Thursday, August 10, 2017

Did The Purpose Driven Life fail?

In 2002 a book called The Purpose Driven Life was published. Within five years, it had sold 30 million copies. I remember being surprised at the time by the vast popularity of Rick Warren's book. Were so many people really searching for something bigger than themselves? Did 30 million people really wonder what on earth they are here for, as the subtitle reads? Yes! Yes, and in fact, the book was used to end a hostage situation when a woman read from the book to her captor in 2005. (source)

Since we spend more hours of our average day at work than anywhere else, it makes sense that the search for purpose would include careers and workplaces.

Fifteen years later, I wonder if everyone found what they were looking for?

Did the 30 million people who bought the book complete the 40-day exercise? Did 30 million readers find their purposes? Are 30 million people thriving 15 years later in their personal and professional lives?

My guess is no. No, the exercise was not complete. No, 30 million people did not find their purposes. No, those 30 million are not thriving in all aspects of their lives.

If they were, surely the engagement survey results, trust barometers, employee morale, and workplace cultures would indicate it.

Let's not be too hard on the purpose seekers. Here are two factors to consider:
  1. Our individual purpose changes over time. My purpose as a new entrant to the workplace at 22 was different ten and twenty years later. Our purpose evolves, and our search for it needs to as well.
  2. Our purposes are intertwined. If you work along side people who see the greater meaning of their work, you probably will see it too. The opposite is true too. The 30 million readers of the book 15 years ago have been joined in the workplace by a new generation, and we're all working together with our diverse purposes. The variety impacts organization culture, especially when the leaders are aware of it.
The All-In Way™ is about bringing your whole self to work: purpose and all. Let's see how we can incorporate more of our whole selves into our workplaces. Check out a new forum starting in Kansas City this fall: Living the Spirit at Work.

If you are looking for your purpose, or you have found it and want to incorporate it at work, join the forum to discuss and reflect on it. Our purposes evolve, and this forum supports the search. (Mark your calendars for September 21, 2017 and watch for more details soon.)

Obviously, some people read the book and continue to attribute great life changes to it. If you have such a story, please share it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

3 Ways to ruin rewards and recognition

A professional colleague recently shared her story of being summoned to the executive conference room of her employer. Normally such a summons would spark nerves, but she knew something good was about to happen. Laverne* and a teammate, Shirley, had just completed a big project that brought compliments from their client. Laverne was excited and eager to hear from the management who normally attended such meetings.

When she arrived to the conference room, Laverne was greeted by her supervisor. The supervisor’s boss, Lenny, also was there but did not speak to Laverne. The executive spoke to Shirley because they had worked together longer but did not address Laverne upon arrival, while recognizing the accomplishment, or upon their departure.

While bestowing a nominal reward to the pair, Lenny made three crucial errors:
  1. He never looked at Laverne
  2. He misstated Laverne’s contributions
  3. He mocked the dollar amount of the award

When Laverne told me the story, she said it still irked her even though it had happened weeks ago. She said she would not have cared that the write-up was incorrect if the presentation had been kind and sincere.

Management failed to capitalize on the opportunity the situation offered. Lenny could have solidified a bond with a super employee while he enjoyed reminiscing with a long-time coworker, yet he missed it. He could have inspired two superstars to continue their strong performance, yet he did the opposite. He could have motivated two staff members, yet he became a laughingstock as they shared their story with other coworkers. He became a laughingstock and so did the award.

What the company intended as a sincere gesture failed because management did not buy in to it, or was too stressed to execute accurately, or was unable to recognize the real opportunity in front of him. The reward and recognition backfired because of the delivery.

Laverne’s experience is not unique, unfortunately. 

Many managers treat recognition meetings as intrusions on their day. Check out the video below to see several different bad approaches to reward and recognition meetings. 
Real leaders will see reward and recognition meetings as great opportunities to cement employee commitment to the company. All-In leaders will see the value of the meetings and will treat the recipients of the awards with honor, which will in turn inspire them to keep performing well.

