each repeat event, more is learned about what needed to be communicated and when. What will you do when crisis strikes? Here are a few important reminders when communicating catastrophic events.

Send Clear Messages. Keep your message clear and simple, and repeat, repeat, repeat. The anticipated devastation and flooding levels in each of these hurricanes reached the public days in advance through meteorologists, the media, FEMA, government leaders, social media, and in-person efforts. The messaging for protection against the elements and evacuation when recommended needs to be clear.

Be Calm Yet Emphatic. When you are the lead spokesperson during a crisis, people look to you for a calming presence. You provide stability and hope. Authorities remained calm yet serious when communicating with residents who were in the path of the hurricane.

Use Multiple Channels. Don’t rely on one communication channel…use all of them. From the most sophisticated electronic communication to the old-fashioned person-to-person, look to all communication channels to assist you in getting your message to the public.

Prioritize Safety and Security. The Number One concern in times of disaster is the safety and security of residents. Agencies were prepared for tens of thousands of residents who were displaced in the hardest hit areas of Texas and Florida. Yet, communication took much longer to reach those in more remote areas of Puerto Rico.

Anticipate Resistance. During crisis situations, you must anticipate some resistance. It’s human nature for people to look at other options if they have them. In Texas and Florida, some residents chose to stay in their homes to wait out the storm. They discovered that was no longer an option and were eventually rescued and evacuated. On the island of Puerto Rico, there were no such options…only to wait out the storm in the safest place possible.

Bring Mobile Devices to the Rescue. The use of mobile phones and social media channels opened up communication more quickly as long as communication towers were in operation. People were able to send out an electronic SOS and also could locate people who needed rescuing more quickly. In times of great devastation, however, lack of electricity makes it improbable or impossible to communicate through any electronic channels. You must then revert to more traditional communication channels, like person-to-person.

Be Timely. Leading up to a disaster, every minute is precious because your message must reach the public post haste, whether it is to take cover or to evacuate. Following the aftermath of a disaster, the use of time shifts to the Number One priority: saving lives. In the case of Puerto Rico, there was not enough attention given to the distribution of life-saving food and water. Many lessons will be learned from that terrible devastation.

Have a Plan B, C, and D. In disasters of epic proportions, relief and rescue workers must make decisions quickly and shift to trying something different. If Plan A doesn’t work, go to Plan B; if that doesn’t work, go to Plan C, then D, and so on. In times of great emergency, you must think of absolutely every potential outcome and be prepared to act swiftly. The clock keeps ticking.

Possessions can be replaced; human lives cannot.

When you are faced with a crisis, draw upon past experiences and apply those teachings to the situation at hand. Hopefully the lessons learned from these recent natural disasters will help leaders better handle crisis communication in the future.

Celebrating International Day of Peace Raises Our Collective Conscience

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United Nations symbol for International Day of Peace

September 21 marks the International Day of Peace, a recognition that promotes  peace around the world in countries, cities, and communities. The 2017 theme  is Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. An event map indicates where events are being held around the world, including meditation, music, marches, and other events.

Put into action in 1981 by a United Nations Resolution, and celebrated for the first time a year later, the International Day of Peace reminds us all to bring peace into our lives, whether here at home or abroad. The International Day of Peace uses education as a means to encourage peaceful co-existence and safe, open dialogue as a means of understanding.

Some of us are more removed from speaking out for peace because our lives seem rather “peaceful” as they are. Yet for millions of people of all cultures, genders, ages, and economic classes around the world, they have only known war; they have not experienced peace.

When we consider war, we may think that battles are only fought with destructive weapons and artillery force. Yet, some people experience a war of a different kind as they try to simply live their lives as best they can. A war of words can be a form of abuse. A war-torn body can show signs of a domestic dispute and physical abuse. Belittling another human being can leave scars of emotional abuse.

Within families, wars are fought too, with relatives often choosing sides, deciding whom they will defend. Within companies, wars among departments or staff can occur when judgment and ego get in the way of collaboration and cooperation.

How are you making peace within your world? Are you encouraging those around you to share their thoughts and opinions through open dialogue? Are you trying to look at challenges and disputes, then identifying potential solutions? To make the world a better place begins with one person: You.

