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Give Thanks

There is far too little praise and appreciation in most work environments.

Even those who are good about giving positive feedback can tend to reserve it for “above and beyond” moments. Yet, the routine work that people are expected to do every day often goes unnoticed and under-appreciated.

Genuine gratitude goes a long way in engaging people and binding them together. So…

Once a week, say thank you to an employee.

Don’t only focus on the extra mile they may have gone, but on the ordinary things they do to make your team, unit, or company hum. Be specific: explain the behavior or task that you are grateful for and the positive impact it has on you and the company.

Shift Can Happen

Several times since my book came out, people have come up to me with copies of The 8 for signing. “My [boss, wife, sister, colleague] doesn’t understand what matters to me,” some have said, “So I’m going to give them your book.”

“Thanks,” I have replied a few times … although I feel a little squirrely about signing books for people who don’t necessarily want them. I’ve invented a specific dedication for these copies, though:

“To John: I’m not sure you’ll like my book, but your coworker isn’t crazy.”

“John” could have been “Mom and Dad” or someone’s business partner or brother or manager at work, who sincerely cares about the people around them, but sometimes (he said with a real positive spin on it…) cares a little too much to let them have their own happy, healthy, productive life. Sometimes the generational gap is reversed, and it is the kids who worry about their parents. Sometimes coworkers are so wrapped up in their own journeys to see you on yours, and how your pursuits impact them and theirs. And sometimes bosses fail to see that an employee’s purpose-driven life is directly connected to their company’s profit-driven motives.

Guess what? I don’t think that simply reading any book (let alone mine) can change perspectives like that. That’s the bad news that I’ve discovered in my short time on this planet: it’s rarely that simple to change someone’s mind. To those on the outside, examples of successful people (or companies) who are living their values and getting more done aren’t very persuasive sometimes, because people (and organizations) always find reasons why someone else’s success can’t be replicated.

But thankfully, there’s also some good news. If you want to influence the people around you, you don’t have to buy my book (oh boy, the publisher’s gonna’ love this post) but instead, you can lead the way through your own peacefully productive actions. They are not going to change their worldview or their perceptions of you based on something you post on Facebook or Twitter, or by what I write in the front of my book. But when people see you following through on your dreams – and living your life on purpose – they can’t help but notice. Then the shift happens.

The challenge you face, therefore, is to be courageous in the face of opposition from those around you – “John the Colleague”, “Barbara the Mom”, “Frank the Dad”, “Betsy the Boss”… all of them. This is no small challenge, since you would much rather fight dragons or vampires or something that is clearly evil. Your family isn’t evil (despite what may be evidence to the contrary), your boss probably isn’t wicked (regardless of how that last performance evaluation went) and you probably can’t ignore these people and their perceptions. But I’ve learned something else in my short time on this planet, and it became especially clear while writing The 8: you can’t ignore your power and your purpose for very long without eventually losing your connection to both.

Some battles are better won by example than by persuasion. So you can talk forever about the shift you want to make at work or in your life; why you want to study a subject you’re interested in instead of one people think would lead to better career options, or why you want to communicate more openly and honestly to coworkers and customers, or whatever. And by following this well-trod path of just talking about it, you may make marginally incremental progress in the form of compromise. But while you’re judging yourself by your great intentions, the people around you are judging you by your actions.

More than just talking about making a shift in the direction your life’s headed,  you can put it in perspective for the people around you: I’m doing these things in my life today because they are important to me. I’m willing to give up other things to make it work. I am willing to do what matters today. I am willing to walk the talk.

More often than not, people will get used to it over time. You may always be thought of as the black sheep at the office, the strange one on your sales team, the outlier in the family. But you’ll eventually earn your right to freedom and maybe even some grudging respect from some of the “evil-doers” around you.

Then they’ll say, oh, there goes _____ again. That’s just what she does. Or they’ll think,  _____ has another crazy idea to fulfill his purpose in life… but the last one worked out pretty well for him.

