Taking Stock

According to Merriam-Webster: “Definition of take stock: to carefully think about something in order to make a decision about what to do next. We need to take stock and formulate a plan.” A very close friend, Angie, was in a serious car accident this week. One minute she was on her hour-long commute to work and the next she was pinned in her car waiting to be cut out. Fast forward 48 hours and she’s had surgery on her knee cap and is thankful she didn’t lose her leg. Or her life. This has caused me to pause and take stock.

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This all happened on a Monday morning. 99% of the world continued with business as usual. My life, for the most part, continued as usual. I started to extrapolate forward on behalf of my friend. Where was her master bedroom, first floor or second floor? Can you drive a car without the use of a right leg? Will she ever want to return to her job and her hour-long commute? How will this affect her in the long term? What would I do if I was in her shoes? There are no correct answers. There are only a lot of questions.

This is what I have taken stock of:

Can do

I have an iWatch that tracks my steps. Ever since I completed my short section hike on the Appalachian Trail (15 miles), I haven’t been walking that much. I recently found out I have a torn meniscus in my left knee and I have been apprehensive about injuring it more. But in the last week? Post-accident? I have tripled my steps. It prompted me to look at what I can do. I have two working legs and who knows if and when that might be taken away from me. I have a strength workout that my boyfriend designed for me that involves lunges, air squats, planks, and pushups. Yep. I can do that as well. I almost feel like I am doing the workouts for Angie. I’ve taken stock in what I can do.

Assessment

I have a small step between my sunroom and my kitchen. There are three steps up to my front door. I don’t think I could get a wheelchair into my bathroom. Closet doors open into a narrow hallway. There is no easy path from my driveway to my front door. I never noticed these things before. What if I was suddenly in a wheelchair and unable to go up small steps? What would I do in the interim until ramps could be built? I’m sure these are things that an ergonomics expert or physical therapist sees without a second thought. It’s been all I see since Monday. I’ve taken stock of close surroundings and in what’s available.

Uncertainty

I am writing this on a Saturday, just five days after the accident. Angie has at least three surgeries in her future and who knows what else. I’m sure on Monday morning, as she prepared to head to work, she had no idea that her life would be so full of uncertainty only a few short hours later. I have a new appreciation that everything is uncertain for us all. You may think you are going to take that business trip or buy that car or scratch your dog when you get home. But we just don’t know. Nothing is guaranteed. Sure, most of it will happen and unfold as expected, but life is uncertain. I’ve taken stock in the uncertainty of it all.

Forgiveness

The man who crossed the center line and hit Angie head-on is on the same hospital floor as Angie. His injuries are worse. It’s difficult for me to be sympathetic to his situation. I immediately decided that he was drunk, texting or exhibiting road rage as he plowed into my friend’s car. Not Angie. There were many of us who decided he was not worth our sympathy in the midst of Angie suffering. Not Angie. In an email she wrote, she asked for all us to pray for the other driver. This is the Angie I know. She has the spirituality and forgiveness to be worried about the other driver. It makes me take stock in who I need to forgive, as well as what I no longer need to hold onto.

Love

Angie has always been a kind and generous person. It didn’t take an accident to make her that way. In the email where she asked for everyone to pray for the other driver, she said, “I love each and every one of you.” It’s such a powerful statement. How often do I tell the people I love that I do love them? There is connection in acknowledging love. I don’t say it enough to enough people in my life. It seems to cure all ills and set things right. Regardless of where Angie is in six months, she will have love. I’ve taken stock in love.

Angie’s husband sent me a picture of the car post-accident. She’s lucky to be alive. I have taken stock in the reality that we are all lucky to be alive. Make the most of it. What do you need to take stock in?

 

Being in the Moment. What my Dog Taught me About Presence.

If you listen to the book, The Obstacle Is the Way, on Audible there is an interview between the author, Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss, author of 4-hour Workweek at the end of the recording. It is a fascinating interview and at one point Tim asks Ryan what he is grateful for. Ryan responds, his dog because he helps keep him present. I immediately connected. My dog, Baci, is the most joyful, present being I know and I absolutely learn from her every day. What My Dog Taught Me About Presence.

Baci is a 6 year old Brittany who we have owned since she was 2 months old. Outside of being a pain to get house broken (I think it took almost 2 years), she is the best dog I have ever owned. I think she’s had an influence on our entire family, as she shares her joy and love unabashedly. So if one dog can change the culture of a house, imagine what you could do if you could adopt some her greatest attributes.

