Engagement Tribute

Coping with Grief?

“I believe we are alone in our pain but never in our suffering, as long as we connect with caring, compassionate people.” Sybil F. Stershic

I learned a lot about the grieving process via special counseling after losing three immediate family members in a short time, and I’m still learning.

Since losing another beloved sibling a few years ago, I found an online support group that’s helpful. It takes place in the form of an Unhurried Conversation hosted by Grief Support Specialist, Kathy Murri.

Note: an Unhurried Conversation is a safe “go-with-the-flow” organic conversation in which people speak uninterrupted in a safe space and listen without judgment. Participants take turns sharing what they want, when they want, and if they want.

In her Unhurried Conversation on Grief and Loss, Kathy welcomes anyone who:

-has lost someone close

-is taking care of someone with a terminal illness

-finds themselves out of a job or relationship.

We share struggling with feelings of sadness and anger … dealing with anticipatory grief, ambiguous grief, and/or grief-shaming … navigating new identities as a result of loss, etc. Kathy reminds us that grief involves adapting to a change in expectations: who are we now and what do we do as a result of our loss? We hold space for compassion for ourselves and others in this process.

People from all over the world share their struggles and find comfort in this open, compassionate community Kathy has created. Some participants are new and some are semi-regulars like me, who attend as needed.

If you or someone you know is trying to cope with grief and loss, please consider attending one (or more) of Kathy’s monthly Unhurried Conversations on Grief and Loss held the first Saturday of the month.

[Image credit: Pexels from Pixabay]


There’s No “I” in Employee Engagement … or is There?

It depends.

My answer is “no,” considering you can’t have an engaged workplace in a culture of management Inertia.

Employees may fully engage initially, but their enthusiasm and energy get chipped away over time due to inattention by management and little recognition of their achievements. Once engaged doesn’t mean always engaged when employee value is given lip service.

My answer is also “yes,” when management Intention and action are in place to support an engaged workplace. I’m talking about leaders/managers who proactively foster a culture where employees know their work matters and is valued.

Bottom line: effective engagement cannot co-exist with management Inertia. But when management is Intentional about engaging employees, it’s an entirely different situation.

Which “I” word have you experienced in employee engagement?

[Image credit: Pete Linforth from Pixabay]

Engagement Training & Development

Career Lessons from the Wizard of Oz

Among the many life lessons found in this wonderful film, here are my professional takeaways from the major characters.

Dorothy Gale: In her journey on the yellow brick road, Dorothy faces various twists and turns with serious obstacles to overcome. It’s a perfect metaphor for a “career path” that is anything BUT a straight line to a destination dream job/career. (Fortunately, we’re not at risk to run into a bad witch with a minion of flying monkeys!) As with Dorothy’s experience, however, we’re also likely to encounter opportunities for self-discovery while sharing the adventure with people we come to value that we meet along with way.

Glinda the Good Witch, The Wicked Witch of the West, and the Wizard: Employees don’t get to chose the bosses they want to work for, and we naively presume that everyone in a position of authority is smart, competent, and capable of leading/managing effectively. The reality is you may end up working for managers who are good, those who are mediocre and hide behind a curtain of power, or those who are toxic. Whether you find yourself with a Wizard or a Wicked Witch, it’s important to respect their authority — even if you don’t respect them personally — for as long as you’re able to endure them.

The Scarecrow: His journey ends with being awarded an official degree, but there’s no end to seeking knowledge. On-the-job training and continual learning — formal and informal (e.g., reading, networking, professional development, etc.) — are necessary for growth.

The Cowardly Lion: You can’t lead when you’re paralyzed by fear. “Fake it ’til you make it” isn’t an effective strategy for the King of the Jungle or anyone in a position of power. We continually learn confidence through trial & error and building on our failures with encouragement from others. As Conan O’Brien shared in a commencement speech, “[Don’t] be afraid to fail … whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction …”

The Tin Man: He comes to learn that having a heart is key to a fulfilling life. Philosopher and writer Elbert Hubbard said it best: “Do work with your whole heart and you will succeed – there is so little competition.”