The United Nations has created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to improve the lives of every person on the planet, which include:

1.   No poverty.

2.   Zero hunger.

3.   Good health and well-being.

4.   Quality education.

5.   Gender equality.

6.   Clean water and sanitation.

7.   Affordable and clean energy.

8.   Decent work and economic growth.

9.   Industry, innovation and infrastructure.

10. Reduced inequalities.

11. Sustainable cities and communities.

12. Responsible consumption and production.

13. Climate action.

14. Life below water.

15. Life on land.

16. Peace, justice and strong institutions.

17. Partnerships for the goals.

As you consider your contributions to your community and the world, what goals are you working on every day to create a better life for all? Peruse The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World, compiled by the United Nations, and you will find many simple tasks that you can complete easily. Share it with co-workers. Create a conversation. Take action.

Nature Reminds Us To Be Fully Present

eclipse-lunarOn Monday, August 21, 2017, millions of people travelled to the path of the total solar eclipse to view the entire cycle, and particularly that moment when the moon travels in front of the sun, leaving a spectacular ring. Millions more viewed the eclipse on television or a mobile device. The rest of us viewed a partial eclipse from our back yards or office parking lots. Even Alaska Airlines maneuvered a flight into the path of the total solar eclipse for invited astronomers and special guests.

The sheer beauty of nature is best revealed in these moments of awe-inspiring wonder. When you sit back, become fully aware, and let nature unfold, you realize that that moment will never again be repeated. Ever. Sure, there will be other sunrises, sunsets, eclipses, but not that same one. It’s a powerful thought.

When you are fully present in a moment, any moment, you derive the greatest pleasure from it, because your mind is nowhere else. It’s not cluttered with thoughts of your To Do List or what you could make for dinner. Your mind is completely focused on that moment.

The benefit of present moment awareness is that it allows you to take in what is happening in that moment. You can set aside other feelings or hidden agendas, anger or angst, and simply be.

We witnessed that on August 21, when we experienced the solar eclipse in person. It took our breath away. It left no room for anything else except our focus and attention. We were suspended in that moment of pure exhilaration.

We came from different cities, countries, socio-economic backgrounds, races, religions, genders, and education levels, and somehow it worked beautifully. We collectively shared that moment together.

Let’s take what we learned in that moment and apply it to our workplaces, our communities, and our country. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tweeted “Enjoyed watching #Eclipse2017. A great reminder that all darkness is temporary.” Let’s listen and learn from each other. From awareness comes change, true change. It begins with open dialogue. Let the conversation begin.

Be Inspired By Youth

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Photo credit: Mark Zust

When you think of who inspires you, do you often think of someone who is older than you who taught or mentored you? Perhaps it’s someone whom you have admired from afar? Or a world figure who remains with you in spirit?

Don’t overlook today’s youth for inspiration.

While reading the Sunday newspaper, my husband noticed that a special free concert was being hosted that afternoon at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, featuring a nine-year-old rock and roll prodigy, Marel Hidalgo and his band, the Stonefeathers. It was a perfect Summer day and having no plans, we decided to go.

As the band assembled on stage, Marel positioned himself center stage, ready to play. The electric guitar was almost as big as he was! As we sat and enjoyed listening to the music, I also enjoyed watching the surprise and delight of passersby as they realized the young age of the talented guitarist. The playing was not accompanied by any theatrics or jumping around. Marel simply stood and played his guitar. Occasionally he shared a simple “Thank you” following the audience’s applause.

I was impressed with his composure and clarity of purpose. Playing the guitar since the age of four, Marel plays many of the great guitarists, including Santana, Prince, and Jeff Beck. His Purple Rain tribute to Prince is touching. Sometimes adults can be quick to judge or under-estimate “today’s youth.” For me, Marel Hidalgo inspired me, and it’s safe to say he inspired everyone in that audience.

The next time someone asks you, “Who inspires you?” think of a young person you may have met, seen, or heard who inspired you to live your dream or to just be yourself.

 

Clashing With a Co-Worker? Consider Personal Style Differences

image.axdIf you wonder why you don’t see eye to eye with certain co-workers, it could be because your style preferences are different. One person who communicates with a fast, direct style may be intimidating to another person who needs reflective time to process information. You may think the other person is “odd” when in reality you just have different styles.

