Monday, October 28, 2013

Learn the secret of success from a shoeshine man

Albert Lexie has one skill: shining shoes. The 71-year-old began shining shoes at age 15, and he has been shining shoes twice a week at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh PA for 36 years. He takes two bus rides more than 90 minutes to get to work then spends each day wheeling his shoeshine cart around the hospital.  

Mr. Lexie has become a fixture at the hospital who means a lot to the employees and patients. When the family of a thirteen-year old boy couldn’t pay his medical bills due to layoffs and benefit loss, Mr. Lexie paid the $30,000 bill. The shoeshine man who many people probably overlook is a miracle to that family, and many others. 
Mr. Lexie has been shining shoes at Children’s Hospital for more than 36 years, and he has donated all of this tip money to the Hospital. As of June, he had donated more than $200,000.

Note, he is the shoeshine man, not a doctor, banker, CEO, big time author, rock star, or athlete. He is a simple man with priorities. He makes a difference at the hospital beyond the dollars, which is what causes the manager in the video to well up in tears just talking about Mr. Lexie.

This example came to mind today during a SMART Goal-Setting and Goal-Getting training session. I talked with the group about knowing yourself and what you want your life to be, so you can create it. 

Mr. Lexie didn’t set out to donate $200,000. He lives the kind of life that enabled him to donate for 36 years. Donating $200k would be a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for most of us, but the chances of accomplishing it increase immensely if we start today. We can’t wait until we are 71, with the perfect job, in the perfect home, raising the perfect kids, working with perfect colleagues to create the life we want.  

As we discussed in the SMART Goal sessions, think now about your life and reputation so you can create it now. Create the life and reputation you want deliberately. Don’t wait until your 95th birthday to wish you had been a certain way or done certain things. Figure out what those are and do them now.  

Well, don’t do them all at once. Be patient, like the shoeshine man. One shoe, or one step, at a time can lead toward accomplishing greatness.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

5 Simple ways to get a grip

Do you ever have days that you’re so harried and need to get a grip? Usually during times like that, simplicity flies right out the window. Sometimes it feels like it flies out the window right after our sanity.

Snickers had a commercial during the Super Bowl last year that captured the sentiment. The nice guy turned in to a Joe Pesci character when he was not himself. The solution was to have a Snickers candy bar and he would be back to himself in no time.

The fact is, some days are just busier, more booked, or more stress-filled than others; however, we don’t want to eat chocolate every time. (Right?!) Here are five simple actions that can help you slow down and recover during high-pressure days:
  1. Breathe. Use the 10-5-10 technique: breathe in for a slow count of 10, hold it for a slow 5, then release it to a slow count of 10. Slowing blood flow and breathing puts you in control physically. If it doesn’t work once, do it again. It only takes 25 seconds, so do it as many times as needed.
  2. Take a break. Rushed and rattled is no way to make an important decision or engage with others. Walk outside; get fresh air for a fresh perspective.
  3. Be grateful. In the midst of a stressful time, jot down as many things you’re grateful for as possible. Set an alarm for one minute and start writing. This is a fun exercise that changes moods by changing focus and reminding of priorities.
  4. Identify the good. When you need to get a grip quickly, think about something positive about the situation you’re in. It could be a learning opportunity, or a chance to interact with someone you don’t know well yet, or a chance to show your skills in a new way. There’s usually something good even in the midst of stressful situations, so look for it when you need to get a grip.
  5. Recognize an accomplishment. When there’s uncertainty, think of something that began the same way and turned out well. Once you remember working through a similar circumstance, you can focus on working through the current one too.
Everyone feels rushed and ragged once in a while. Use these steps to get a grip so the heightened emotions don’t lead to poor decisions, hurt relationships, or damaged reputations. And, remember, everyone has days like that, so be patient when someone around is having one.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monsters under the bed

One universal truth about children: at some point every one of them is afraid of monsters under the bed. The common fear, and parental knowledge of it, helped Disney and Pixar gross more than $560 million in 2001 with the release of the movie Monsters Inc. The fear and film came to mind Friday night during an episode of the television show Shark Tank, the business show on ABC (not to be confused with Shark Week on the Discovery Channel).

One of the products pitched by an entrepreneur to the “shark” investors was called Fairytale Wishes. It is a spray that helps children handle common childhood fears, like monsters under their beds. Simply spray the monster repellant, and the child has less anxiety about the monsters and can have sweet dreams.

My brain has been stuck on that spray ever since viewing the show a few days ago.

In thinking about the kids and monsters, wouldn’t it be better to help children understand there are no monsters in their rooms? Or, maybe once reason and logic don’t sink in, a bubble-gum scented magic potion is all a kid will accept?