[Image credit: Ray Fragapane on Unsplash]


Meet the “Odd Couple” of Employee Disengagement

I’m talking about Dean Vernon Wormer and Rodney Dangerfield.

They came to mind after a conversation with a fellow business professional (FBP)

Me: How’s it going?

FBP: Not so good. We’ve talked before about how my department’s work isn’t really valued here. Yet they need me because I’m the only one with expertise and skills in this [functional] area. It’s frustrating.

Me: I thought the situation was improving.

FBP: I get compliments on my work, and the end result is acknowledged but not the effort or energy that goes into it. I like the company and enjoy what I do; yet there are times I’m not really inspired.

Me: Or engaged?

FBP: That, too. But it isn’t all bad. After seven years, I finally got a promotion.

Me: Congratulations, that’s great! Did it come with a salary increase?

FBP: No, just a new title. And I was told not to tell anyone about it, no internal announcement or news release.  It’s what I call my ‘double secret’ promotion.”

FBP has a great sense of humor and we laughed about this.

It sounded to me like something you’d get if you crossed Dean Vernon Wormer with Rodney Dangerfield,  a combination that doesn’t bode well in any organization.

Well-performing employees whose work isn’t respected and supported find it hard to stay motivated and engaged.

[Photo by Valerie Bosch on Unsplash]

Engagement Training & Development

Considering Major Organizational Change? Listen Up!

“Executives who initiate strategic change without engaging managers in the process disrespect them by dismissing their work and institutional knowledge.

While organizational change isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to be made more painful by those in charge.” Sybil F. Stershic

Those in middle and front-line management who are most affected by change are more than willing to share their ideas on how to best to minimize disruptions and help employees adapt.

Ignore them at your peril, unless you’re looking for an expedited path to disengagement and turnover.

[Image source unknown.]


Remember When? Help Now from Then

Then. When the world as we knew it came to an alarming stop in March 2020, there were so many unknowns. In lockdown limbo, we learned how much we took for granted: meeting with friends; exchanging handshakes and hugs; going to an office or workplace; in-person grocery shopping; attending family, school, sports, and other social activities; etc.

We managed to get through it as medical and mental health providers helped us cope with our all-consuming stress back then. For example, here’s a set of “quarantine questions” I found online when we were struggling with anxiety at the pandemic’s outset.

Now. The same questions are worth sharing today because they’re timeless, regardless of what individual and collective difficulties we face.

I’d add a 7th question to this list, however:
What lightness in the form of good-natured humor am I sharing to generate smiles and laughter today?

[Original source of quarantine questions unknown]

Engagement Training & Development

Time for a Reality Check

Now that the hectic holidays are behind us, we have quality time to reflect on 2023 and consider what we’ll do better in 2024. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to harp on making hard-core resolutions.)

My recommended reality check is in the form of three thought-provoking considerations:

  • Question why we do what we do, and if it’s valuable for us.
  • Better assess our influences by being thoughtful about the people and media we follow.
  • Take time to reflect and think about what we want to do that is meaningful.

Invest in yourself by exploring these considerations and figuring out what to do, what not to do, and what to change (if anything).

This valuable process will enable you to discover and choose what to no longer waste time on, what to avoid that may cause you regret, and what engages you more fully.

Special thanks to Yoshi Garnica, CEO of Agile Mind Lab, whose post inspired these considerations.

[Photo by Cyrielle on Unsplash]


More than just-for-fun: how playing leads to better understanding

It’s true:
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a lifetime of conversation.”  [attributed to Plato]

This was confirmed in feedback from a group of professionals for whom I recently had the privilege of providing a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop.

This special session was designed to bring a small group of department managers and supervisors together, who work in the office and/or remotely, to connect and better understand each other in a safe, engaging way.

