At Penzeys Spices, Kindness Rules

KindPinI have never met Bill, yet, I look forward to receiving and reading his frequent emails. He is one person who is changing the world one email at a time.

You see, Bill is the CEO of Penzeys Spices, a purveyor of herbs, spices and all things gastronomic. Not only is he passionate about cooking; he is passionate about being kind to others.

Bill is not your average CEO. He is way above average, a CEO who understands what it means to pay it forward. I wish more company leaders provided an environment of love, support, and kindness. Imagine the level of true prosperity that we could experience as a society.

Being a fan of Penzeys Spices, I – like many smart gourmandes – signed up for the email list for free spices, offers, recipes, and other goodies. What I received in return was a newly-acquired taste for goodness. I’m not talking about just gourmet goodness…I’m talking about simple human goodness.

Bill is a good guy. The goodness he shares comes from his world view, his spirit, and his written word which appears in Penzeys Spices emails.

The one email that got my attention was Bill’s offer to send a free Kind pin (pictured within this article) to anyone who marched in The Women’s March on Saturday, January 21, 2017. As you recall, this national spirited March attracted unprecedented numbers of women, men, and children in Washington, D.C. who had a strong desire to share their voices with the world. And this March happened not just in cities across the United States; it happened globally, in cities around the world. The voices of the masses shared positive messages of hope, compassion, joy, love, understanding, peace, acceptance, and kindness.

In return for the free Kind pin, Bill requested that marchers share their personal stories of why they marched, and any kindness that they experienced or witnessed that day. In an email, Bill said, “I believe history will show just how important The Women’s March was, and just how great of a debt we owe those who Marched. Their humanity, kindness, and strength were just the reminder we needed of what really makes America great, at the very moment we so desperately needed to be reminded.” In total, Penzeys Spices shipped 174,139 free Kind pins to people who participated in The Women’s March.

What Bill – and Penzeys Spices – did through his generosity and act of kindness was to remind us that true change begins with one simple idea that is put into action. Thank you, Bill, for being a positive role model and inspiring others.

What type of change do you want to initiate? Get started today!

Photo credit: Christine Zust

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

united.com

united.com

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.

Clear and Concise is the Language of Leaders

meeting3Your success as a business professional and a leader is linked with your ability to communicate well.

More and more, people today are lazy listeners. If they don’t understand what you’re talking about, they won’t ask you to clarify anything. They will simply nod their heads and lead you to believe that they heard and understood exactly what you said. Unaware, everyone goes about their business, making mistakes and misinterpreting instructions…and it’s all avoidable.

It’s up to you to communicate clearly and concisely. Here are a few tips to help you become a better communicator:

Use specific language. Rather than vague, ambiguous, generic words, use words that specifically convey your message. For example, you could say, “The real issue here is change. Our customer base has changed. That means it’s time for us to change.” What does that mean? Just by repeating the word “change” three times does not mean that you have a point (or that your message contains any real content). The statement is vapid and meaningless. Guaranteed, people will scratch their heads, wondering what you are saying. A better approach would be a laser-sharp, focused message like this: “The needs of our customers have changed, so we must adapt to their needs. They value time and demand savings. Let’s shorten our turnaround time and include free shipping on every order.” The message is much clearer. There is no gray area.

Hold attention. Of the three primary ways people learn – visual, auditory and kinesthetic – about three-quarters of people have to see it to remember it. Our highly visual culture reminds us of this, as messages appear on rapidly-changing electronic billboards, websites that contain shifting images, and fast-paced, image-driven commercials that last 15 seconds or less. How are you getting and holding attention?

Paint a visual picture. Some words help to paint a visual picture when you have no PowerPoint to share, like “Remember,” “Visualize,” and “Imagine.” If you say, “Remember when you were a teenager and sat behind the wheel of a car for the first time?” your audience is right back in the seat of that car, remembering the experience. Visual words tap into the visual cortex and give the mind permission to create an image or recall one.

Use action verbs. The opposite of action verbs is passive language. Passive words include Maybe, Guess, Probably, Possibly, Pretty, Kind of, Sort of. This is tentative language. There is no clear commitment that’s put forth. If you say, “I think I could probably have that report on your desk, maybe, by Friday afternoon,” your boss will not have the faith or confidence that you will deliver. If, instead, you say, “I will have that report on your desk by end of business on Friday,” your boss will know that she will receive your report on Friday. People in leadership positions use more direct, active language. Immediately after covering the topic of active language in one of my workshops, a participant said to me on the break, “We had a pretty successful meeting with one of our top clients.” I turned to him, smiling, and asked, “Pretty? You had a pretty successful meeting? Or…a successful meeting?” Realizing what he had done, and with a wide grin he corrected himself and said, “Yes. We had a successful meeting with one of our top clients.” And yes, his revised statement was much more powerful.