* Names changed

Thursday, May 18, 2017

U.S. Coast Guard Academy Graduates: You deserve to be proud

Yesterday's commencement ceremony for the 2017 graduates of the Coast Guard Academy included a speech by the President, which many have said missed the mark when it comes to inspiration. A retired rear admiral in the US Navy posted his thoughts about the speech, calling it "shameful."

His post calls out the speech does not fill in the missing part: the inspiration. The same treatment was given elsewhere too. I heard about the  speech late yesterday, and it bothered me that the cadets who spent four years learning, training, and practicing for their careers would be sent forth feeling slighted instead of inspired.

Since it stayed on my mind, I checked out the Coast Guard today. Just today, the following items are in the news about the Coast Guard's activities:

  • USCG unloaded $500 million worth of cocaine
  • USCG conducted search and rescue exercises
  • USCG ended live tissue training
  • USCG searched for a missing plane carrying four people near the Bermuda Triangle
  • USCG medevaced a man near New Orleans, and he is in stable conditions now
  • USCG rescued three people from a sinking shrimp boat

That's just today's news! If you were commissioned yesterday, you are going to be working hard! The Coast Guard saves lives, protects waters, and guards America's borders. Your mission is action, not talk. You are expected to execute your missions guided by the Coast Guard principles of honor, respect, and devotion to duty. You have been trained to live by those principles. Upon your graduation, you commit yourself to those three principles, and you can be proud of doing so.

The Coast Guard Academy's website has a section dedicated to Family and Friends. It includes the following message:
Right now, you're probably filled with all kinds of emotions. Pride. Concern. Delight. Anxiety. And that's understandable. After all, your loved one is considering joining the Coast Guard. 

I wonder if your family and friends who joined you for your commencement and supported you these last four years remember feeling those emotions at the beginning of your journey. They knew you before you attended this institution, and they know you have changed because of it. Of all the emotions listed, I hope the one that stuck is pride.

Their concern and anxiety have likely diminished over four years because they know you were trained by experts and you worked hard. They were delighted you committed to the Coast Guard and are delighted you graduated.

But pride is deeper. Your loved ones were proud of you on your first day at the Academy, they were proud on your last day, and they will be proud of the work you will do every day of your career. I don't think parents of history majors like myself feel that same pride. Accountants, lawyers, and engineers are loved by their families and friends, but it's not the same as what your loved ones feel about you. Yours are proud. Yours will be proud of you every day.

You make all of us, the public, proud. The public might not know much about how you do what you do, but we will know the results. We will hear stories about you getting drugs out of the country, rescuing workers from sinking ships, and giving families peace with information about plane crashes. The public needs you, and is grateful you took this journey at the Academy so you can be commissioned into the Coast Guard.

When we hear the stories, your names won't be mentioned. We won't know, but you will. You deserve to be proud of your graduation, and you deserve to be proud of the work you will do to protect the United States of America. 

Photo credit to CGA

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The worst opening sentence for an email

Exploring Twitter early this morning, I was jolted to attention by this headline:

We Need to Ban ‘Sorry For the Delay’ From Our Email Vocabulary
Don’t apologize for not being glued to your inbox.

Guilty! I admit to opening emails that way two or three times a day. Apparently, many others do too, and it turns out we are sabotaging ourselves.

The Twitter post led me to a brief post by Shelby Lorman on Trive Global. Lorman’s insights were gleaned from a post on The Science of Us by Melissa Dahl. Dahl quotes others, which led me down the rabbit hole of research on the topic.

The bottom line is that our well-intended apology sets us up for failure later because it tells senders to expect immediate action in the future. We are inadvertently damaging relationships, sabotaging productivity, and depleting morale.

One study Dahl quoted said people open emails within six seconds of arrival. Imagine the effect of that on productivity and performance for someone who receives just 25 emails a day. How many do you receive? Neuroscientists and psychologists can explain why we open emails upon arrival—something about endorphins and connecting with people—but, let’s focus today on understanding the impact of the bad habit and what we can do to stop it.

In addition to setting unrealistic expectations, we sabotage our own productivity by reacting to every email with urgency. A study in Fast Company said it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to re-focus on what we were doing before we opened the email or handled any other interruption. No wonder people are stressed out by the end of the work day!