And once in a while, a funny thing happens: they’ll learn from the decisions you made and the actions you took, and how you stepped out, faced down your fears, tapped into your talents and focused on what’s most important to you in your life. (They may or may not realize that some of your fears had to do with them, but by then, it won’t matter.)

So for those of you on a dysfunctional team at work, in an “interesting” family or embedded in a workplace culture where doing what matters is implicitly misunderstood; or for anyone else who feels pressured to be like those around them and dare not blaze their own trail, it’s all up to you now to lead by example. Who knows — maybe John, Mom, Dad and Betsy will end up shifting with you. Because (in one last insight I’ve gained in my short time on this planet) …

Shift can happen.

Now…go make it happen.

Everyone Has a Story

I live in Miami, Florida and it’s a city I’ve loved for forty years. One decidedly unlovable consequence of being here though, is the apparent overrepresentation of completely clueless drivers compared to other cities I’ve been in. As an example of how treacherous the roads can be here, a few weeks ago I was driving home after a softball game when the person in the lane next to me decided to switch lanes – right into the side of my car. The driver accepted responsibility as she admitted she was texting when she hit me. Luckily, we were all unhurt. But boy was I upset.

My friend Pete once told me a story about how a similar experience happened to him; how we was just driving along (on the exact same street, coincidentally) when he, too, was run onto the median after being broadsided by the car in the lane next to him. Pete sprung out of that car “like a bat outta’ hell” (as he tells it) and started to launch into this guy with a full-force verbal assault; not smart in Miami, for many reasons. Pete learned his reason when he neared the car during his tirade and saw that there was a crying little girl in the backseat; the driver’s daughter. The dad was out of his car and opening his own back door as he apologized profusely to Pete and checked on his little girl who was about eight years old. The driver, noticeably shaken and in tears, told Pete that he was rushing to the hospital because his daughter had a fever, hadn’t slept and had been vomiting all morning. Pete looked in the backseat at the sweaty, crying, scared and frail-looking girl and his heart sunk.

Quickly, Pete got on his cell phone casino gratuit en ligne and called the local ER’s back line (he’s a physician there) and after doing a cursory examination of the little girl (and both cars), told the dad to head safely to the hospital – that the nurses would take his daughter right in and that she would be okay. Pete went by the ER an hour later. The girl had a bad stomach virus but she was going to be fine. Then Pete made his way over to the frightened father and they eventually exchanged insurance information. That’s when Pete was the one profusely apologizing for his inappropriate outburst. “Everyone has a story…” is the moral he shares from this experience. As Pete reminded me after my accident and about $4000 worth of damage to my brand new car: “We have to remember that – even in the most frightening and disappointing situations, Dave. Everyone has a story.”

In my work as an individual and organizational coach, I’ve learned that there are some empathetic companies out there; organizations that “get it” and understand that every employee and every customer has a story. Chick-fil-A – a company we’ve partnered with in the past – is one of those great companies and they actually made a short movie on the topic. Enjoy it; it’ll be worth the three minutes, I promise.

Every Life Has a Story

You have a story. Your colleagues and your friends have stories. Your customers have stories. So when someone “broadsides” you at work, your boss “cuts you off” in a meeting, a customer “blindsides” you or a family member “dings” you during Christmas dinner, remember…there’s a story in there.

Be patient.

Respond, and don’t be too quick to react.

Open up the story and read it. You’ll probably be glad that you did.

Getting Out of Line

Every year, the school my children attend holds a festival to celebrate the holidays. There’s always a ton of great food, games and rides for the kids. This year, responding to a great suggestion from one of the parents, the school decided to reach out to two local homeless shelters and invite some less-fortunate families in our community to join in the fun; with all of the ride tickets and food they wanted at no cost to them. About fifty or so men, women and children from the shelters showed up and boy, did they seem to have a wonderful time.

