Understanding Another’s Perspective

Categories Inspiration, Your CareerPosted on

Imagine two people are sitting at opposite sides of the same table. Between them sits a beautiful bouquet – in a simple glass vase. The assortment of flowers and greenery is simply amazing.

Each person is asked to write a description of the flowers. Later the descriptions are compared. They appear to be very different – near opposites.

Where one wrote of roses, the other described carnations. Where one discussed the vibrant yellows, the other listed muted pinks.

How can this be?

The answer lies in the reality of perspective. Both described what they saw from their unique perspective.

The next time you and a colleague hit an impasse, consider a vase of flowers. Perhaps you are right and the other is wrong. Maybe it’s the other way around. Or, could you both be correct (or wrong), but merely seeing things from different perspectives?

The wise person takes the time to consider the other’s perspective.

Create a Culture of Contributors: Start Now

Categories Inspiration, Leadership & ManagementPosted on
Waitress serving coffee from machine

Some time ago, I walked into a small, one of a kind, coffee shop. The place was clean and the coffee good, but what stuck with me was my conversation with the woman behind the counter.

As I approached the register, I was met with a pleasant smile and a kind, “Good morning, how may I help you today?” The handprinted name tag on her smock read “Helpful Helen”. As I watched her perform her duties, it became apparent to me that she was living up to her name…

  • I was unfamiliar with the menu – Helen was helpful & patient
  • Numerous people were crowding the cafe, many sending off signals of being in a rush – Helen was helpful & efficient
  • A customer asked for directions to a nearby business – Helen was helpful & informative

Although I appreciated her service, what struck me was her passion. The place was busy that day; I imagine it is busy most everyday. However, as customer after customer came to the counter, Helen greeted each with a smile, called many by name, connected with everyone in the moment, and seemed to make each person feel special.

When I thanked her for her service, she looked at me and and said, “You’re very welcome. It was a pleasure to serve you today and I hope to see you in the future.”

I responded, “Well, the next time I’m in town, I will certainly come here for breakfast.” I quickly added, “You truly seem to enjoy your job.”

In all sincerity, Helpful Helen replied, “There are lots of things I can do in life, but I’ve realized that my biggest contribution comes from serving the people who come through our door every morning and making their day a bit brighter. I love my job!”

Helpful Helen had me. The next time I came to town, I would make it a point to visit this little shop. She wasn’t merely serving coffee, she was choosing to make a positive impact on every person who walked through the door.

Helen had a rare gift. She knew her unique contribution and she was fulfilling it.

So, what?

Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, I’m glad Patrick had a pleasant experience, but I don’t run a small coffee shop. Our work and people are far removed from Helen’s world.

Regardless of what you do and who you work with, I think we would all agree that having more competent, confident, committed, and contributing people in our organizations would be a wonderful thing.

What would it mean to you and your organization if you had a culture of Helens? A culture of passionate contributors striving to bring their best to every meeting, every customer touchpoint, every task, every day?

Disclaimer: Bare with me. I’m not trying to be overly simplistic. I know that some people will never choose to be a Helen. I also know that there are many organizational elements that must be built, aligned, and maintained to achieve a team of Helens. (Click here for a post where I discuss five such programs.)

However, a few naysayers shouldn’t hold you back; nor, should some organizational program that might be years in the future keep you from make progress – today.

How might you start?

Ask each of your people to answer these questions, reflect on their responses, and then to set up a time to have a conversation with you about their answers.

  • What do you do that energizes you?
  • What drains your energy?
  • What do your customers (internal or external) need that is currently going unfulfilled?
  • What could you be really awesome at doing?
  • What do you see yourself doing now and in the future?
  • What does your ‘gut’ tell you is the right thing to do?

After your discussion, encourage them to answer one more question, “What will you uniquely contribute in your role to our organization?”

Ask them to write down their answer to the final question and to share it with a few people to gain feedback. Invite them to refine it, to truly make their own. Lastly, encourage them to put it in a place where they will see it everyday and to reflect on it.

Oh, and you should do it too. This isn’t just an exercise for frontline employees. It’s for you as well.


Accelerate Your Efforts

Download a tool that you can use with your team to get the conversation started.

How to Achieve the Balance You Crave

Categories Inspiration, Leadership & Management, Your CareerPosted on

Several years ago, my wife and I took a business / personal trip to California.On our way to the hotel, we passed a sign proclaiming, “SUP Rental & Instruction, 7-Days a Week.”

Not knowing what SUP stood for, we asked our taxi driver. He informed us that SUP was shorthand for Stand-Up Paddling and explained that it was popular up and down the coast.

The activity involves standing upright on a large surfboard shaped device as you paddle over the water. Done well, it appears near effortless.

A short drive later, we exited the cab. Armed with the name of several SUP options in the area and every intention of SUP-ing before we left the Golden State.

Then, the schedule got away from us. The work-side of the trip overwhelmed the personal-side and things got out of balance.

We returned home SUP-less.

Time passed.

A bit over a year ago, we learned of a SUP location in our hometown. No, it’s not on the ocean, but it sits on a large lake about 20 minutes from our house.

