Categories
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]

Categories
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.]

Categories
Engagement

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]

Categories
Engagement

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]

Categories
Customer service Engagement Marketing

Why I’m More Hopeful

Throughout my career there were times I felt like a tiny voice in the management void.

As an early advocate of internal marketing – a strategic blend of Marketing and Human Resources that focused on taking care of employees to take care of customers – I found companies bought into the concept but not its practice. A typical response: “It says right here in our annual report that employees are our most valuable asset, so we don’t need your services.”

Despite encountering executives unwilling to invest in internal marketing, my passion for employee-customer care kept me going. Perseverance also led me to business leaders who recognized internal marketing’s value and wanted me to help them do more.

My new favorite equation

Now I’m more hopeful than ever about internal marketing for two reasons:

  1. Thanks to the focus on the employee experience as a key competitive differentiator, there is continuing interest in applying internal marketing (also referred to as employer branding).
  2. I’m especially happy to share I’m no longer a voice in the wilderness as building a brand from the inside out is being embraced by a new generation of marketers that include Ron Johnson, co-founder and managing Director of Blueprint Creative.

Ron has taken my internal marketing approach of blending Marketing and HR further: he advocates a stronger, more formal integration of the two functions in “The Bhranding Equation: Branding + HR = Bhranding” that is reflected in his quote:

“Customers will never love a business that is hated by its employees.” Ron Johnson

My new favorite business book

Ron is also the author of Tighten Your Shoelaces: How the World’s Leading Companies Defend and Grow Their Brands During a Crisis (and How You Can, Too!), a book I recommend.

Along with explaining his Bhranding Equation, Ron shares real-life examples of how companies protected and strengthened their brands when faced with the global pandemic and other business, social, economic, and environmental crises. This book is insightful and easy to read as Ron writes in a way that makes readers feel as if he is speaking directly with them. I see “Tighten Your Shoelaces” becoming a classic that will stand the test of time in both crises and non-crises situations.

As internal marketing has evolved into Bhranding, it’s gratifying to know a new generation is carrying employee-customer care forward.

[Photo credit: image by Silvia from Pixabay]

Categories
Customer service

“We want your business, not your bad mood”

Facts of life for business:

1: No business has an unlimited supply of employees and customers.
2: Recruitment and retention of both employees and customers are necessary for business survival.
3: Cultivating good employees is as important as cultivating good customers.

However, when good employees are subject to rude and demanding customers, it’s time to let those customers go.

That’s exactly what one business owner did. He was compelled to write the following in response to rude and unruly customers who made a scene at his new steakhouse restaurant shortly after it opened. (The following is cited with permission and minor editing for clarity and space.)

We are a new business – learning and adjusting.

We are not perfect; we are and will make mistakes.

This does NOT give you the right to berate us, scream at us, call us names …

As this business’s primary owner, I will protect and defend my employees – to work in an environment where they feel comfortable and safe.

As this business’s primary owner, I will admit when I am wrong or my employees are wrong and we made a mistake.

I do not want people to pay for food or an experience they did not enjoy. You want a refund? All you need to do is ask.

As this business’s primary owner, a fellow human being, and someone who cares and loves his community and wants it to be a great place to work and live, I cannot believe how inhumane people treat others.

I will personally kick you out of this business if you are unable to treat people like people. You will leave and not be allowed back.

We have customers SCREAMING at employees because we ran out of milk.

We have customers BERATING our employees because we don’t give free bread.

If you are so upset we ran out of milk, and we sincerely apologized for the inconvenience but you still find it necessary to be a jerk – you are gone.

If you walk in here expecting free bread when we NEVER offered it, and you can’t stop complaining about it and decide to treat our staff rudely because of it – you are gone.

You don’t walk into a grocery store demanding free food.

You don’t go to a gas station demanding free gas.

Grow up or go elsewhere.

It’s ok with us.

We want your business, not your bad mood.

Regardless of your experience, we welcome your good or bad or scathing review.

HOWEVER, if you choose to act like a child, a jerk, even an $&@@&$@, we are going to remove you. You are not entitled to treat our staff like you most likely treat everyone else.

