How Reciprocal Are You?

Helping-HandIt’s early Saturday morning. I have just three items to purchase at Aldi. Easy in and out. Except today there is just one cashier, with two people ahead of me in line. Well, I think to myself, it’s still early. I have enough time to get my errands done.

A petite older woman, around 80, standing in front of me in line turns around, sees that I have just a few items, and says “Go ahead of me.” “Are you sure?” I ask. “Yes, you just have a few things and it will take me a while to unload my cart,” she says. “Thank you,” I reply. I set my three items down, put a divider between my items and hers and turn to her and say, “Well, then, let me help you unload your cart.” “Oh, thank you so much,” she says. “It looks like you’re going to be doing quite a bit of cooking this weekend,” I say. “Oh yes,” she replies. In less than a minute, her cart is unloaded. Teamwork at work. Generosity at work. Appreciation at work.

She begins to explain how she cooks for her son and daughter-in-law every weekend, and she takes meals to their home. They both work, and her daughter-in-law doesn’t come home until about 8:00 every workday evening. She says she loves to do this for her son and his wife because they are very busy.

This eighty-something woman, living on a fixed income, is cooking for her son’s family. I was so struck by her generosity. It’s that generation, though. Hard work. Determination. Family. All are typical values of the Silent Generation, those people who lived through the Great Depression and World War II, my parents’ generation.

My chance encounter with this woman made me think about reciprocity. She helped me by letting me go first. I helped her by unloading her cart. I started a conversation and she reciprocated. We spent just a few minutes together, and it was a pleasant, memorable experience.  You can ask yourself the same questions I asked myself: Who else can I help? What talents and skills can I use to help others in need? ‘Tis a New Year approaching…

Money Can’t Buy It

washington.eyeOf all the things that bring us the greatest joy in life, none of them are gifts that are purchased. Instead, they are gifts that come from the heart. They can be given or received. They cannot be bought.

Every year, beginning in late November, people begin purchasing items for holiday gift giving. Often within a few days after the presents have been opened, they become one of many material possessions, tucked away on a shelf, in a drawer, in a cupboard or a closet. The gifts that bring the most lasting joy are those that don’t cost a penny.

Consider the gifts that you can give to others every day:

A smile.

A kind word.

A thank you.

A helping hand.

Recognition for a job well done.

A story.

A shared memory.

A laugh.

A loving embrace.

A hug.

A positive attitude.

Not one of these costs a thing yet each delivers endless riches. What could you do to bring more value to conversations, exchanges or chance encounters this holiday season? How can you keep it going into the New Year? Every day?

Don’t just stand there…do something. If you see an older person struggling to open a door, come to the rescue. If someone drops a glove as she walks down the street, take it to her. If you see someone sitting alone at a gathering, go over and introduce yourself. Invest some time in giving to others. You just might make someone else’s day.

How to Build Your Fan Base, Adele Style

Singer/songwriter and Grammy Award winner Adele returned to the stage at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall to perform in front of a live audience after nearly a three-year hiatus. (The pre-recorded event aired on NBC on December 14). The moment the curtain rose, adoring fans cheered her return. Decked out from head to toe in a sparkly full-length gown and crowned with a stunning retro up do, Adele didn’t disappoint. She started her first song, Hello, slowly, softly, then rising to her signature high notes with abandon.

When she finished the first song, something refreshing happened: She made a goofy face, one that fully described what she was feeling emotionally (“Thank God I made it through that first song!”). It was genuine and spontaneous. The audience loved her honesty.

It got me thinking. Could you stand in front of your peers if you had been out of the picture for almost three years? Pick up right where you left off? Never miss a beat? She was nervous, to be sure, as she performed in front of 6,000 fans in person and millions of television viewers. She pushed through each perfectly performed song.

You may not think often enough about who is on your side, your advocates and supporters, allies and angels…people who love you, adore you, want to see you succeed, stand on the sidelines and cheer for you when you need it the most. Your fan base is right there, today, in front of you, all around you. Take a moment to see who those people are and be grateful.

Watching and listening to Adele’s performance drove home an important message for all professionals: You can build your fan base too. Here are some lessons I learned from Adele:

Be authentic. Adele is real. When she sings, you can feel her emotional connection to the song. She doesn’t just sing the lyrics; she feels her lived experiences.

Create a compelling style. Adele doesn’t make excuses for her style. She embraces it. She loves who she is. Retro style suits her to a tee.

Be honest. Adele told the audience how nervous she was, how her life has changed since she recorded specific songs filled with longing and pain. She kicked off her shoes when her feet hurt. The NBC network even had to bleep her a few times. The audience appreciated her openness.

Deliver. Clearly, Adele delivers her best to the audience. She doesn’t just show up, sing a few songs and go home. She puts her entire being into her work. Fans can tell the difference.

Grow! Fans have watched Adele grow as an artist and mature into adulthood right before their eyes. She came into the music scene in her late teens; she is now 27. She reminds you that true success requires growth and positive change along the way.

