Tag Archive | make a difference

Is it just your job?

How-to-keep-communication-flowing-in-the-workforceHave you ever worked for a company that gave you a job description when you hired on, continued to add responsibilities but rarely let you know how you were doing unless, of course, you made a huge mistake? In other words, if the job got done, no one said anything. They expected you to do it. After all, it’s your job.

Although most businesses are moving to correct this lack of communication with performance evaluations and other forms of recognition, most managers haven’t bought into the simple concept that regularly affirming good behavior means it will be repeated. It’s not rocket science, but they must figure they don’t have time to do anything but get widgets out the door. Maybe it’s a more difficult idea to grasp than you think because so few practice it or at least do it well.  Many think this warm and fuzzy stuff does not belong in the workplace, but the funny thing is that affirming another person, even for regularly performed tasks, belongs everywhere. It builds relationships, and people from all walks of life will respond – though some to a higher degree than others. It will work at home with your spouse and kids, at school or work and even with strangers at the market.

Think about it. Most people don’t wake up in the morning planning to sabotage their day with misdemeanors. They like it when things go well, so they apply their energies in that direction. But if no one notices a job well done, some feel they have no reason to continue and will begin to slack off. It takes integrity to keep doing your best when no one seems to care, and honestly, you don’t see as much of this character quality as you used to. On the other side of the coin, if no one says that you’re doing something incorrectly, you’ll keep on doing it the same way as you have always done and again, quality will decline. Honest communication is necessary.

So how can you sincerely and genuinely affirm someone and make a difference? Catch them doing the right thing well – even if it is on their job description – and tell them so. Make sure to avoid generic sentiments like “way to go,” “good job,” or even “love, love, love it.” If they have done something outstanding, tell them specifically what it is you like and how it affected you. “Thanks so much for staying after hours to finish up that report so that it would be ready for the meeting in the morning. It calmed my jitters to know you had everything read,” means a lot more than “Thanks for the effort.” And guess what, the next time you have a project requiring a little extra effort, you know who will be willing to go the extra mile.

At home, cooking meals, doing the laundry, mowing the grass and repairing broken fixtures don’t just happen. A little appreciation and affirmation will go a long way with family members too. Again, be specific and explain how the effort added value. It’s also a great way to teach your kids without a long lecture. Ever wonder why they behave so well at someone else’s house – likely because someone there affirmed their good behavior.

Oops! I think I forgot to mention there might be a little side effect – no small print or hushed voice necessary. When you see the positive response in the other person, it will do something in your heart as well. You’ll feel good, deep down inside. You’re creating endorphins, and they’re an excellent remedy for stress. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

What kind of day was it?

How was my day? I woke up this morning though the night’s darkness lingered for a short while. As it began to fade, the sun remained hidden behind clouds of rain. I didn’t much feel like smiling. I had much to do and little time to do it. I had to go out, and the raw wind stung my face as I crossed the parking lot to attend a meeting. When I came out again, pin-sized balls of frozen ice pelted my raincoat as I rushed for my car. Was this going to be like Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Should I move to Australia?*

I said I didn’t feel like smiling, but I chose to let a few cross my lips, and others, with hurts deeper than my own, smiled back. It made a difference. If only I could remember to do that every day. It could make a huge impact. I could also include thoughtful acts of kindness or even a bigger effort to help the less fortunate.

And if I did it another day and another? I might make the dash between the day I was born and the day I die really worthwhile. Click here to view the poem, The Dash. It might encourage you as much as it did me. By the way, the sun actually peeked through about three in the afternoon. I canceled my flight to Australia.

 

*Judith Vorst’s Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Fantasy vs. reality

Do the shootings in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater that killed 12 innocent people trouble you? You don’t need to answer, because I am sure they do. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Yet we also struggle with the why of what would possess one human being to raise himself up against an unsuspecting crowd to try to annihilate them? Does dressing up as a fantasy villain excuse such violence? Why was it so difficult for him and other  people involved in similar tragedies to tell the difference between fantasy and reality?

Fictional superheroes and bad guys aren’t new. They were around when I was a kid, and likely when my parents and grandparents were also, but the difference seems to be that more people strove to be like the hero than the villain. Good and evil were clearly defined, and good always triumphed over evil.

Today’s heroes, whether it’s Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman or a host of aliens with a penchant for saving their worlds, are make believe, but then so are their arch enemies. Fictional stories can’t be the reason because even in the old westerns, people recognized that all the actors were playing a role. In fact, the actor meeting his demise in one film was often seen the next night in another show.  Even when it was based on true historical personages, you knew the bad guys from the good and you never wanted to be the ones wearing the black hats.

Maybe we need to hear more about the real life heroes who make sacrifices for other people. They do their best everyday at home and at work. They put food on the table, care for the sick and hurting as well as a host of other things that don’t get their names in lights. Maybe we should start sharing how these people make a real difference in defeating the negatives that permeate our worlds.

I wonder if the issue isn’t deeper than that. Perhaps it stems from the lack of absolutes in the world or more specifically from eliminating God from the picture. Maybe the real problem is that these folks don’t know that God not only exists, but that He loves them so much He sent His Son to die to pay the penalty for their sins so that they could be with Him forever. Maybe they don’t know that all men are evil and that only God can change them. Maybe we need to be bolder and tell them.