Listen to your language. Are you sabotaging your own success by using vague, ambiguous, weak, tentative or passive language? Or are you thinking before you speak, and making your messages more powerful, using specific, direct action language? Be aware of your language, decide what messages you want to share, and focus on desired results. You will quickly gain a reputation among your team and senior leadership that you are a clear, concise communicator.

What the Obamas Taught Me About Leadership

Credit: The White House

Credit: The White House

There are many lessons that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have taught me during the past eight years. The greatest lesson is that of leadership. Since President and Mrs. Obama will be returning to private life soon, I want to share the impact that their leadership as President and First Lady has had on me and on millions of Americans, young and old alike.

Charting New Territory. As the first African-American President and First Lady, the Obamas handled the challenge with style and grace. They set the tone on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, by walking the limousine route, embracing the American people every step of the way. Leaders are risk takers and confident, even when they are entering uncharted territory. 

Fresh Perspective. While it is customary for presidential couples to bring children and/or pets with them to The White House, for the first time, a mother-in-law joined The First Family. This act represented the importance of family to the Obamas. Inclusive leaders bring along others with them.

Positive Role Models. On national and global platforms, the President and First Lady represented our country with diplomacy and respect, whether a happy or sad occasion, or a tense moment. Effective leaders walk the talk and hold their behavior to the highest standard.

A Sense of Humor. Whether the President sipped a beer in the Rose Garden or the First Lady danced with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, the Obamas proved that they have a sense of humor, and that they are real people. Authentic leaders capture my attention and hold my heart.

Credit: The White House

Credit: The White House

Passion. Both the President and Mrs. Obama share a passion for America. More importantly, they opened up dialogue and initiated change, addressing tough issues like race, education, poverty, healthcare, nutrition, and American values, to name a few. Passionate leaders inspire, motivate, and empower others to initiate change.

Persistence and Grace. Throughout two presidential terms, the President and First Lady were met with obstacles and challenges. Sometimes it came from House or Senate leadership. Sometimes it came from political pundits. Sometimes it came from citizens. Through it all, the Obamas took the high road. They never buckled under pressure and remained calm and level-headed. They handled adversity with perseverance and grace. Leaders never give up, even when they know it might be a tough road ahead.

Partnership. Seeing them in the public eye for the past eight years, it is clear that the Obamas have more than a good marriage going for them…their commitment to a lifelong partnership, anchored in common values of trust, respect, and equality, is evident. You can see it and feel it when they are together or when they speak of each other. Exceptional leaders treat you like a valued partner, regardless of your position or status.

Eloquence. Both the President and the First Lady are eloquent speakers. Their words are spoken from the heart, and thoughtfully executed. President Obama’s speech on race and his farewell speech on democracy were two of his finest. You could hear a pin drop during First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2016 Democratic National Convention speech. Leaders who share a powerful message command attention.

Intelligence. Intelligence is more than just a high IQ. It’s being sensitive to the needs of others around you. The Obamas showed us intelligence and thoughtfulness through every new program or initiative that was introduced. Intelligent leaders are critical thinkers and encourage others to carefully think things through.

Class act. Singularly and collectively, the Obamas are a class act. They embody the very essence of professionalism in every aspect of their life. With the Obamas, though, it is no act. Genuine goodness and decency resides at the core of who they are. Leaders with class are admired for their fairness and decorum.

Thank you, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, for your exceptional public service. Your legacy of hope, collaboration, and leadership lives on. You will continue to inspire and motivate me and millions of Americans to initiate positive change in our lives, our communities, our country, and the world.

Celebrating the Gentleman, John Glenn

johnglennlifemagcoverThe word “gentleman” evokes a bygone era, yet, treasured American hero John Glenn reminded us through his actions exactly what the word meant. He was a gentleman and a gentle man.

As a native Ohioan, I was saddened to hear the news of John Glenn’s passing. He has been part of my collective memory since I was a child. He was – and always will be – one of Ohio’s greatest leaders, a dedicated public servant, and positive role model.

In his 95 years, he excelled in several careers: World War II and Korean War Marine pilot and decorated war hero, astronaut and space pioneer, NASA advisor, businessman, and U.S. Senator.

