When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears…and Reappears

Photo credit: Fischer Twins for unsplash.com

Photo credit: Fischer Twins for unsplash.com

It was the title of the article that first captured my attention more than 30 years ago as a budding, young professional:

Work Hard; Love People; Be A Professional

Then, the first sentence, in all capital letters, begins: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT JOB.

The article, written by Elinor J. Wilson, then Director of the Colgate University Bookstore and sitting President (1985-86) of the National Association of College Stores, appeared in The College Store Journal.

The same article title that caught my attention all those years ago stood out the other day, as I purged old paper files and organized my office. Asking myself the all-important question as I touched each memory, “Does it stay or does it go?,” the answer was an emphatic “Stay!” The fading copy is carefully and meticulously highlighted in yellow, with specific words and phrases then underlined in red.

That first paragraph continues with, “In any position, you will find some duties which, if they are not unpleasant immediately, eventually will be. Success depends not merely on how well you do things you enjoy, but how conscientiously you perform those duties you don’t enjoy.” Reread this last sentence. What refreshing honesty. These words of wisdom could be incorporated easily into new employee orientation or onboarding programs.

Wilson outlines several specific, simple rules to better one’s chance for success:

• Have ambition

• Learn everything you can about your work

• Broaden your horizons

• Set your goals high

• Learn self-discipline and self-reliance

• Communicate effectively; put your ideas into clear language

• Be thorough; cover every side of a question; follow every lead

• Set a definite goal for yourself

She adds, “Before you know it, you may find the ladder of success stretching out below you instead of rising ominously in front of you.” She emphasizes how important it is to Keep (maintain action by care and labor) Doing (deeds of interest and excitement). The true professional is in constant motion, continuously improving, and including others in important decisions.

One of my favorite sections of the article, though, is a discussion about time.

“If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,400, that carried over no balance from day to day, and allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening cancelled whatever part of the amount you had failed to use during the day, what would you do? Draw out every cent, of course!

“Well, you have such a bank, and its name is time. Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it rules off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdrafts.

“Each day it opens a new account with you. Each night it burns the records of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the tomorrow. You must live in the present, on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success.

“The secret for controlling time is that there is always enough time to do what is really important. The difficulty is knowing what is really important.”

Wilson encourages the reader to focus on professional development, hard work, dedication, and resourcefulness. “Be a giver to life instead of just a receiver,” she adds.

She ends the article with one simple sentence: “The light of leadership shines only because of the spark offered by each individual.”

Wilson’s words of wisdom are as relevant today as they were when she wrote them more than three decades ago. I hope they resonate within you as they continue to do within me. There is so much more that we can do to contribute and create positive change in our workplaces, our communities, and in the world. Keep doing. Work hard. Love people. Be a professional.

To Build Client Relationships, All You Need Is Love

love-is-all-you-needHow much love are you giving to your clients? How do you show them that you care?

While some people focus more on romantic love on Valentine’s Day — showing affection through flowers, candy, or a romantic dinner — it’s the more universal meaning of love that reminds us that we can do  more to meet the needs of our clients. The Oxford Dictionaries defines love as “an intense feeling of deep affection” or “a person or thing that one loves.”

One of the most iconic songs about love, All You Need Is Love, written by John Lennon, sung by the Beatles, and released in July, 1967 shares a message that is just as relevant today as it was back then.

If you were to show your clients (internal and external) how you love and care about them, what would that look like? How would you show them that you care? Here are some simple tips to help you give more love to your clients:

Get personal. In all relationships, whether business or personal, we learn about each other by sharing information about our lives, not just our business experience. Learn about your client’s personal life, hobbies, interests, family, charitable causes, life goals, greatest challenges, and triumphs. The more you know, the deeper your relationship can become.

Acknowledge that you enjoy working with them. All too often, we rely on implicit rather than explicit communication, which can keep people guessing. If you love working with a client, tell that client exactly how you feel. “I enjoyed working with you on this project because we brought our individual strengths to the process. I look forward to working on our next project.”

Keep in touch. It’s easy to get busy working on other things, yet it’s so simple to pick up the phone, send a quick email or text to check in with your clients. Your thoughtfulness will go a long way to deepen your relationship.

Get in the habit of asking. We often forget to ask the much-needed question: “What else can I do to help you?” This will get your client thinking beyond today, and planning for the future. If your client hasn’t thought about this, your question will get the ideation process moving.