Are we ever like that? Do smart adults ever imagine monsters? Or, do we ever prefer to avoid looking under the bed and rely on the easy answer instead? After all, if that spray works, it sure would be easier for a scared child to spray the room than to look under the bed. He might come face-to-face with the mean monster if he looked for it!

Are we like that: afraid to face what scares us? When is it time to put down the fairy spray and face the monsters, whatever they are?

What are the monsters in your business? What do you need to do to face the fright?

Everyone is different, but there are a few things to consider:
  1. Stay informed so you manage with facts. Rely on internal communications and your own sources for factual information.
  2. Refrain from listening to emotional rants. Others’ emotional rants are more likely to upset you and cause you to lose focus than they are to help. Remember, the television news is full of opinionated hosts more than objective journalists. Be selective and don’t let someone else cause you to panic. We would tell kids not to be afraid of the monsters under someone else’s bed, right?
  3. Assess your skills. Understand your strengths and how they can contribute to current projects. If your skills are outdated, use any down time to improve. It is always wise to ensure your skills are updated and relevant.
  4. Communicate your strengths and offer to help other teams if possible. The fact is, doing so internally is not possible for everyone. Help internally or help get external clients so you can employ your strengths there. Whether internal or external, if your skills are updated and relevant, someone will need them.
  5. Network. The purpose of networking is to share information. The exchange of information can help you position yourself as favorably as possible, no matter what happens.
The more imminent the change, the more I keep thinking about the monsters under the bed. Is it better to know they aren’t there than to take silly steps to demolish them? Or, is it better to take the steps just in case?

I’m not sure but I might check in to that Fairytale Wishes spray. One of the products is Super Hero Spray, for those days when you need a boost of courage. I wonder if there is a quantity discount…

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Are you the Red Flag teammate?

In the video linked below, Peter Bregman (CEO of a global management consulting firm which advises CEOs and their leadership teams) shares a story about consulting with a company whose staff put a red flag outside the CEO’s office to warn people against going in to his office. He says everyone knew the CEO was difficult, but the CEO didn’t know his reputation was so damaged until Bregman explained the red flag hanging outside his office.

(Click the picture or use the link to watch the six-minute video

Why is it bad to be the red flag person?
  1. You might not get to use the full power of your brain or experience if people don’t want you on their teams.
  2. Red flag people cause others to waste time and energy trying to accommodate them or fix their issues.
  3. It can be lonely when no one wants to be around you.
  4. Being a downer might go against your personal mission or goals.
  5. You might get stuck in a spot along your career journey where you don’t want to stay.
  6. It is exhausting to be so negative.
As Bregman says, “When we are not aware of the feelings, they take us with them.”
We have feelings all day long without thinking about them, and when we don’t pay attention to them, the feelings can cause us to become a negative force in the office. They can cause us to become the Red Flag people.
    While I do not want anyone reading this to be a Red Flag person, I also do not want you to repress your feelings. Some “gurus” tell us not to take things personally or to leave our feelings at the door as we arrive at work. But, I don’t think that helps either.
I’ve written and spoken extensively outside the Institute about being all in. Living and leading all in means you bring your brain, heart, hands, eyes, and everything about yourself to your life. That includes work. So, contrary to some popular “gurus,” I do think we should take things personally. Our work is personal, and our company does better when people have strong feelings about it. However, we can control how we behave in response to our feelings so we don’t become the Red Flag people.

The following tips can help you avoid becoming the Red Flag person on your team:
  1. Slow down, breath, pause and get used to your feelings. Understanding your feelings can help you deliberately adapt your behavior. Don’t repress your feelings; identify them.
  2. Decide how you need to act to maintain your professional relationships and reputation. You don’t have to address the feelings right away, but you do have to choose your behavior. Unlike a three-year old whose tantrums are cute to onlookers, we can control our behavior.
  3. Refrain from over-sharing feelings, especially regarding personal matters that will be highly scrutinized.
  4. Use support resources like your workplace friends, manager, coach, or EAP.
  5. Honor personal boundaries—your own and others’. Certain topics are not ideal for the workplace and could make colleagues uncomfortable, so be aware of others’ personal boundaries.
  6. If you can’t focus, take time off. The best professionals know when they need to take themselves out of the game to recuperate.
  7. Respect your colleagues’ time. Your best friends at work have their own work to complete each day, and they have their own personal issues to manage.
  8. Respect your job, team, and the Institute by doing great work. If you’ve decided you can show up for work, then be a stellar teammate while you are here.
  9. Once the situation improves, thank the people who supported you through it.
These nine tips can help you understand and respond to your feelings without repressing them or letting them steer you toward becoming the Red Flag teammate.