In 1962, he became the first American to orbit the earth. Thirty-six years later, in 1998, he returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery at the “youthful” age of 77 and became the oldest man to travel in space, another first. After retiring from the Senate the following year, he and his wife, Annie, founded the John Glenn School for Public Service at The Ohio State University. Glenn inspired us with a can-do attitude, built on traditional values of hard work, discipline, trust, honesty, and family.

“We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves.” John Glenn

And so it was with John Glenn’s life and career. He became a pathfinder and risk taker who explored the ultimate unknown frontier, space. The lessons he learned from space exploration served him well in his long career as a public servant.

There are certain qualities that come with the moniker of gentleman: Mannered. Polite. Diplomatic. Honorable. Courteous. The world could use a few more gentlemen (and gentlewomen too!) who possess the right stuff.

Glenn’s death came during this holiday season, a time of year when we are closing out one year (a time for reflection) and beginning a new year (a time for planning). Take a moment to remember those individuals, like John Glenn, who were gentlemen and gentle men, who inspire and motivate us to reach for the stars and see what is possible.

Godspeed, John Glenn.

Workplace Leaders Must “Be the Change”

seedling-growthFollowing the most unprecedented, unpredictable Presidential election in U.S. history, the online community has been saturated with posts, tweets, and articles ranging from how people need to handle the emotional aftermath of division and grief to acceptance and “moving on.” There is no doubt that political analysts, news organizations, and universities will be using this election as a case study for a multitude of topics in the years to come: Communication, political strategy, public relations, cross-cultural relations, and change, to name a few. In the workplace, however, political commentary and division can show up in side comments and retorts among co-workers. As a leader, be prepared to handle opposing viewpoints of team members when they are manifested as non-productive behavior.

How will you bring together co-workers who are still divided? How will you encourage moving forward when some people’s minds are still stuck on past events? Let the words of Gandhi guide and inspire you: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

In order to be the change, you must be empowered and responsible for your own actions. Serve as a positive role model for your team. The messages and the energy that you convey will set an example. The same is true for your team members. Arguing, shouting, screaming, demanding, bullying, and blaming others with negative rhetoric will accomplish nothing. Conversely, using a civil tone, listening, collaborating, accepting responsibility, and treating others with dignity and respect will lead to more positive results. Which outcome is preferred? Choose open conversation over open hostility. Choose to rise above rather than fall victim to. Choose to stop the negative rhetoric and instead search for positive outcomes. Choose to find common ground and common purpose.

Lead by example. When you hear opposing viewpoints of a co-worker, don’t belittle that person. Listen. Use positive language that keeps the conversation open rather than shutting it down. Invite greater understanding through listening and using neutral language.

Whether you are engaged in a one-on-one conversation or a group discussion, here are some examples of comments or questions that lead to open dialogue:

Beginning a conversation, use language like this: “Help me to understand your viewpoint.” “Thank you for sharing your perspective.” “I appreciate hearing your point of view.” “I now have a better understanding of why you feel this way.”

As you share your perspective, consider using comments like these: “I would like to share my perspective with you as well. All I ask is that you listen to me.” “There may be times when our viewpoints are opposite. That’s okay. The important thing is that we share, without any judgment or preconceived notions. Let’s really listen to each other.”

As you go deeper into the conversation, to try to find a comfortable half-way meeting point, you may use language like this: “Now that we have shared our thoughts, opinions, and perspectives, let’s look at common threads that we share.” “What would it take for us to come together so we each felt like we got something we wanted?” “How can we ‘agree to disagree’ and still be productive in our work?” “How can we move ahead together?”

You may not be able to resolve every issue. What you will be able to do is begin an open dialogue.

The workplace would be different if one common goal was shared: Open communication. How would your workplace change if employees at all levels of the company shared their voices in an open forum? How are you creating a safe environment for open, honest conversation? What opportunities are you providing to your team to engage in sharing their feelings in a respectful, nonjudgmental way?

“Being the change” is not easy. It’s difficult. Shifting from potentially destructive behavior to productive behavior is a giant leap. It begins with one step. Initiate a positive conversation that matters. You are worth it. Your team is worth it. Your workplace is worth it.

Do Some American Women Have a “Girl Crush” on Hillary Clinton?

hillarybuttonWithin the national media coverage of the 2016 Presidential election, there is one perspective that the media hasn’t really touched upon: Why some women dislike Hillary Clinton. I have a theory: It’s called a “girl crush.”

When I accepted the position as president of a women’s organization back in the late 1980s, my husband cautioned me that there might be some women who wanted to see me fail. My reaction? First, I rolled my eyes in disbelief, then I said, “Oh, come on. You’re a man. What do you know about women? Women help and support each other.” Yes, I was young and naïve back then. I learned the hard way, through my own experience, exactly what my husband warned me about. He was absolutely right. There were women within my “sisterhood” of colleagues who did not want me to succeed*.