Show your appreciation. Your client could go to someone else for services, yet you were the person who was chosen for the project. Send your client a note of appreciation that says “I value you as a client.”

Have fun. The best working relationships that show love in action are those where people feel comfortable with each other and bring more of their authentic selves to the relationship. They have fun. My favorite clients are the ones who share that mutual feeling…I love working with and being with them, and they feel the same way about me.

As you look at your relationships with your clients, answer these questions:

What are you doing to make your clients feel more connected to you?

How can you show your love to your clients?

Don’t just express your appreciation one day each year. Show your clients how much you value them throughout the year.

In Praise of Old School

Photo credit: Eric Rothermel, unsplash.com

Photo credit: Eric Rothermel, unsplash.com

“I can’t believe you still use an old-fashioned calendar,” my friend said. “You realize that you could use your phone, even your computer instead.” Yes, of course I realize that. I choose to roll “Old School” when it comes to calendars, though.

As a Baby Boomer, technology hasn’t come easily to me. I wasn’t born with a mobile device or a computer in my hands like Generations Y or Z. Don’t get me wrong. I own an iPhone, an iPod, an iPad, and of course, a MacBook Pro. I have my social media accounts. I use some favorite apps. But my calendar? I’m simply old-fashioned.

There’s a lesson to be learned here for all of us. You have your way of doing things. I have my way of doing things. It’s called choice. We are all entitled to it, and we all take advantage of doing things our way. If you have ever found yourself in a situation where you said to another person, “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” often, the “failure” in communicating is simply not understanding why people do things the way they do. We expect everyone to behave exactly as we do, yet, we know that’s not just improbable, it’s impossible.

The key to understanding others is this: We learn in different ways, the most common being Visual (see it), Auditory (hear it), and Kinesthetic (experience or feel it).

In my case, I’m a Visual Kinesthetic. That means that I learn best when seeing and experiencing something new. With my calendar, my Visual and Kinesthetic needs are both fulfilled. Visual: The calendar sits on my desk, so I see it every day (without having to boot up my cell phone or turn on my computer). Kinesthetic: Writing information in the calendar is a physical action that allows me to remember much better. Because an electronic calendar resides on my laptop or my phone, I can go for days without “seeing” it. I never miss appointments because I see my calendar sitting on my desk.

Auditory learners don’t need to write things down as much as Kinesthetic learners do. Don’t fret if Jane isn’t taking notes at a meeting; chances are, she is Auditory and will remember every word she heard. And yes, she remembers the words to every song she has ever heard.

If you work with – or live with – someone who does things differently from you, don’t try to change them to your behavior. Instead, understand that they are behaving that way because they are wired that way. If Bob needs to leave himself a Post-It Note as a reminder to file a document the following day, leave Bob be. It works for him.

Observe your team members. See if you can figure out who is a Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic learner. Once you realize how they are wired, you will be able to tailor your message to them. You’ll be happy. They’ll be happy. You’ll also find that productivity goes up when you don’t try to change other people to your learning style.

Pause and Reflect With Powerful Questions

Photo credit: Glenn-Carson Peters, unsplash.com

Photo credit: Glenn Carsten-Peters, unsplash.com

Happy New Year, and welcome to a year of possibilities. Regardless of how 2017 ended for you, the benefit of turning that calendar page to a new year is that you have an entire year ahead of you, ready for planning and action. Here are a series of questions to keep you focused and engaged in making 2018 a productive and meaningful year for you.

First, Take a Brief Look Back

While it’s not often healthy to dwell in the past, it is helpful to take stock and summarize how the past year went for you.

What were the high points of the year?

What did you do extremely well?

In what areas did you exceed your own expectations?

Did you meet or exceed your goals?

What were the top three lessons you learned from your experiences? (Include both career and life experiences)

Who provided you with valuable mentoring or coaching expertise and guidance?

If you could use one word to sum up 2017 for you, what word would it be?

Now, Look at This Moment Only

After you have reflected on the year that has just passed, now turn your attention to this moment…right now, today. Don’t even look at or think about tomorrow yet. Answer a few simple questions:

How are you feeling about yourself, your life, right now? (Good? Not so good? Not sure?)

If you could choose to do anything at this very moment, what would it be? (Is it something you usually do or rarely do?)

What are you most grateful for today? (Do you feel this way every day? Sometimes? Never?)

What person(s) are you coming into contact with today, and why? (Are there positive or negative feelings attached to that person/those people?)

In what way are you living your core values today?

What one word best describes your attitude today?