We vowed to make it happen. Then, life got in the way and the summer pace was busier than planned. Summer 2016 passed without our SUP adventure.

In a small way, the whole trying to make the SUP adventure happen was a nagging reminder of a lack of balance in my life. For years, a little one hour excursion seemed to fall prey to other demands. Granted, if we really wanted to make it happen, we would have forced it into the schedule, but forcing it would have been yet another sign of imbalance.

Over the last several years, I’ve worked to reduce the forcing function in my life. My years in the army, working at a global consulting firm, and owning my own business created a person who was great at forcing things into his calendar. I physically, mentally, and emotionally sprinted from work to many family events. Arriving a few minutes late, my mind often wandered to other pressing issues, instead of fully enjoying the kid’s ballgame or dance recital playing out in front of me.

Two weeks ago, SUP-ing on the lake happened!

We had a great time and, less than a week later, we did it again.

As I reflect on the experience, I think there is something we can all learn about balancing not just ourselves on a board, but perhaps our lives in general.

Consider your life…

You have likely had times when you felt out of control; times when the schedule was packed and the pace frantic. The promise you so often heard of ‘work-life balance’ seemed distant, if not nonexistent.

When was the last time you felt out-of-balance? Last month? Last week? Today?

When I encounter those moments in the future, I’m going to remind myself of standing on the paddle board and cruising across the lake. To help me do it, I’m employing a different version of SUP.

  • S – Set Sights
  • U – Understand Uncomfortableness
  • P – Purposely Practice

S – Set Sights

When we were driving to the lake for our first outing, I recalled pictures I’d seen of people doing yoga on paddle boards. They were so in balance. I saw myself doing that as well.

Then, reality crept in and I reset my sights to something more realistic and obtainable.

I thought to myself, “Instead of striving to do a handstand on the paddle board, why don’t I just try to remain standing or, at least, limit falling off to once every 30 minutes?”

What’s the point?

You have to realistically set your sights on what balance looks like for you. If you are the CEO of a large global firm, don’t expect to be home for dinner every night or attend every personal outing. You will be disappointed, and others in your life will be frustrated too.

Experience has taught me that much of my out-of-balance feeling stems from having unrealistic expectations or chasing an illusive, perhaps unobtainable, vision of a balanced life.

The point is to set your sights on what balance looks like to you, communicate it well to others, and then strive to achieve it.

Consider these questions:

  • What does balance mean to you?
  • If you were ‘in balance’ how would you feel and what would you accomplish physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually?
  • Given your current situation, what level of balance is achievable? Are you there? Or, is there room to grow and improve?

U – Understand Uncomfortableness

After about 30 minutes of standing upright on the board, I noticed a slight cramp in my right foot. The uncomfortableness was no doubt the result of trying to maintain my balance and not fall into the lake. Eventually, the pain subsided, as I relaxed and got better at it.

Doing something new can be a bit uncomfortable. We know this is true when we are acquiring a new skill or taking on a challenging project at work, but the same is true when we are striving for balance in our lives.

Some of us are uncomfortable saying ‘no’ to things, but balance requires doing just that. Trying to please everyone is one of the quickest paths to imbalance.

Consider these questions:

  • How uncomfortable are you with disappointing others? How about disappointing yourself?
  • What is the last ‘big’ thing you said ‘no’ to in order to maintain a sense of balance? Did your blow up or did life continue?

P – Purposely Practice

The second time on the lake, we were better than the first. The mystery of what to expect was gone, and a bit of time on the water measurably improved our skills.

The first time, I considered success having not fallen off the board and making it to the next cove along the lakeshore. Our second outing allowed for quicker speed and a longer trek across a portion of the lake.

I got better and more practice will likely yield even greater results.

Consider these questions:

  • Are you willing to practice at finding balance? Or, will you merely surrender at the first sign of resistance and fall back into old ways?
  • What tools and skills do you need to develop in order to better balance your life? Time management? Decision making? Communication? Technology constraint?

I wish you all the best as you strive to get better and find the balance we all yearn to achieve.

Invitation to get started

One of the most balanced people I know is my friend, Todd Davis. Todd is the Chief People Officer at FranklinCovey, a company known for helping individuals and organizations achieve amazing results.

Todd is offering a series of eight complimentary webinars based on his forthcoming book, Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work.

The first one is September 14.

I highly recommend that you click this link and check out the webinars. You will benefit greatly from hearing from Todd and his insights. No doubt what he shares with you about relationships at work will be key to finding balance in your life.

Stop Fighting that Thing

Categories InspirationPosted on

Perhaps it is time for you (for me) to stop fighting against that thing.

Perhaps it is time to step back; revisit your approach, and to explore a new way. Allow the wisdom that you’ve gathered through proactive learning and experience to inform you of a new way forward.

This doesn’t mean you give up on your goals, it merely means that you might find a way to accomplish them that doesn’t require fighting.

Perhaps your goals can be achieved through collaboration and partnership.

Consider exploring new paths this week at work and home.