“How could that be?” I asked myself. “It’s (almost) 1990! Women have progressed so much. We’ve come so far.” I really believed that back then. What I know now more than ever is that women can be – and often are – their own worst enemies when it comes to helping each other move forward.

Case in point: Hillary Clinton. As a woman, I get genuinely excited about the prospect and possibility of the first female president of the United States. What a tremendous boost for women in our country, to know that we – as women – can hold the most prestigious office in America.

Then I think about the lyrics of the Grammy Award nominated song, Girl Crush by Little Big Town, and I wonder if some American women have a girl crush on Hillary Clinton.

The song is sung in a sarcastic, spiteful way and tells the story of a jilted woman who jealously wants to be just like the woman who is now with her ex. “I want what she has…Yeah, ‘cause maybe then you’d want me just as much…” In reality, the woman despises the other woman and everything about her.  She doesn’t really want to be like her; she just wants what she has.

Some American women may be viewing Hillary Clinton from that “girl crush” perspective. “If I can’t have what she has, I’m not going to vote for her!” How pathetic.

In her book, Daring My Passages, author Gail Sheehy shares a story from earlier years when magazine editor Tina Brown shared her dislike of Hillary Clinton. When Sheehy pushed for clarification, Brown finally admitted that Clinton was too “perfect.”

Negative comments that female colleagues, family members, friends, and women featured in media interviews have said about Hillary Clinton have surprised me. “She’s already been in The White House; we don’t need anymore of her.” Or “I don’t trust her.” Or “I hate her!” One longtime female friend of mine said, “I’m not voting for her just because she’s a woman.” To that friend and to American women who share those thoughts, I simply say, “Why not? Why wouldn’t you? How many years have we, as women, said to each other, ‘If you want to see change, real change, put a woman in charge!’?” How many women could deny that truth?

Of 196 countries around the world, only 28 (14%) have female leaders.

I do believe that some American women don’t see the value of putting a woman in The White House as president. But…are they the same women who don’t care if women get equal pay as men? Who don’t care if they have to work longer hours and get fewer perks than their male counterparts? Who don’t care if women are sexually violated by men? Who don’t care if women are objectified in the media? I do see the value, and I wish more women cared about each other.

Earlier this year, I reviewed Hillary Clinton’s biography and was impressed with the positive work that she has consistently accomplished throughout her life for women, girls, and families, equal rights and human rights, and healthcare. She is, hands down, the best qualified person to serve as Commander in Chief.

Recent studies show that women simultaneously use the right and left hemispheres of their brain, giving them a greater capacity to process data more quickly than men, who predominantly use the brain’s left hemisphere. By nature, women are more collaborative, nurturing, and inclusive in their actions. Women do, in fact, make better politicians. They can also multi-task better than anyone else (scan the headlines, apply lipstick, and finish writing a report all at the same time).

If there are any doubts in your mind, ponder one important question: In what ways would the world be different if women were in charge? You may be see things in an entirely different light.

(*I didn’t fail, by the way; I actually saved the women’s organization from going under, with the help of an exceptionally gifted female staff leader and a small group of like-minded women who stayed with me through some very turbulent times).

Photo: CZust

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Millennials

Credit: nanonews.org

U.S. Gymnast Simone Biles proudly dons a gold medal. Photo: nanonews.org

With the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics at an end, the young athletes who competed this year remind us all that Millennials are hard working, determined, and anything but complacent.

As a Baby Boomer myself, I have facilitated cross-generational communication seminars. Invariably, someone (older) in the audience will say something like this about the youngest generation: “They don’t even know what hard work is. They have had everything handed to them on a platter. They are the generation of entitlement.” It’s time to set the record straight: Millennials have a lot to offer the world.

This year, I watched in awe at the physical grace and endurance of the young athletes. They came to Rio to win. And many of them did.

Gymnast Simone Biles, 19. What a powerhouse! At just 4’9″ tall, her body was built for gymnastics. She brought home four gold medals, including Women’s Individual All-Around Gymnast, and one bronze medal. Many in the media claim she is the best American gymnast…ever!

Katie Ledecky  Photo: cnbc.com

Katie Ledecky
Photo: cnbc.com

Katie Ledecky, 19, dominated the female swimming competition, bringing home a gold medal in the women’s 200 meter, 400 meter, and 800 meter freestyle races, as well as the American team’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay. Add to that the silver medal for the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay.