Here is what she has taught me:

1. Smile. Many dogs like Spaniels and Retrievers have a smiling face. The smile is infectious. You cannot look at a smiling dog and not smile back. So do you want to be infectious? Do you want your coworkers or your friends to be drawn to you? Think about smiling more often. Show up to the meeting with a smile. To the party. To the conference call. People will “hear” the smile. Curl up the ends of your mouth and let those pearly whites shine. Smile.

2. Eye contact. When Baci wants something (usually the door being opened so she can go run after a squirrel), she walks right over and makes eye contact. She gets my attention by staring deeply into my eyes. Imagine going into a meeting and the only way you could communicate is through your eyes. They cannot be ignored. I can see how this might be taken too far as staring down your boss in a meeting might be counterproductive but making eye contact is so important in getting someone to take notice. Be sure to make eye contact.

3. Touch. Reach out and touch. This may seem too familiar in the business setting and I grant you that women have more latitude than men when it comes to touching. There are many women that I hug when they come for an annual strategy meeting but not the men. It’s tricky and for all I know, it’s a Southern thing. But when Baci wants to be scratched, she reaches out and taps my hand or nuzzles me on my arm. Connecting with someone by just tapping them on the shoulder or the back of their elbow or shaking their hand can greatly enhance the outcome. You are more connected to someone when you touch them.

4. Roll. Baci rolls with the punches. She’s not pouting in the corner because I forgot to feed her yesterday or stomping off in a huff because she failed to nab that pesky squirrel before it reached the maple tree. There.are.no.regrets. There is another squirrel where that one came from. Dogs don’t end up with ulcers or depression or stress related illnesses. She isn’t ruminating about all the missed opportunities from yesterday or worried about whether or not it will rain this Saturday. She takes it all as it comes. Let it roll.

5. Chill out. Baci can chill out and take a nap ANYWHERE. When we get back from our morning walk, she takes a few sips of water and then heads to her favorite chair to chill out. She takes care of herself. She’s just exerted a lot of energy dragging me around the neighborhood and she sits back and relaxes. Don’t we all need to do that? Instead of focusing on the next task or project. Take 15 minutes and recoup. It helps your demeanor. Take a minute or five to chill out.

6. Love. I don’t know about your dog but my dog loves everyone. I’ll lick your face if you like, let me cuddle with you, I’m your BFF unconditional kind of love. She doesn’t care how old you are, what language you speak or what gender you are. If you are in front of her, she loves you. No questions asked. Imagine having that kind of love for everyone when you head to your next board meeting or widget manufacturing conference or high school reunion. Unconditional love is really freeing. It leaves you open with no attachments. Embody the Baci love (except maybe not licking anyone’s face).

7. Live. Baci inhales life. If it’s running through a pile of leaves, chasing the elusive squirrel, keeping the geese at bay or fetching a tennis ball, she is all in. She doesn’t hold back. If this is the task at hand, she will bring her whole self. I’ve never thrown a tennis ball and have her meander over halfheartedly to pick up the ball. So bring it. To your next project, washing the dishes or writing a blog post. Be all in.

As I write this, my dog is sprawled on the floor next to me. Never self-conscious. Never worried about the judgments of others. It’s so inspiring. Just be.

Are You a Silo Builder or Buster?

Silos crop up in organizations when there is a lack of trust.  Departments, regions and co-workers try desperately to mark their territory and keep a tight fist on resources and information.  It’s not a healthy situation.  This results in closed doors, back stabbing and, frequently, loss of good personnel.  They take off for more forthcoming, open organizations.Silo Builder or Buster

Silos in your personal life crop up when you don’t tell your husband about the exam your son failed at school.  Why bring him into it?  He’ll probably get angry.  Your son will get embarrassed and defensive.  Let’s just put up a wall on the information to keep the peace.  Suddenly you’ve laid your first brick in your own personal silo.  The “keep bad news away from Dad’ silo.  In the long run, when someone finds out who knew what and when, the trust might be irreparable.

So how do you go about some silo busting?  Here are some ideas

1. Open.  Be open with your communication.  This can be difficult; especially, if the culture is to keep your cards close.  It starts with you.  If you just got some information that might negatively affect the business or one department in particular.  Take the first step and be open with the information.

