Archives for November 2011
There are some things worth waiting for. The right spouse, the right house, and for the eighty-five year old grandmother to safely cross the street. All are worthy of waiting for, but a word of encouragement shouldn’t be included in this list – especially in the world of work. Why? Because waiting too long to encourage people costs organizations tens of thousands of dollars when they do.
Last week I spoke with Jackie who is a loan officer in the financial services industry. She told me about a coworker who was feeling swamped with her work load; so swamped that she and her husband decided she needed to quit her job. Quitting her job was not an easy decision. She needed her job to help support her family. But even in the face of the corresponding financial hardship she and her husband decided it was best for her to leave.
There were multiple reasons she decided to quit: an overwhelming workload yes, but what may have pushed her out the door was the repeated acknowledgements from her manager that “I know there is an issue with the workload and I’m working on it.”
The problem was the manager had said this one too many times and had neglected to think through how each employee was holding up under the overwhelming workload. The manager missed the clues, or were oblivious to the clues, but in either case the employee had left one too many meetings feeling dejected, taken advantage of and powerless to do anything to change the situation.
Thank goodness this company has a Jackie. She recognized the exasperation in her coworker, and even though she doesn’t have a high need to connect with people on a personal level while at work, she went to the employee to tell her how valuable she was both to her and the rest of the team. She told her coworker she made a big difference and that her burdensome workload wasn’t her fault; it was a management issue that shouldn’t be taken personally.
What did Jackie do after this conversation? Jackie did what many employees would do. She went back to work and focused on her work. Two weeks later Jackie had a conversation with her coworker and learned that on the day Jackie spoke with her she had planned to quit and walk out the door. She learned that her words of encouragement had thrown her coworker a lifeline and provided her with the hope and optimism she needed to persevere.
In one short conversation Jackie made a difference in the following ways:
1. A family that needed a second income didn’t experience the financial difficulty had the mother quit her job
2. An organization didn’t have the expense of replacing an employee…at only 1X salary (incredibly conservative) the company didn’t have to spend between $35,000 to $40,000 to replace the employee
3. The customers were happy because their loans were processed in a timely manner
4. Other employees were happy because their workload didn’t increase
Jackie won’t take credit for the list above, she’s too modest for that. But from my vantage point Jackie not only saved her company tens of thousands of dollars, but she also positively changed the course of human events for one coworker.
Jackie has learned a valuable lesson that every leader and team member needs to know. If you want to improve your organizations performance you have to focus on both the technical aspects of your work as well as the people aspects. She believes “If you see someone that that needs a word of encouragement – do it now. You can’t afford to wait.”
Who in your organization needs to hear from you today? Is there someone you think needs a word of encouragement? If so, don’t wait because you have an opportunity to change the course of human events AND generate greater business results.
Thank you for sharing this story with me Jackie. The world of work needs more employees like you.
When Diana Nyad set out to swim from Cuba to Florida recently, her dream was to complete the 103 mile swim at the age of sixty. That’s a lofty goal for any world class swimmer, but what’s even more extraordinary is that she believed she could do so after not having swum for thirty years. Is she crazy? Or, does Diana simply think bigger than most people and then rally a trustworthy support team to cover her back? It’s a little bit of both. Here’s a little backstory.
From 1969-1979, Diana Nyad was believed to be the greatest long distance swimmer in the world. In 1978, she attempted to swim 100 miles from Cuba to Florida, but after being in the water for 41 hours and 49 minutes, she called off the effort due to strong currents and bad weather.
In 1979, she stroked the longest swim in history making the 102.5 mile journey from the island of Bimini (Bahamas) to Florida. She also broke numerous world records, including what had been a 50-year mark for circling Manhattan Island, setting the new time of 7 hrs 57 min. She’s a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
What makes Diana’s special is her conviction, discipline, self-confidence, and courage. She couples her inner resolve with a confidence infusing support team that takes away the worry of swimming alone. She knows better than to jump into the ocean and yell to her support team “see you in Florida”. No, Diana had her team travel along side of her to provide food, water, and massive amounts of encouragement. She knew that over the course of forty to fifty hours she would get so tired she’s want to quit and her team would keep her focused on the big goal.
I have three questions for you.
1. When was the last time you accomplished something so big and audacious that you said “Wow, I can’t believe I just did that! That was so cool! I loved this!” Do you have plans to replicate this over the next six to twelve months? If you don’t have concrete plans question two and three will be important questions for you to answer.
2. Are you swimming or treading water? Do you have a big yes that you want to accomplish? Do you have an idea for your personal and or professional life that you’ve fallen in love with and that won’t let go of you? If not, you’re probably treading water.
3. Are you surrounding yourself with people who think big or think small? If you are surrounding yourself with people who think smaller you are inclined to do the same in order to not rock the boat.
How you answer these three questions will determine whether it’s safe to go in the water. If you like your answers and are willing to share your thoughts, I’d love to hear what specifically you’ve done to feel safe in deep and unchartered waters.
This morning at my running group, our running coach, Brian Mandell, was leading us through a series of plyometric exercises. Plyometrics is a fancy word for exercises that people of sound mind don’t volunteer to do (especially at 6:30am), force you to focus on balance, strength in muscles you didn’t know you had, and heart rate all at the same time. I know they’re really good for you; I just think they should be done after more than one cup of tea!
One series required us to lunge forward with one leg and drop our other knee to the ground…all while keeping our head and shoulders facing forward. For me balancing on one leg in this position leads to a lot of wobbling, to which Brian said, “if you look down – you’ll fall down.” That statement prompted me to think about how often I lower my gaze and look down to regain my balance at work, at home and in general.
Personally, my first instinct is to grab hold of the known and predictable when I’m learning something new and or the stakes are high. I’ve learned to seek balance and to avoid imbalance. But, and this is a big but, I can’t get better at something unless I’m out of balance. The paradox is that learning how to lunge on one leg without wobbling can only be done while wobbling on one leg.
As you move through your day, is your line of sight fully forward and set on learning even in the midst of wobbling? Keep in mind that if you don’t wobble at some point throughout your day you’re not learning or growing. My recommendation? Lunge forward and keep your eyes facing forward. You’ll get stronger and learn something new.