Ryan Murphy, 21. First time to the Olympics, he brought home three gold medals in men’s swimming, the men’s 100 meter and men’s 200 meter backstroke, and the men’s 4 x 100 meter medley relay.

The U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team Captain Ali Raisman, 22, earned a team gold and individual silver medal.

In an interview, target shooter Virginia Thrasher, 19, who won the gold medal for the 10 meter air rifle shooting competition, casually mentioned that she wasn’t able to stick around Rio because she was starting her sophomore year of college in a few days.

One of my favorites…Gwen Jorgenson, 30, won one of the most grueling competitions in the Olympics, the women’s triathlon. No small feat. I so admire any athlete who can swim, then bike, then run. And then win.

Michael Phelps, 31, the most seasoned American athlete competing in the Rio Olympics, secured 2 individual gold medals, 3 relay medals, and 1 silver individual medal. He remains the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, with 28 medals total, 23 of which are gold. He is truly a force of nature.

Multiple gold medalists include swimmers Simone Manuel, 20, Madeline Dirado, 23, Lilly King, 19, Nathan Adrian, and Caleb Dressel, 20, runner Allyson Felix, 30, as well as first-time gold medalist shot putter Michelle Carter, 30. The list goes on.

I know what you’re thinking. “Of course most of the people who compete in the Olympics are young athletes.” I get that.

What struck me about this year’s Olympics was the high level of professionalism of the Millennial athletes (minus one). They showed the world that Millennials have the drive and determination to succeed.

Olympic athlete or not, Millennials offer tremendous value to society and the workplace. Their energy, talent, tenacity, and creative thinking have earned them a place at the table. Let’s invite more of them there, and more often.

Strategy + Focus = A Winning Combination

Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Wimbledon 2016, Credit: PA, The Telegraph

Serena Williams with Angelique Kerber, Wimbledon 2016, Credit: PA, The Telegraph

The goal of winning 22 tennis championship titles in the Open era was finally achieved by American Serena Williams on Saturday, when she defeated Angelique Kerber of Germany at the Wimbledon Ladies Singles Finals, 7-5, 6-3. Williams now ties Steffi Graf’s record 22 championship wins. Watching the match from beginning to end revealed a winning combination of strategy and focus.

Strategic Action. Something was different in this game. Kerber had defeated Williams at both the Australian Open in January and again at the French Open in June. What was different at Wimbledon was strategy in action. For this match, Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams’ coach, had reviewed the data of those two games to find ways to defeat Kerber. What really won this match was the greater frequency of Williams’ ace serve. It was this one move – strategy – that made all the difference in Williams’ win.

Clarity of Focus. Serena Williams is one of those players who remains clearly focused before the game. Doing the “long walk” from dressing room to court, Williams kept her head phones on as long as she could. It’s a tool that she uses to remain focused, ease tension and promote positive reinforcement. The match lasted just 1 hour, 21 minutes. When you are focused, nothing stands in your way. How focused are you?

Strength. Kerber kept in pace with Williams throughout the entire match. For every point Kerber made, Williams pushed through it and remained strong and positive. Athletes who possess the physical strength to win can lose because of weak thinking. How often do you succumb to your own negative thinking? Give up? Say it’s too hard or too difficult? Sometimes the greater opponent isn’t the one facing you; it’s the opponent in your head, you, who is reacting negatively. When you do find the strength within yourself, you come out of it all, intact and victorious. Recall those moments of victory to help you get through those times of adversity.

Adjustments. Wimbledon is known for its unique grass court. The flip side of that is the unpredictability of outcome. Sometimes a ball will bounce in a different direction, or the wind will catch it and put it somewhere else entirely. How often do you adjust your actions to achieve a winning play? Invest the time in knowing your environment before you arrive; once you’re in play, be mindful of any shifts, and make necessary adjustments.

Grace. The tradition at Wimbledon is to present the non-winner trophy first, then the winner’s trophy second. Kerber walked around the Wimbledon court first, before being interviewed. Then Williams walked around the court, before her interview. In her comments, each woman was graceful and grateful to her opponent for playing extremely well. How often does that happen in the workplace? If someone’s idea is genuinely better than yours, tell her. If you got into a heated discussion with a co-worker, thank him for a great debate. If someone else got that promotion instead of you, congratulate her. How would you act in the workplace if you truly possessed grace?

Positive role models can be found in the public arena, in your community, and in your workplace. How can you present yourself like the true winner that you are? What can you do to inspire others to practice clarity of focus and strategic action?