One of the best investments you can make in yourself as a professional is to take a personal style assessment (or several). You will gain valuable insights about your own style and the styles of people you work with.

Some companies use assessments during the hiring process or prior to training programs. From a human resource perspective, assessments help to determine if you are a right “fit” for a specific position, based on the job’s criteria. Assessments can also provide a glimpse at an employee’s skill level as a team player or leader. As a coach, I often use assessments to help me understand my clients as we enter the coaching relationship.

Even if you have to pay for an assessment yourself, which usually costs less than $100 per assessment, the results will allow you to gain clarity about yourself as a person, worker, team member and leader. It will also help you to identify behavioral styles and suggest ways for you to interact with and work along side people whose styles may be different from yours.

Personal/social style assessments have been available for more than half a century. Once you understand your personal style and behavior, you can learn to modify your behavior in work/life situations. The end result: You will learn how to position yourself as a professional more effectively.

Some of the most common assessments used in the American workplace include:

Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, the MBTI is based on the ideas of Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung, which identifies 16 distinct personality differences and preferences.

DISC Profile Analysis. A behavioral model developed by John Geier and others based on the work of psychologist William Moulton Marston and behaviorist Walter V. Clarke and others, the profile measures four distinct characteristics, Dominance (how you respond to problems/challenges), Influence (how you influence others to your point of view), Steadiness (how you respond to the pace of the environment), and Compliance (how you respond to rules and procedures set by others).

Clifton StrengthsFinder Profile. The Gallup Press offers two popular tools, Clifton StrengthsFinder Profile, from the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. and StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. The tools focus on 34 dominant themes that help participants identify their talents and how they can build a successful life and career.

Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). Developed by Ned Herrmann, the HBDI assesses thinking preferences, identifying four specific modes of thinking: Analytical, sequential, interpersonal, and imaginative. His concept, Whole Brain® Thinking, helps individuals understand how to be flexible in using the four styles of thinking within organizations and in individual relationships.

Social Style® Model. Dr. David Merrill and Roger Reid developed the Social Style® Profile in the 1960s, which determines social/behavioral style and is helpful for people who work in team environments. The model identifies four types: Analytical (thinking oriented), Driver (action oriented), Amiable (relationship oriented) and Expressive (intuition oriented).

Emotional Intelligence and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI). Co-created by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Hay Group, Inc., the ESCI measures self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

True Colors. Based upon the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, and refined by David Keirsey, the True Colors assessment allows you to explore 24 aspects of your personality. Each unique style is color coded, representing psychological and physiological needs.

The Enneagram. Using nine patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting, the Enneagram reveals information about your whole self and what motivates you.

360-Degree Feedback. This assessment tool uses the perspective of others as a way to subjectively describe your style, using descriptive words. It compares the description that you choose with the descriptions that others choose, to indicate any gaps between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you.

These are just a few of the most common assessments used in the workplace. For a complete listing and evaluation of assessments, the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) offers an overview of the many assessment tools the Center offers.

If you find yourself asking the question, “Who am I?,” then make an investment in yourself, or ask your HR professional about assessments that your company offers. Assessments help to paint a picture of who you are and can offer you insights into your style and its impact on others.

Find Joy in Serving Others

HelpingHands2One of the greatest pleasures you can get out of life is being completely selfless — thinking of others before you think of yourself. It doesn’t require much effort…just a little.

On a hot summer day more than a decade ago, my husband and I attended a local art festival. Did I mention that it was a hot day? It was about 90 degrees. After an hour of walking in the heat, I needed something to quench my thirst. The iced cold beverages were flying out of the vendors’ coolers and I decided to buy one. As I stood in line, a woman in a wheelchair was ahead of me. She asked the vendor how much the water was. “One dollar,” he replied. “Oh, I don’t have a dollar with me,” said the woman. The man said he was sorry but the water cost one dollar.

That’s when I decided that I would buy this woman a bottle of water. After I made my purchase, I walked over to the woman and handed her the bottle. “Here is some water for you,” I said. She looked at me in disbelief. Surely she was mistaken. Why would a total stranger present her with a bottle of cold water? “What?” she asked. “I overhead you say that you wanted some water. Here’s some water for you,” I said again. She extended her arms up and pulled me down to her to give me a hug. She began to cry. She said, “God bless you! Thank you. I was just released from the hospital this morning and I don’t have any money with me. I’m so hot and thirsty. Thank you so much.” Giving water to that woman was the high point of my day. I have a feeling my act of kindness was the high point of her day.