2. Drop.  As in drop the assumptions.  This moment never happened before.  You really don’t know how that manager, child or customer might react.  You might have an educated guess but leave your assumptions out of it.  They are frequently a self fulfilling prophecy.  “Suzie always gets angry when I mention the sales forecast.”  Hmmm, regardless of Suzie’s reaction you are going to be looking to fulfill your assumption and any reaction Suzie has will be categorized in your mind as “anger”.

3. Love.  Sounds crazy but I do this especially if I am angry with a colleague (or ex) .  I imagine myself embracing them.  It’s hard to throw someone under the bus if you recently imagined embracing them.  We are all human and deserve caring folks around us.  It’s real hard to lay the first brick of a silo if you promote a caring culture.

4. Share.  This straight out of the “Essentials of Leadership” from Development Dimensions International,  “Share thoughts, feelings and rationale.”  It builds trust.  Explain to your husband why you were reluctant (feelings) to tell him about the failing test score.  Tell your colleague why (rationale) you would like to delay the project.  Trusting environments rarely have silos.

5. Promoter.  Be a promoter within your work group.  Make sure your employees are drinking the same Kool-Aid.  If your employees know that you are an open book on information and resources, they will follow suit.  Do not reward those who withhold important information to other departments.   It starts with you

6. Vacuum.  Don’t tolerate a vacuum on information or resources.  Take a deep breath and take the first step (this is more difficult for some of us who hate rocking the boat).  Pick up the phone or, better yet, (if you can) go be eyeball to eyeball with that guy you think is trying to build a silo.  “Hey Joe, I haven’t heard the status on Project X and my understanding is that you do….what gives?”  Be a silo preventer.

Depending on the organization, work unit or family culture, this can be difficult.  You can’t choose your family but you can choose the organization you work for.  If you are sensing there are too many silos and there aren’t any silo busters like you around?  The best strategy might be finding a place without any silos.

Unresolved Conflict: The Elephant in the Room

As a restaurant owner and Human Resource professional over the past 20 plus years, I’ve seen plenty of unresolved workplace conflict.  It’s like the kitchen garbage can with rotting shrimp shells in the bottom; everyone smells it but no one wants to deal with it.  So we let it fester and things fester.

Blood pressure rises, people start avoiding each other, less eye contact; our mind goes wild with what we figure the other person is thinking.  We think we know their true motivation as the paranoia mounts.

There were countless times I was brought in to end the avoidance….to get to the bottom of the smelly mess.  So how do you handle the conflict?  Here are some tried and true maneuvers:

1. Timing is everything.  Don’t talk to someone when they just get back from vacation and are buried in email and return phone calls.  Give them a day or two to dig out and take a temperature check.  Read their body language.  A little tension in the shoulders? Using short curt sentences? Relax and wait.  Sense of humor is back?  Just got a great sales report?  This might be your opening.

2. Privacy.  This  cannot be emphasized enough.  Don’t bring up the smelly issue in front of or within ear shot of any other human being.  Never.  Ever.   Their listening skills will be out to lunch and their blood pressure will shoot up.  No one likes to be embarrassed and if there is even the slightest chance that UPS delivery guy might walk by; relax and wait.

3. Facts.  Research your smelly issue thoroughly.  No hunches.  No assumptions.  No jumping to conclusions.  Do your best reconnaissance, you watch CSI, investigate.  This is especially true in the “he said, she said, they said and we said” type of smelly issue.  Find any and all witnesses and alleged witnesses (I can’t tell you how many times in a harassment investigation that the “alleged witness” wasn’t even at work that day).  Don’t go at fact finding to just make sure you are“right”.

4. Suspend Assumptions. This goes closely with #3 but it’s imperative that you don’t decide the other person’s motivation; their ulterior motives.  You’ll have them being one step below Bernie Madoff if you’re not careful.  Empty your head of all your negative stereo types, like “Joe is always out for himself” or “Suzy is out to get me”.  Really?  You know all that?  As Byron Katie says at her website “the work”, “Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” Turn off mister ego and shut down your assumption machine.