Last, Take a Look Ahead

Good for you. You have summarized the past year. You have taken a moment to value and appreciate how you’re feeling today. Now the fun begins…the future! The thing about life is, even if you have planned out everything in the finest detail, there are going to be unexpected twists, turns and events that can postpone or sidetrack your goals. How resilient or flexible will you be when that happens? How long will it take for you to get back on track?

Looking out across the next 12 months, what is the one big goal that you want to achieve this year?

If you took that big goal and divided it into 12 smaller chunks (by month), what would your plan look like?

Example: If your goal is to write a book (which is a big goal; I speak from experience), then what steps do you need to take between now (no book) to then (finished product in your hands)?

What resources will you need to accomplish your goals?

What mentoring or coaching services would you need to help you meet your goals?

Looking at December, 2018, if you were to look back on the year that has just passed, what would you like to say about your accomplishments?

I hope these questions have helped you to put into perspective the year that just passed, where you are today, and where you would like to be in 2018. May it be one of your best years ever.

Responsibility Needs an Overhaul

responsibilityWho are you responsible for or to? Well, first of all, you are responsible for yourself…specifically your actions and behavior. You also may be responsible for your family, for your work team, and you may even take responsibility for your community and beyond.
Just how responsible do you feel to others? You may think “It depends.”
The news recently of yet another case of sexual harassment – this time with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein – got me thinking. Do we as employers, leaders, bosses, or co-workers have any responsibility for shedding light on sexual harassment when it doesn’t “involve” or “impact” us? Unfortunately, people don’t want to get involved because they figure it’s not “their” problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every one of us is responsible to get actively involved in stopping this pervasive societal problem.
Most company employee manuals contain a section on inappropriate behavior in the workplace and even more specific retribution for sexual harassment. As we have learned through some national media examples, even for some companies who do have it in writing, those rules can still be violated, and the perpetrator’s actions are often quietly tolerated and ignored.
Specific language, whether verbal or nonverbal, provides context and meaning when it comes to sexual harassment. For example, there is a difference between a man telling a female co-worker, “You look great” and “Wow, that dress really shows off all of your curves, and in just the right places too.” And if the latter statement is accompanied by any physical contact, that’s sexual harassment.
If you see it, if you hear it, or if you experience it, then take responsibility and give voice to it. Don’t be silent. Nothing is more painful than hearing someone say “We all knew how he was.” Sorry. That answer just isn’t good enough. If inappropriate behavior is happening, people need to say or do something. Perpetrators may think their comments are innocent or no big deal. They may believe there is nothing wrong with making lewd comments. It’s time to educate people.
Some of my colleagues and friends have shared their personal experiences with sexual harassment by joining the #MeToo and #MeToo Men movements on Twitter and Facebook. The volumes of posted comments demonstrate that this remains a problem in our society, and it can no longer be tolerated. It’s not just women who are harassed; men are sexually harassed too. An excellent article from United Nations Women (UN Women) calls for men getting involved in speaking out in sexual crimes against women.
So the next time you pause, hesitate, or question if you should address the issue or have a confidential talk with another person, remind youreself that you have the power to shut down sexual harassment. Your stepping forward could save innocent people from becoming victims.

Celebrating International Day of Peace Raises Our Collective Conscience


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.

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.

Communicate With Credibility

Young-Professional.490f209379970f055c2ee7e62629b438219Credibility is one of those intangibles in life that can change dramatically from moment to moment. Throughout your life – and your career – you will have many opportunities to compromise your credibility. Never compromise your credibility. The credibility that you enjoy today has taken years to build. Why risk throwing it all away? Protect your credibility. It is one of your greatest assets. Your credibility is built on the foundation of your personal and professional character, and your competence as a professional.

In their seminal book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their longitudinal research on leaders asked professionals how they felt when they were in the presence of truly great leaders. The top ten replies were: Capable. Challenged. Enthusiastic. Inspired. Motivated. Powerful. Proud. Repeated. Supported. Valued.

How do you communicate with credibility? These tips will help you to consistently position yourself as a professional.

Align verbal and nonverbal language. Listen to your words and intonation. Be aware of your nonverbal language.

Lead by listening. Practice active listening. Deliver an “SOS” to your brain – Silently Observe, Then Speak.

Make realistic promises and keep them. Think before you speak. Do what you say you will do.

Speak from the heart. Create a mindset of inclusion. Use compassionate, caring language.

Be yourself. Align your values and behavior. Don’t try to mimic someone else’s behavior. Be your most authentic self.