Think of the people around you — at work or at home — who may be struggling, frustrated, or simply confused. Your word of encouragement, act of kindness, or generosity of time can change their outlook. What can you share with them?

Sometimes you have to trust your intuition and do what your heart, not your mind, wants to do. When you see someone in need, ask yourself how you could help. You, too, could make someone’s day. Wonderful surprises await you. Ask yourself every morning, “Who can I help today?” At the end of each day, ask yourself, “Who did I help today?” It only takes a minute or two. Soon, serving others will become so natural for you, you will do it without thinking.

©Christine Zust

This Summer, Consider Hosting a Reunion

family-reunionSummer is the time of year when you can kick back and relax, go on vacation (or a stay-cation), cookout on the grill, enjoy daylight longer, and reunite with family and friends. Even if you’re in the midst of a demanding project this Summer, you can still take a break to enjoy nature or a short retreat.

A reunion is important. It reconnects you with people who you haven’t seen in a while, or family members you haven’t visited in a long time. If you were to make a short list of “must-see” individuals this Summer, who would make it onto your list? Pick up the phone and call or send a quick email or text.

Why reunite? To reconnect. To remember. To say “Thank you for being there.” To celebrate the good times. To simply be.

I recently co-chaired a reunion event for a women’s civic organization that I led as president more than 25 years ago. The organization sadly closed its doors about a decade ago. My reunion co-chair was the club’s executive director during my term as president. She remains a close, longtime friend. We decided to recognize the club’s founding in 1916 with a 101st anniversary celebration.

Sixty women attended the event, some of whom I hadn’t seen in 20-25 years. The energy level was palpable. Over cocktails, during dinner and dessert, there were lots of laughs and plenty of hugs and kisses to go around. We paid tribute to the years of history we shared together. Many served on the board as I did, chaired committees, or volunteered in the office. The women reminisced about their collaborative community work, fundraisers and programs they had chaired, and lasting friendships they had made through their club membership. Everyone felt valued and connected, celebrating being part of something larger through the club.

When asked to comment on what lessons they learned or a favorite memory, they shared: “Meeting diverse women who I would not have met otherwise.” “Great women.” “Lifetime friendships.” “Best leadership training ever.” We received rave reviews from the women who joined us that evening, some of whom insisted that we reunite every year. It is clear they want to remain connected, so we will make sure that happens.

What about you? What reunion will you be planning this Summer? Who will you be reaching out to for a get-together? Whether it’s a larger group or just a few people, take the time to celebrate who you have shared history with. Rekindle those relationships with people who have influenced or inspired you. The years pass by too quickly. The time to reunite is now!

Stop Apologizing!

sad-dogI love language, especially listening to the words that people choose to speak. Lately, I have noticed something quite peculiar. Call it a trend, or a bad habit. I have become acutely aware of people who repeatedly apologize. The key word here is repeatedly.

Their comment automatically begins with “I’m sorry.”

What would you think of someone who you met for the first time who, within several minutes, apologized to you several times? The confident professional would not apologize. It’s the person with the lack of self-confidence who would.

Whether it’s you or a member of your team, listen to the language being used. Whenever there is repetitive language, listen more intently to the impression that is being made. Is it a positive or negative impression?

Here are a few examples of “I’m sorry” that I recently experienced:

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know if you preferred coffee or tea.” Revised: “Do you prefer coffee or tea?”

“I’m sorry, but could you end the program at 3:45 instead of 4:00?” Revised: “Could you please end the program at 3:45 instead of 4:00?”

“I’m sorry. Could you please wait until everyone arrives before you start your presentation?” Revised: “Could you please wait until everyone arrives before you start your presentation?

It’s a small change with great impact. By removing the habitual “I’m sorry” from your language, you position yourself with greater certainty and confidence.

Here are a few ways to help you stop over-apologizing:

Become more aware of your language. Do you say “I’m sorry” too often? If so, ask yourself why.