Appreciate your fans. “Thank you,” “I love you” were repeated throughout her performance with humility and appreciation. How often do you let your advocates, supporters, allies and angels know how much you appreciate, value and respect them? How do you treat them? How will you stay connected to your fan base?

Whether you like Adele’s music or not, you must admire her genuine love for her fans. She consistently delivers high energy performances and quality albums to her fan base. You can learn a lot by watching her in action.

Note: Adele broke all U.S. album sales records the first week of the release of her latest album “25″ in November, according to Billboard Magazine.

What Jon Stewart Teaches Us About Power Positioning

Jon Stewart, Comedy Central

Jon Stewart, Comedy Central

When Jon Stewart left Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, people were wondering what he was going to do. The answer is simple: He is doing good. Listen up, professionals, and learn from Stewart, who is using his positioning power to give others a voice.

On the December 7, 2015 Daily Show, host Trevor Noah welcomed back Stewart, who is bravely tackling a serious issue before Congress right now: the fight to continue funding for first responders of the 9/11 tragedy through the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. H.R. 1786 “amends the Public Health Service Act to extend the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program Fund.  Watch the full episode here.

Stewart and a video crew accompanied first responders to Capitol Hill, visiting the offices of senators, most of whom were (conveniently) out, unavailable or in meetings. With every rejection from Senate staff, Stewart pushed on, heading to the next senator’s office, determined to let first responders’ voices be heard. There were no altercations, no harsh words, just a message that needed to be heard. The only leader who took the time to talk with Stewart and first responders was Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who later signed the act.

For two decades, I have coached professionals on the importance of power positioning. I define power positioning as “The art of putting yourself in a place that you want to be, that maximizes your talents, skills and contacts.” Stewart demonstrated power positioning in action on Capitol Hill. In his Daily Show appearance, he reached millions of loyal Daily Show viewers, encouraging them to contact their senators and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He asked them to Tweet using #worstresponders. He recognized that he had the clout and power to raise his voice and raise the collective consciousness of Americans. Political leaders across the country can take pointers from Jon Stewart’s integrity and high level of professionalism. It comes at a time when lives have been shattered and communities are still rebuilding from devastation. It’s time to do the right thing.

All too often, you can easily become passive, detached or uninvolved in the issues of your community, your workplace and the world. The next time you rationalize why you shouldn’t get involved, think again. Your voice could make a difference in someone else’s quality of life.

Thank you, Jon Stewart, for elevating our awareness about this important issue. You continue to be a positive role model for other leaders. You inspire and motivate us all to do a better job of putting other people’s needs ahead of our own.

Birthday Wishes to My Favorite Nonagenarian

IreneWas.Retro copyToday I raise my glass with heartfelt “Happy Birthday” wishes to my mother, Irene, who is 95. She is an atypical nonagenarian. She continues to inspire me through her active lifestyle and caring nature. Never shy about sharing her thoughts, feelings and opinions, here are a few gems of knowledge that she has passed on to me over the years:

Be curious. My mother’s interest in others and the world around her makes her an engaging conversationalist. She can talk about literature, music, art, theatre, movies, poetry, politics, religion, world affairs, and just about any topic. Through my firsthand experience and observation of her interaction with family members and friends over the years, I have noticed that she is a master at inquiry and conversation.

Make smart choices. At the age of 19, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, my mother offered me an important piece of advice: “The world isn’t going to show up on your door step. You have to go out and meet the world!” In her words, she was telling me that in life you can choose to either be passive or active. The active approach ensures greater control and delivers better results than sitting and waiting for things to happen.

Serve others. One of my mom’s favorite comments is “When you care, you’re there.” Throughout her life, she has attended every shower, wedding, calling hours, funeral, memorial service, birthday, anniversary or celebration that she was invited to. She has made and delivered food, crocheted baby blankets and given gifts. It doesn’t matter if the recipient is a close family member or friend of a friend of a friend. If there’s a connection, she is there. This simple advice can have profound impact on other people’s lives.

Remain active. Each of us experiences diminishing physical, mental or emotional energy as we age. There are days when my mother will completely surprise me with her deep sense of determination. “Well, I couldn’t sleep, so I got up at 4:00 a.m. and baked an apple crisp, then I went back to bed at 6:30.” What?? I’m decades younger than she is and I have never done that. (And quite frankly I’m not sure if I ever will).

Irene-LifeSaver1930sDo what you love. My mom worked as a Life Savers girl in the 1930s. As a naturally gifted singer, she served as church organist and choir director. She taught in the parochial schools, then moved into the public schools. My mom received her first Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education at the age of 47 and her second B.A. in Painting at the “young” age of 80. She says that in every step of the way, she was called to do what she did in her work. She loved both music and teaching. As a retiree, she continues her love of gardening and painting. Lessons like these are around us every day. You just have to pay attention.

The next time you’re feeling down or uninspired, think of the words that guide my mom through moments like that every day: “This too shall pass.” Take a deep breath, be grateful for who you are and what you have accomplished in life, and carry on. Who knows? You may be privileged someday to be a nonagenarian and inspire others.