If anyone would like clarification on our policy for treating employees with basic decency, you can call either restaurant to speak with me personally; you can also talk to me about your experience. If it’s good, great. If it’s bad, then we need to learn how to adjust and fix it going forward.

Thank you,
Richard Austin, President – Bella’s Sicilian and Bella’s Steakhouse.

Note: Austin’s restaurants are based in Geneva NY, and my husband and I have enjoyed dining in Bella’s Sicilian Ristorante when visiting the Finger Lakes region.

As a long-time employee experience advocate, I applaud Austin publicly defending his employees in this situation. It speaks highly of the culture he has created in his business, and it’s why my husband and I will continue to support his restaurants.

[Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash]
Categories
Engagement

When Your Boss Deserves Thanks (+What to Do When Your Boss Doesn’t Deserve It)

The following excerpts, shared with permission, are from a business column written by HR pro Tina Hamilton, CEO of myHRPartner Inc. While the complete article also contains tips on how employers can thank employees, I was struck by the reminder that workplace gratitude shouldn’t be limited – it also applies to employees thanking their bosses.

If you’re fortunate to work for someone you respect, it’s appropriate to express authentic, sincere gratitude (no suck-up Eddie Haskell here):

“Employees: how often do you thank your business owner, CEO or supervisor? What would you thank them for? Here are a few ideas that illustrate that it doesn’t need to be complicated.

-Thank them for your job. Have you ever done that: Authentically thank them for the opportunity to work at their organization: ‘Hey, Jan, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for employing me here and making me part of this team. I really am grateful.’ Imagine the impact of those words spoken sincerely.

-Spell out why you appreciate your supervisor for no reason other than to appreciate them: ‘I want to take a moment to thank you for being a great boss. You make work so much more enjoyable.’

-Thank them for allowing you to work from home, to take time off, for being flexible and so on. Do it out of the blue for no special reason and with the expectation of nothing in return. Of all the words we hear in the workplace, the two words ‘thank you’ are more meaningful than you can imagine. Bosses rarely receive the thanks that they deserve for all that they do.”

Here’s what Tina has to say if you find yourself working for someone undeserving of appreciation:

“I would not be doing my job if I did not acknowledge that some of you are reading this and thinking, ‘Ha! I would never thank my boss. He/She does not deserve it for the way they treat us, manage us, take advantage of us,’ fill-in-the-blank. I acknowledge your sentiment. Sadly, your situation is too common. It’s fair to feel ungrateful and undervalued as a result.

See it as an opportunity to evaluate if a solution exists. If your work situation is a lost cause, strongly consider making a change. There is no need to wallow in misery when the job market is saturated with open opportunities. If you have ever thought about making a move, this is the time to do it. Maybe then you can feel thankful again. You deserve to. Everyone does.”

[Well said, Tina. Thank you!]

[Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash]
Categories
Engagement

Getting Real with Resilience

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller

I’m amazed at how people have responded – and continue responding – to the pandemic and other serious issues affecting us. I’m talking about something people do individually and collectively; something they may not even realize they’re doing that needs to be acknowledged and recognized.

This “something” is resilience – the ability to face adversity, bounce back from it, and learn and grow from the experience. Too often people take their ability to move forward in difficult situations for granted. When they step back and acknowledge this capacity, when they and others reinforce it, they’re more likely to learn from/build on their experience as they work their way through.

“No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.” Greg Kincaid

Necessary to move forward in life, resilience involves strength and stamina; it also can be gritty and hard. Here are several more of my favorite quotes on this topic.

“Resilience, the ability to adapt to difficult situations, doesn’t make your problems go away. Rather, it gives you the ability to put problems in perspective and to better handle stress.” Izzy Gesell

“In the aftermath of shocking events, people often start over and re-think their priorities. They might change careers to better match their values or reconnect with estranged friends. Many experience greater purpose, stronger social connections, or deepened spirituality. Psychologists call this ‘posttraumatic growth'” …” Jamil Zaki

“Resilient people can be anxious, angry, afraid, and sad, which doesn’t make them less resilient. It makes them – us – human.” Julia Mines

“Truth is, resilience is often very quiet. It’s putting one foot in front of the other even when the steps feel heavy. It’s deciding to try one more time. It’s taking a deep breath and promising yourself you won’t surrender just yet. It’s looking in the mirror, knowing the cavalry isn’t coming to save you, and choosing yourself again today.” Amber Naslund

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

[Image credit by symphonyoflove on Pixabay]
Categories
Engagement Training & Development

Blog-Inspired Nonprofit More Than a Relative Success

It all began with a popular blog.