Be an expert. Enhance your knowledge base continuously. Be a resource. Share your knowledge with others.

Be honest. Frame what you’re sharing so it benefits the other person. Know the difference between using kid gloves (being gentle) and boxing gloves (being more assertive).

Be proactive. Ask people their preferred form of communication. Ask clarifying questions to gain understanding. Seek challenging assignments at work, then follow through to get the job done.

Be consistent. Don’t flip-flop. Don’t exhibit unpredictable behavior.

To gain – and maintain – your credibility requires a great deal of behind the scenes strategic thinking. Begin with a simple self-assessment. It’s worth the time and your constant attention.

United We Stand, United We Fall: A Lesson in Brand Ambassadorship



As a professional, your actions represent not only you…they also represent your company. You are a brand ambassador when you work with customers, speak at a national conference, or volunteer in the community. You are the brand, and all it stands for. You are the face of the company. One false move, like bad behavior, can stunt or end career success.

The recent United Airlines debacle demonstrated that actions speak volumes about who you are and what you value.

The United Airlines Flight 3711 incident, which occurred on Sunday, April 2, has been reported, analyzed and picked apart by the media, bloggers and regular folks like you and me. Here’s what happened: The flight was fully booked, and passengers were already seated. One passenger, Dr. David Dao, had been asked to relinquish his seat (which he had paid for) to make room for a United employee. He refused. As a result, Chicago Department of Aviation officers swooped in with brut force, handcuffed and carted Dr. Dao off the plane. In the process, his nose and a few teeth were broken. A video captured by another passenger immediately went viral. The rest, as they say, is history. In fact, it was an historic event.

It didn’t have to be this way. A moment of thought before taking an action would have resulted in an entirely different outcome…a more positive one…for everyone involved.

Days later, top headlines are still trending:

Newsweek: Why United Was Legally Wrong to Deplane David Dao

NBC News: United CEO: Doctor being dragged off plane was ‘watershed moment’

What would a good brand ambassador do? Here are a few thoughts:

Know what your brand stands for. Your brand is that one thing that represents who you are and what you stand for. First, United’s brand begins with its name, United. That one word creates a larger-than-life image of the company. What does United stand for? Second, you may or may not remember United Airlines’ famous tagline, “Fly the friendly skies.” Because of the brut force that was used to remove Dr. Dao from his seat, one might question, “Is United really friendly?” If United’s thought leaders had really, well, thought about this, they may have come to the conclusion that the action that was being considered didn’t fit with the United brand. But things didn’t play out that way. Every employee of United is a brand ambassador for the airline. And every employee of the Chicago Department of Aviation serves as a brand ambassador for the organization.

Do the right thing. Consider the public’s reaction once the video went viral. It was clear that everyone agreed that the situation was not handled properly. We have all been in situations where our gut screamed out to us “Don’t do it!!!!!” Yet, we ended up not listening to our intuition and lived to regret our poor choice. When your conscience speaks, listen.

If protocol is flawed, pitch it. “I was just following protocol” is not a good enough reason. Sure, United Airlines had a policy. All airlines have policies, procedures and protocol. Sometimes you need to look at protocol, look at the situation, consider the outcome, and ask if the protocol fits the situation and if the outcome is one you desire. If things don’t add up, it’s time to re-examine the protocol or throw it out completely in that situation. The incident has resulted in United Airlines changing its policy.

Take quick, responsible action. The leadership at United Airlines first offered a boilerplate response to the media, saying they were examining what had happened before commenting. A few days later, United CEO Oscar Munoz apologized and took full responsibility. This was too little too late. Two days after the incident, United’s stock had fallen by 4%, roughly $1.5 billion. Although the stock has regained some of its strength, United will carry this ding on its record forever.

Be strategic. In my workshops, I remind people how important it is to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the marketplace. Technology makes it so easy to do. If you want to get ahead in your career, you have to stay ahead of the competition. A change in the airline industry began shortly after the United Airlines incident. A CBS News headline says it all: “Three airlines change policies in wake of United’s passenger dragging incident.”

Build a culture of respect and compassion. You will never find yourself in an awkward situation or have to apologize for bad behavior if you treat every person that you meet with respect and compassion. More people recognize  that this is the best way to move forward together.

The United Airlines incident is already becoming an important case study for business schools, communication scholars, human resource professionals and enforcement officers. Hopefully this is one case where we will learn from mistakes and bring about positive change as brand ambassadors.