Pause. Take the time to choose your words more carefully. Instead of automatically saying “I’m sorry,” take a few seconds to compose your thoughts and begin the sentence with your core message.

Become more aware of the impact your language has on others. Have several people suggested that you stop apologizing, or asked you why you’re apologizing? That’s a signal that you are over-apologizing. Simply drop the phrase as your default.

Snap out of the deficit thinking. People who over-apologize may have issues with self-worth. Replace the deficit thinking with abundance and gratitude.

The flip side: Of course there will be times when you will need to use the phrase “I’m sorry.” Save it for those occasions when you really need to use it, and it means something important rather than just a sentence starter.

The Sweet Smell of Career Success Begins With Good Grooming Habits

22With companies adopting a more casual dress code, some workers are becoming more casual about their grooming habits. Personal hygiene lies at the very center of a professional image. It’s not just the clothing that is worn; it’s what’s underneath it all. If you work with someone who needs guidance, initiate a confidential conversation to reinforce the message that good grooming habits have a positive impact on career growth.

Good grooming habits begin with basic cleanliness and continue with maintenance of one’s body and clothing. With your team member, do a quick mental scan right now, from head to toe. Body Health: Hair. Skin. Nails. Teeth. Clothing/Outer wear: Clean. Pressed. Stain-free. Also consider shoes, cologne, accessories, jewelry, and make-up for women. What’s your final assessment?

I have witnessed plenty of bad grooming habits throughout my professional career. Here are a few of my most memorable:

Bad Teeth. During one of my recent presentation skills seminars, a man in his mid-40s, delivered his presentation with his shoulders rounded, head down, with little eye contact, no smile, and weak vocal delivery. When I shared my observations during our private one-on-one evaluation, he opened up and confided in me that his teeth were really bad, that he was embarrassed, and that he was finally going to the dentist to have them fixed. I felt sad and happy at the same time; sad that he had waited many years to fix his teeth, sad that he may have missed some promotions or better job opportunities along the way, and happy that he was finally doing something about it. Interpersonal communication is a vital part of your life and career, so invest in basic dental care to enhance your image.

Heavy Cologne. Years ago, when I served on a selection committee for a new hire, there was one applicant who stood out, and she didn’t stand out for the right reason. Her cologne reached the conference room long before she did. By the time she arrived, the entire room was filled with a strong musky scent. It was a short interview, and she did not get the job. Over-use of a fragrance can completely shift first impressions. More companies are initiating a fragrance-free work environment because strong fragrance can create unpleasant surroundings.

Clean Yet Stinky. Years ago, I worked alongside a new employee who was delightful and hard-working. It was her first job. Everyone loved her enthusiasm, accuracy and efficiency. Yet we noticed one thing: Her body odor. We asked the oldest woman of our group to have a conversation with this young woman. We felt the news might be better received if it came from a wise sage. This was the right choice. When the news was shared, it was revealed that, although this young woman bathed daily, she wore her clothes several times before cleaning them. That meant that all of the oils from her body, along with perspiration odors, marinated in her clothing. When she put dirty clothes back on her body, it was as if she never bathed. After the conversation, she returned to the office like a new woman. From that moment on, her body and her clothing were clean and fresh. An added bonus: The conversation and the shift in personal hygiene boosted her self-confidence.

How can you help someone who needs a gentle nudge? Initiate a critical conversation by following this simple process:

Be kind. Whatever information you share, demonstrate respect and kindness; do not be judgmental.

Begin with a positive statement. “You are a valuable team member” or “You are doing an excellent job.”

Share specific feedback. “May I offer you some feedback about your personal style?” Once a response is given, add “I have noticed that…” “Are you aware of that?” Wait for a response. Avoid saying “Several people have mentioned to me” or “We have noticed” because you want to ensure that you are building trust in your relationship.

Ask for feedback. See how the person is receiving the information.

Receive feedback without judgment. “Now that I have shared my thoughts with you, what are you thinking?” Wait for a response.

Offer additional help. “May I offer some suggestions?” “How can I help you?”

Keep the conversation going. When you initiate a private conversation about a delicate topic like personal hygiene and grooming, you are deepening the level of trust with that other person. Keep the lines of communication open.

A confidential conversation like this, when it is shared with kindness and concern, can transform another person’s life and offer new career possibilities.