5. Craft.  Think it through.  How are you going to broach the subject?  Maybe test the waters with another agenda item that isn’t confrontational like “I want to thank you for your help on the turnover report.  It really saved me some time and I got a chance to work on a more pressing project”.  A sincere, specific compliment is a nice lead in.  I can hear you nay-sayers out there…but I can’t think of anything nice to say.  Revisit #4.  Phrase the issue in terms of the other person’s viewpoint.  What is a reasonable explanation for their egregious act?  Give them an out like, “I’m sure you didn’t realize that when I was excluded from the finance team, I felt like you didn’t trust me”, or “I don’t think you are aware but when you told Suzy about the layoff plan, she assumed her job was in jeopardy”.  Think it through and craft the one or two sentences (no more) to summarize and present the smelly issue at hand (stay away from Never, Always and Should).

6. Love.  What are you crazy?  Love my co-worker, boss, workplace nemesis?  I don’t know why it works but if you decide you love someone, even your worst enemy ,the whole thing just works better.  Maybe it’s ch’i, but mentally embracing the other person (do not do this literally…for obvious reasons) helps you to be open to the possibilities; love your enemy.  Bob may never include you on the email with the financial reports but if you love him, it dampens down the resentment and blasts open the possibility of resolution. This also helps with #4.

7. Do it.  When you have completed the preceding steps; just do it.  Have the conversation.  Stay open minded and believe in a positive outcome.  Sometimes, OK a lot of times, it’s a complete surprise to the other person.  But it’s amazing how often people tip toe around an issue, especially a smelly one, and the offending person, had no idea that they angered you or that several people were avoiding them.  Most of the time people don’t realize how they are perceived and want to do their best.  Nine times out of ten, they apologize.  Give them the chance.

This might be messy the first, second or third time around.  But this is going to build trust in the long run.  You will be the Go-To person for conflict resolution and honest constructive feedback.  Slay the elephant.

Let me know what you think.  What workplace conflict are you dealing with?

 

Silo Busting

Silos crop up in organizations when there is a lack of trust.  Departments, regions and co-workers try desperately to mark their territory and keep a tight fist on resources and information.  It’s not a healthy situation.  This results in closed doors, back stabbing and, frequently, loss of good personnel.  They take off for more forthcoming, open organizations.

Silos in your personal life crop up when you don’t tell your husband about the exam your son failed at school.  Why bring him into it?  He’ll probably get angry.  Your son will get embarrassed and defensive.  Let’s just put up a wall on the information to keep the peace.  Suddenly you’ve laid your first brick in your own personal silo.  The “keep bad news away from Dad’ silo.  In the long run, when someone finds out who knew what and when, the trust might be irreparable.

So how do you go about some silo busting?  Here are some ideas

1. Open.  Be open with your communication.  This can be difficult; especially, if the culture is to keep your cards close.  It starts with you.  If you just got some information that might negatively affect the business or one department in particular.  Take the first step and be open with the information.

2. Drop.  As in drop the assumptions.  This moment never happened before.  You really don’t know how that manager, child or customer might react.  You might have an educated guess but leave your assumptions out of it.  They are frequently a self fulfilling prophecy.  “Suzie always gets angry when I mention the sales forecast.”  Hmmm, regardless of Suzie’s reaction you are going to be looking to fulfill your assumption and any reaction Suzie has will be categorized in your mind as “anger”.

3. Love.  Sounds crazy but I do this especially if I am angry with a colleague (or ex) .  I imagine myself embracing them.  It’s hard to throw someone under the bus if you recently imagined embracing them.  We are all human and deserve caring folks around us.  It’s real hard to lay the first brick of a silo if you promote a caring culture.

4. Share.  This straight out of the “Essentials of Leadership” from Development Dimensions International,  “Share thoughts, feelings and rationale.”  It builds trust.  Explain to your husband why you were reluctant (feelings) to tell him about the failing test score.  Tell your colleague why (rationale) you would like to delay the project.  Trusting environments rarely have silos.

5. Promoter.  Be a promoter within your work group.  Make sure your employees are drinking the same Kool-Aid.  If your employees know that you are an open book on information and resources, they will follow suit.  Do not reward those who withhold important information to other departments.   It starts with you

6. Vacuum.  Don’t tolerate a vacuum on information or resources.  Take a deep breath and take the first step (this is more difficult for some of us who hate rocking the boat).  Pick up the phone or, better yet, (if you can) go be eyeball to eyeball with that guy you think is trying to build a silo.  “Hey Joe, I haven’t heard the status on Project X and my understanding is that you do….what gives?”  Be a silo preventer.