Obviously, the impact of over-promising unrealistic expectations to others is two-fold. First, we prompt them to wait for our responses, which may reduce their productivity. When our response cannot be immediate, we will have let them down. Second, we stress over the prospect of letting others down.

A second impact of reacting to every email with urgency is sabotage to our own productivity. It takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to re-focus on what we were doing before we opened the email or handled any other interruption. No wonder people are stressed out by the end of the work day!

All that over-promising and under-performing means we are not living All-In. 

I think this morning's tweet shook me because I try to live All-In by staying focused. Luckily, there are relatively simple things to do to improve. If you are ready to stop the bad habit and get back to living All-In, join me in taking these actions:

  1. Stick to your plan for the day. Don’t let projects take longer than required by accepting email interruptions as urgent demands on your time.
  2. Identify which emails need immediate action, some action soon, or no action at all. Try to read emails one time only, and after that one time, delete, file, assign a date, or forward to someone else to handle. Make it easy by setting up email rules so prioritizing is automated.  
  3. Set a schedule for reading emails at work. Would every two hours suffice? Set aside time upon arrival at work, mid-morning, before lunch, mid-afternoon, end of day. Unless you are in the middle of an emergency, discipline yourself to wait.
  4. Stop apologizing for reasonable response times. If necessary, consider replying to advise of your expected action and completion date when needed, but do not begin emails with an apology for not being at someone’s beck-and-call every minute.

What do you think?
If you have additional ideas to help break the bad habit, please share. The more, the better!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Two construction workers served soup and it changed the world

When two construction workers came into the Panera in Brookside (near Kansas City) for their lunch break January 30, 2017, little did they know they would change the world.

Panera was crowded at 12:30pm as usual, and the two men sat at a small circle table in the middle of the dining room. Their clothing and speed at which they ate indicated they were in the middle of a job and did not intend to take a leisurely lunch break. As they finished their lunches, they noticed a woman in a booth along the side of the room near their table.

The woman was tired, disheveled, and had a recently stitched injury on her face. She was alone in the booth and had leaned her head back to rest. Her table had a backpack and papers but no tray of food.

The woman raised her head as the two men were clearing their table. Although they had a project waiting, they approached her to ask if she were okay or if she needed anything. Their eyes and tone of voice showed genuine concern for the stranger who sat alone among the chatting customers.

The lady's response to their inquiry sent the men into action. One of the men served a glass of ice water with a lemon while the other retrieved a bowl of potato soup from the counter and delivered it to her. Then, in a heartfelt demonstration of genuine concern and compassion, they joined her while she ate her soup. One pulled up a chair and sat across from her but close to her table. The other man stood nearby, as both respected her space and gently walked the fine line between care and intrusion.

The men introduced themselves as Nathan and Chris. The woman said her name was Linda.

In the midst of the noisy, bustling restaurant, the three bonded for a few moments. The men did not pry, and Linda did not offer details of her situation. After about five minutes, the men bid Linda farewell so they could return to their job site on time.

Linda ate her soup and stayed in the booth for at least another hour.

A colleague and I were meeting in a booth near Linda. We had both noticed her upon our arrival, but her eyes were closed so we did not engage with her. As we watched the scene unfold, we talked about how good people are willing, even eager, to help those in need.

It was refreshing to see people help a stranger, and it was just as inspiring that she graciously accepted their help. That's what living and leading All-In is all about, as you know if you are reading this. All-In strategy number three is Notice Others. The men noticed someone in need and they cared. And she let them.

As they left and crossed the street, I noticed one of the men walked with a limp. He never told his story. He just ate his lunch, cared for a stranger, crossed the street, walked around the corner, and went back to work. He expected no fanfare and would have resisted had I requested to take their picture (I did not ask). Through genuine compassion, Nathan and Chris served water, soup, and fellowship to someone in need. They changed Linda's day, and they changed the day of the rest of us who watched the interaction.

Those two construction workers changed everyone in the Brookside Panera this week. They impacted their neighborhood, and that's how they changed the whole world.