I don’t know what was going through this man’s mind when he conjured up his diabolical scheme, nor do I have an outline or list of bullet points to follow to eradicate such behavior. This I do know, however. We can do better at doing what is right and good. That’s a beginning and one that will make a difference.

Warning for all high school graduates

Since the first days of September, you’ve been thinking about graduation day, but more, perhaps, as a closing, and rightly so. It’s the end of a phase of your education and life. Now things will change. These changes will be far from subtle as were the ones from grade to grade. They will be drastic in comparison, and they’ll come at you fast.

Remember the sing-songy mantra you used to chant at the beginning of summer vacation? “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks”? In one sense, your dreams have come true. Seriously. Even if you’re going on to college, those days are gone. Nothing will be the same. Sure, you’ll have classes with pencils (now replaced by technology) and books (now coming with huge price tags and little resale value), but the classroom will change. The teacher’s dirty looks will no longer come as a result of mischievous behavior. Instead, they will challenge your previous 18 years at the core and possibly the entire foundation of your life, especially if you are a Christian or hold traditional values. Are you ready?

Many college professors project a persona of having all of the answers and view you as an unenlightened blank page on which to write their agenda. Their goal is not to see you learn to think so that you can become the innovators of tomorrow; rather, they want you to join them as they espouse their theories of the way the world should be based not on lofty ideals or fact, but on failed programs from the past. Their goal? Land you like a fish – hook, line and sinker. Are you ready?

One thing you’ll learn in your history classes is history repeats itself because people ignore the results achieved the first time around. Sometimes they just rewrite it altogether. I achieved my degree a lot later in life and watched professors distort facts about some of the time periods I had already lived through as an adult. This coupled with the way they changed the events themselves helped me recognize what they could do to young people unless they were prepared. Some of the sources they quoted had fancy names, but no real quantitative results to substantiate their data. To be fair, some of these proponents are only repeating what they had been taught and likely had not done their own research. If I were just coming out of high school, however, I might not have been as well prepared to see through their views. Are you ready?

With today’s ready access to technology, you have resources available to challenge the best classroom orators. Don’t be so quick to toss out your core values. God does not change nor do His principles. If you want to know truth, go to the source. The Bible will not take you down the wrong path. Are you ready?

Just for fun, check out this video to see how things used to be, why they were that way and how things are changing. You or even your parents, just might be a part of making a real difference. BTW — CONGRATULATIONS!

Happy 131st birthday

Today marks the 131st anniversary of the American Red Cross founded by Clarissa Harlowe Barton, more commonly referred to as Clara Barton.

This outstanding humanitarian pioneered in positions traditionally held by men. Beginning as a teacher, she later moved into a position in the Patent office of the federal government. During the Civil War, she risked her own life moving through battle fields to provide necessary supplies to soldiers. In addition, Clara recognized these military men as individuals and supported them by writing letters, reading books to the wounded, listening to their struggles, and praying with them. She opened her eyes to their needs and jumped in to help.

After the war, she journeyed to Switzerland to observe the workings of the International Red Cross and returned to the US where she championed for a similar organization here. On May 21, 1881, this became a reality, and the American Red Cross was born. She led the organization for 23 years.

Clara would likely not recognize the organization today, but would be most pleased at its growth. The American Red Cross continues to be one of the foremost philanthropic associations meeting immediate needs during times of crisis. In addition, the group now takes a proactive approach through blood drives and preparedness efforts. They provide information on numerous topics ranging from flu to floods with everything in between. These are easily downloadable in pdf format. Additionally, they have an online store where you can purchase items you might need in case disaster of any magnitude should strike. Are you and your family or business ready? You can take their assessment to see and fill in any necessary gaps with their resources.

Interested to know how they rate among charities? You can use Charity Navigator to do your homework.

Sometimes we get caught up in the busyness of our daily lives, yet all around us there are people with needs – some small, some great.  Like Clara Barton, you and I can take a proactive approach to make a difference. It begins with awareness and continues as  we actively participate to find the resources to fill the gaps. Stay tuned for more.

Continuous Improvement Required

The only thing that does not change is God.  He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. Everything else – seasons, time, people, cultures, clothes, etc. – require change and that’s a good thing, but does it ever stop?

I get it. The business world must continually improve, reinvent and adjust itself because the marketplace and technology are changing so fast they have to keep up to compete. Employers expect their staff to do the same or lose their jobs. Even if you’re one who’s on the unemployment role, you understand these principles and start your reinvention process in order to find a new way to add value and land a job. The truth is, you never reach a point where the improvement process is no longer necessary. 

Few would argue that keeping up with technology, communication and industry trends enhances your capabilities, yet the reason for doing it all is often lacking. The fact is many workers travel focused career paths only to provide the pay and perks they desire. Although climbing the corporate ladder presents its own challenges and rewards, some reach the top and wonder what it was all about. There is a higher purpose for it all, but you could miss it if you’re not looking. 

I figure why wait until you get to the end to ask the hard questions, so I’m asking them of myself now.  To add emphasis, I’m putting them in the present progressive tense.   

  • How am I adding value today?
  • How am I making a positive difference today?
  • How am I making my work count today? 

If I can answer these questions truthfully each day, I should begin to see the direction of my life.  If I discover gaps or inconsistencies, I know I’ve got some work to do. The good news is as long as we have breath, we can change. The best part is if I choose the road of continuous improvement, I might actually change the world or at least the part where I live.

Want to join me?