Depending on the organization, work unit or family culture, this can be difficult.  You can’t choose your family but you can choose the organization you work for.  If you are sensing there are too many silos and there aren’t any silo busters like you around?  The best strategy might be finding a place without any silos.

Unresolved Conflict: The Elephant in the Room

As a restaurant owner and Human Resource professional over the past 20 plus years, I’ve seen plenty of unresolved workplace conflict.  It’s like the kitchen garbage can with rotting shrimp shells in the bottom; everyone smells it but no one wants to deal with it.  So we let it fester and things fester.

Blood pressure rises, people start avoiding each other, less eye contact; our mind goes wild with what we figure the other person is thinking.  We think we know their true motivation as the paranoia mounts.

There were countless times I was brought in to end the avoidance….to get to the bottom of the smelly mess.  So how do you handle the conflict?  Here are some tried and true maneuvers:

1. Timing is everything.  Don’t talk to someone when they just get back from vacation and are buried in email and return phone calls.  Give them a day or two to dig out and take a temperature check.  Read their body language.  A little tension in the shoulders…using short curt sentences….relax and wait.  Sense of humor is back?  Just got a great sales report?  This might be your opening.

2. Privacy.  This  cannot be emphasized enough.  Don’t bring up the smelly issue in front of or within ear shot of any other human being.  Never.  Ever.   Their listening skills will be out to lunch and their blood pressure will shoot up.  No one likes to be embarrassed and if there is even the slightest chance that UPS delivery guy might walk by; relax and wait.

3. Facts.  Research your smelly issue thoroughly.  No hunches.  No assumptions.  No jumping to conclusions.  Do your best reconnaissance…you watch CSI…investigate.  This is especially true in the “he said, she said, they said and we said” type of smelly issue.  Find any and all witnesses and alleged witnesses (can’t tell you how many times in a harassment investigation that the “alleged witness” wasn’t even at work that day).  Don’t go at fact finding to just make sure you are“right”.

4. Suspend Assumptions. This goes closely with #3 but it’s imperative that you don’t decide the other person’s motivation; their ulterior motives.  You’ll have them being one step below Bernie Madoff if you’re not careful.  Empty your head of all your negative stereo types….like “Joe is always out for himself” or “Suzy is out to get me”….really?  You know all that?  As Byron Katie says at her website “the work”…”Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” Turn off mister ego and shut down your assumption machine.

5. Craft.  Think it through.  How are you going to broach the subject?  Maybe test the waters with another agenda item that isn’t confrontational like “I want to thank you for your help on the turnover report.  It really saved me some time and I got a chance to work on a more pressing project”.  A sincere, specific compliment is a nice lead in.  I can hear you nay-sayers out there…but I can’t think of anything nice to say.  Revisit #4.  Phrase the issue in terms of the other person’s viewpoint.  What is a reasonable explanation for their egregious act?  Give them an out like, “I’m sure you didn’t realize that when I was excluded from the finance team, I felt like you didn’t trust me”, or “I don’t think you are aware but when you told Suzy about the layoff plan, she assumed her job was in jeopardy”.  Think it through and craft the one or two sentences (no more) to summarize and present the smelly issue at hand (stay away from Never, Always and Should).

6. Love.  What are you crazy?  Love my co-worker, boss, workplace nemesis?  I don’t know why it works but if you decide you love someone, even your worst enemy ,the whole thing just works better.  Maybe it’s ch’i, but mentally embracing the other person (do not do this literally…for obvious reasons) helps you to be open to the possibilities; love your enemy.  Bob may never include you on the email with the financial reports but if you love him, it dampens down the resentment and blasts open the possibility of resolution. This also helps with #4.

7. Do it.  When you have completed the preceding steps; just do it.  Have the conversation.  Stay open minded and believe in a positive outcome.  Sometimes, OK a lot of times, it’s a complete surprise to the other person.  But it’s amazing how often people tip toe around an issue, especially a smelly one, and the offending person, had no idea that they angered you or that several people were avoiding them.  Most of the time people don’t realize how they are perceived and want to do their best.  Nine times out of ten, they apologize.  Give them the chance.

This might be messy the first, second or third time around.  But this is going to build trust in the long run.  You will be the Go-To person for conflict resolution and honest constructive feedback.  Slay the elephant.

Let me know what you think.  What workplace conflict are you dealing with?