Verbatim comments included:

“It got me to think internally about my role and growth but also add an extra value and appreciation for my team, their roles, and talents.”

“It helped to connect with co-workers and see how they thought. To see them interact with one another and think alike was very positive.”

“Today’s session helped me experience the team’s unity. We all had different ideas, thoughts, but we were all joined in a single purpose and this is to serve our community.”

As a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator, I find it gratifying to witness the group’s progress from their initial reactions about playing with LEGO® bricks at work -ranging from skepticism to amusement – to their full immersion in the process of shared understanding and unexpected joy in the process.

[Photos by Sybil F. Stershic]

Customer service Engagement

A Wasted Opportunity

I was seated next to a new executive in the parent company of an organization where I was a decades-long customer.

We introduced ourselves at this network function, and I shared how wonderful the receptionist is at one of their locations. In fact, it’s the only location I chose to frequent because this frontline professional was most welcoming, courteous, engaging, and a delight to interact with – a true brand ambassador.

Because I believe in recognizing and reinforcing great service, I told the receptionist I’d spoken highly of her to this executive and mentioned how lucky the company was to have her on staff.

Fast forward months later: I saw the receptionist and thanked her (again) for how well she took care of me and other customers. That’s when I was disappointed to learn that neither the executive – nor anyone else from management – reached out to acknowledge the positive feedback given about her.

How much effort would it have taken for the executive to have shared this unsolicited praise with the receptionist? Or even just passed it along to the employee’s supervisor to follow up?

A meaningful opportunity to recognize a valuable employee was wasted.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 75% of employees cited a lack of appreciation as one of the top reasons they leave their job.

The impact of their leaving is more than a matter of employee turnover:

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” Sybil F. Stershic

[Image credit: Thomas Park on Unsplash]


Why Your Company Needs a Holiday+ Celebration

Let’s start with the “what” before I explain the “why” you need to hold a special event this time of year.

Your options to recognize employees during the November/December holidays, OR wrap-up the year’s results, OR kick-off goals for the new year will depend:

  • on what you’ve done in the past and whether you want to continue it or try something new & different. If you’ve never held an holiday, year-end wrap, or new business year launch event, maybe it’s time.
  • on what employees might want to do. (Have you ever asked them?)
  • on what makes sense based on your workplace culture, leadership (in alignment with or in spite of the prevailing culture), and available resources (budget, scheduling, venue, etc.).

Once you decide to acknowledge your employees for whatever purpose fits best, it’s time to decide on what, when, and where. (With hospitality staffing issues, don’t wait too long to book your on-site catering or off-site venue this November through January.)

Here’s why celebrating your employees now – or any time – matters.

According to one of the best leaders I had the privilege of working with:

“Everyone wants to be part of something … everyone wants to feel that they are valued, that they made a difference. To the degree we can celebrate our people, that’s our greatest weapon, our greatest tool.” Bob Wood

Employees feeling valued … isn’t that what you want as an outcome of your holiday or year-end event?

If you’re looking to make it truly special, consider a session of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® that engages your employees in a uniquely fun, memorable, and stress-free way.

Some may scoff at the idea of playing with LEGO® bricks in a work-related situation, yet research has found play is important to mental health, regardless of age.

“Play isn’t just about goofing off; it can also be an important means of reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being.”[Jennifer Wallace, “Why It’s Good for Grown-Ups to Go Play,” The Washington Post, May 20, 2017

That’s why I recommend a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® experience for your employees as part of your holiday or year-end event. As a certified facilitator, I’ve seen the power of LSP in enabling teams to strengthen their connection to each other. They appreciate – and enjoy – the opportunity to engage in play at work in way that’s fun but not frivolous. (Email me to explore how you can build a meaningful and memorable event for your employees with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.)

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate the season with your employees, make it a worthwhile event where people enjoy themselves and feel valued.

[Image: Baustin Curtis from Pixabay]