Cousins Shane Burcaw and Sarah Burcaw Yunusov had the idea to start a nonprofit while in college.  Their dream was inspired by Shane’s “Laughing at My Nightmare” blog where he posted his “funny, absurd, and at times, gut-wrenching” experience living with a severe form of muscular dystrophy.” His message was “no matter what life throws our way, there is always a reason to laugh.”

Sarah describes their family’s experience:

“Shane and I grew up in a family that was always laughing [and] we learned how incredibly powerful humor was when dealing with adversity … His blog was basically just an extension of the mindset instilled in us by our family. It’s about the hilarious and crazy experiences Shane has had living with muscular dystrophy, but more than that, it teaches readers that a positive attitude can help them effectively cope with stress and adversity.”

Bolstered by the positive response to his blog, Shane and Sarah’s nonprofit, Laughing at My Nightmare, Inc. (LAMN), was officially launched ten years ago with a dual mission to “teach children that all people deserve kindness and respect, regardless of their differences, while also providing free equipment to people living with muscular dystrophy.”

I was first drawn to LAMN because I had a cousin with muscular dystrophy. Getting to know Sarah and Shane and seeing their passion and commitment in action, I became a strong advocate, supporter, and mentor.

Besides promoting understanding and acceptance of diversity to students in hundreds of schools, Laughing at My Nightmare, Inc., has given more than $500K in adaptive equipment/assistive technology to those in need. It also launched a COVID-19 Resource Relief program to help members of the disability community deal with the extra burdens imposed by the pandemic.

In honor of Laughing at My Nightmare, Inc.’s 10th Anniversary, this post is dedicated to Shane, Sarah, their families, and all LAMN supporters. Congratulations!

To learn more, check out Shane Burcaw’s books:

 

 

 

Categories
Engagement

Leaders, Business Owners: Now is the Time to Do Something Intentional and Impactful

If you care about your employees, now is the best time to show them.

We’re in the midst of “The Great Resignation,” also known as the “The Great Awakening,” in which millions of people are quitting their jobs or striking for better work conditions. Not only has the pandemic lead to job and career burnout, it’s given people the time and impetus to re-assess their work options.

This assessment and self-exploration process includes people asking themselves two critical questions:

  • Do I find meaning and purpose in my work?
  • And does my employer value what I do?

For those fortunate to answer “Yes” to the first question, a “No” in response to the second question can be a deal breaker as doing meaningful work doesn’t ensure employees’ continued commitment to what they do when they don’t feel valued by their employer. 

Everyone needs to know that their work matters AND that they matter

Ideally, employees’ value should be embedded in a safe workplace and positive company culture that also honors them in special recognition programs, celebratory milestone events, Employee Appreciation Week, etc.

The months November through January, however, offer a unique opportunity to acknowledge employees’ collective contributions in sustaining operations and serving customers – especially in these most challenging times – as part of holiday festivities, a year-end wrap up, or new year kick-off.

These quotes sum it up best:

“In this tight job market, the last thing a company should do is forget to show appreciation. That’s important all of the time – and especially during the holidays … The holiday celebration is a worthwhile investment that will impact your company’s morale and, ultimately, its bottom line. It shouldn’t be trivialized.” Tina Hamilton, founder, myHRPartner, Inc. [Learn more in her article, Creative Ways to Celebrate Holidays in the Workplace.]

“What’s one thing you’re going to do to signal to people that you value and appreciate them for their efforts and making progress?” Christopher Littlefield, founder, Beyond Thank You

How will your employees know they’re valued this season?

[Image credit: photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]