At around 8:50PM, ten minutes before the rides were to shut down, I found my ten year-old son Kevin in line at a bungee ride with three of his friends. Then the man overseeing the attraction began counting heads in line: “Eighteen…Nineteen…Twenty. Sorry, kids…” he said, looking at the twelve or so children behind the twentieth head tapped, “…we only have time to allow these first twenty to ride, then we’re shuttin’ ‘er down”. Kevin was the twentieth, right behind his three friends, and I could see him quietly mouth his joy…”Yesssss!” he whispered to himself, as he and his buddies exchanged high-fives and wide smiles.

For numbers twenty-one through thirty-two though – the children in line who weren’t tapped to ride – there was no celebration, just tears and many long faces. That’s when I happened to notice that all of the kids who were going to miss the ride had red paper wristbands. They were our guests from the neighborhood, many of whom had most likely never even seen this bungee ride before, let alone gone on it, as many of the school’s students in line had done each year. “Wow…” I thought to myself, “…this is not good.” So I stood and watched. I watched as the adult chaperone who was escorting the children from the local shelter asked the attendant if he could make an exception. And I watched as he (and not too politely) said “No”. Then, I watched something beautiful happen.

As Kevin and his friends talked about how fun the ride was going to be and how lucky they were to make the cut, I watched Kevin turn towards the children that had been in line behind him as they walked away with their heads hung low. There he was – the last boy standing, the lucky one – and he was going to enjoy the only ride he talked about for a week leading up to the fair. Then, with no hesitation, that last boy standing got out of line and walked over to one of the children walking away. “Hey, come on back”, Kevin said; “…there’s space for you!” Kevin’s friends were yelling at him: “Kevin, wait! Where are you going?!” And Kevin walked back the twenty feet or so and all of the twelve shelter kids were beaming right behind him. “Guys…”, Kevin said quietly, “…we need to get out of line and let casino en ligne quebec them go. We’ve gone on this thing a thousand times. Come on.”

Two of Kevin’s three friends stepped aside. One stayed in line (he won’t be coming over to our house anytime soon) and then the sixteen kids in front of them saw what has happening. So did their parents who were watching with me. One at a time the parents called their children out of the line; some leaving without even being asked. One at a time their place in line was taken by one of our guests at the fair. Within about a minute, all twelve children who would have otherwise missed the bungee ride were in line, exchanging high fives and wide smiles. And the students who gave up their spots…some were walking away with their heads hung low.

But not Kevin.

Kevin came over to me and said “Dad, let’s go get something to drink, I’m dying of thirst.” And he ran off with his buddy Justin to the drink stand. I just stood there. Utterly amazed. Incredibly moved. Fighting back tears. As I followed Kevin I shook hands with a few of the Dads that had been standing there with me and one of them said, “Dave, Kevin did that.” “I know…”, I said, “…I know.” I was speechless.

I wasn’t shocked though. Kevin (and I say this as humbly and as objectively as I possibly can) is a very kind, compassionate soul. That he would make the sacrifice – and lead others to follow his decision – did not surprise me. I’d seen him lead before, on the baseball field and in our neighborhood. What was so moving to me was not just what he, his friends and other students and families did. What moved me was how he did it. No fanfare. No hesitation. No glory-seeking. No sulking. Not even a word about it…just a run to the drink stand. Man…I wish I could be more like my son.

Later on, when we all got in the car together and headed home, I turned to Kevin in the backseat as he glanced out the window at the ferris wheel. “Kev, I’m so proud of you. You got out of line for the kids from the shelter and let them go on the bungee ride. I love you so much right now and I want you to know that you did a great thing tonight.” “Thanks Dad. They were from one of the shelters you think?”, Kevin replied quizzically. “Well sure, buddy. Didn’t you see their wrist bands?” I asked. “Nope.  They just looked upset and I didn’t want them to be sad. Plus…I’ve gone on that ride a thousand times.”

He didn’t even know. I REALLY wish I was more like Kevin.

So…are you in line right now? Is there an opportunity for you to step aside, to lead, to allow someone else to have the glory?

Let’s look for the opportunity to share some joy – during the holiday season and year-round.

Let’s get out of line.