Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Empathy Depends on You!

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

I was wandering through the aisles of Target in search of, well, ahem, “feminine product.” I came upon a short, gray-haired older gentleman, wearing a trench coat, hat, and round spectacles. He was standing in front of a display of incontinence undergarments, motionless, with tears in his eyes. He was just standing there, looking at all the different options, and sad, presumably, about his need for that particular product. Well, the feminine stuff was on a nearby shelf, so I grabbed a great big package of maxi pads. I walked over to the man but didn’t say a word. I held up the package of pads in front of him, pointed at it, and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “It’s OK, it’s life, we all have to deal with its unpleasant side effects.” A big smile crept across his face.  With new found resolve, he looked back at the display, took a deep breath, and grabbed a package off the shelf. We nodded at each other and went our separate ways.

Little acts of empathy can have a big impact in everyday situations. At Workplace Oasis, I speak of the role of empathy in building a strong foundation of relational support at work. What little thing can you do today to show someone that you understand and care about his or her circumstances? It only takes a moment to step out of your own head space to be present for someone else. So show empathy when given the opportunity–people are depending on you!

Let’s Do Less with More

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Following another round of budget cuts, layoffs, or hiring freezes, employees usually hear, “Well, I guess we will just have to do more with less!” The trouble with doing “more with less” is that there will be a breaking point. Given all the statistics out there on the health consequences of being overstressed and overworked, it’s clear we passed that point a long time ago. Furthermore, when employees can’t use their talents to do the job they were hired for, they start to feel frustrated, depressed, and disengaged. We need to get back to basics, and focus on what I call the CORE of the business. As an organization or department, why do you exist? What is your primary function? How do you serve the mission? Once you answer those questions it is time to run an analysis of your daily work.

Leaders: have individuals work alone first on this process, and then facilitate a group discussion. Ask: “What side jobs, busy work, unnecessary reports, or extra projects are we doing that do not serve the core mission of our business?” “What jobs could be STOPPED or at least streamlined or simplified so we can focus on what matters?” New employees or outsiders are great at spotting these problems. They are like toddlers always asking “Why do we do that?” The answers are often rooted in the past, and have more to do with ritual than with current needs.

As a new organization development consultant in a large organization, I once asked about the end users of a detailed, time-consuming report that we produced on a regular basis. I wanted to know who the stakeholders were and why the report mattered to them. The answer was, “Well at one point [circa 1976, I’m guessing], one person wanted to know the figures on that, so we’ve done this report ever since.” Nobody since that person, who had long left the company, read that report. NOBODY read that report. Thanks to my toddler-like inquisition, that particular exercise in futility was killed on the spot. Ahhh, what a relief! To “sell” your new streamlined approach to others, if need be, develop good business reasons for removing or revising processes. Have the organizational mission and the good ol’ strategic plan handy if you need to. Show how you can better meet the needs of your customers by focusing your attention on your main priorities.  When busyness is stripped away, and the core of the business remains, then people can put MORE energy and focus into achieving the mission.

Highwire Passion

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

Whenever I watch Nik Wallenda  preparing to walk on a 2-inch highwire, I am reminded of his great-grandfather Karl’s famous statement: “Life is on the wire; everything else is just waiting.” Karl Wallenda was the patriarch of the Flying Wallendas, a multi-generational clan of tightrope walkers who performed amazing stunts throughout most of the last century. Even through multiple accidents and tragedies, Karl carried on and followed his passion, up to his own death that happened, as you might have guessed, on the wire. Karl’s words remind us all to do what we love, to the point that everything else feels like “waiting.” What do you do, be it a career or a hobby, that makes you feel this way, like you can’t wait to get to it? If you can’t think of anything, you may need to explore new endeavors that will spark your enthusiasm, even (or perhaps especially) if it means stepping outside of your comfort zone.  Sometimes we have to walk without a net, so stop waiting and step on out there!