The Energizer

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

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What sparks divergent paths in life?

By Eileen McDargh - Monday, December 09, 2019

My colleague Susan Fowler has written a thought provoking article that I asked to share with my readers.  Susan tells the story of Tiffany Haddish a breakout star on television and in movies.  Tiffany had a terrible childhood while being shuttled from one foster home to another. Rather than living a life of misery Tiffany grew stronger and wiser.  I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did. 

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In Tough Times—Silence Is NOT Golden

By Eileen McDargh - Monday, December 02, 2019

In the face of any economic downturn, far too many organizations respond in knee-jerk reaction to the thought of holding all but the smallest of meetings. Training budgets are slashed. Employees hunker behind their desk, hoping that no one from HR can find them or else they’re huddled around a PDA, text messaging about possible layoff scenarios, pending mergers, or hiring freezes. Performance? Productivity? I think not.

Now more than ever, managers at all levels of the organization need to do that which separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom: TALK!

Here’s why:

(1) In the absence of information, we connect the dots in the most pathological way possible. 

(2) E-mail works fine for data but when emotions are involved, only face-to-face really carries the day. 

(3) There’s a huge benefit when people gather to share ideas, brainstorm new procedures, learn more about team members, have questions answered, or explore ways to streamline work loads. 

(4) Smart companies will use this downtime to cross train, to coach for performance and career development, and involve employees in corporate decisions. 

(5) Diverse perspectives are critical for innovation and these are best gleaned through conversation. Bottom Line: The organization will have a solid, committed employee base, poised to move into front position when the turnaround comes. But this will only happen if TALK becomes the preferred vehicle of communication.

Four Communication strategies to increase your Talk Quotient (TQ).

STRATEGY # 1: CONDUCT A TALKING STICK MEETING A talking stick meeting allows everyone to hear a wide variety of ideas and inputs because each person who “holds the stick” is assured free speech, no reprisals, no humiliations, and no interruptions. Many native American tribes used the stick as a way of allowing all voices to be heard.

Talking Stick Meeting Checklist:

(1) Create a focus question to present to the group, assuring them that all are invited to speak, without interruption or humiliation.

(2) Form a real circle with everyone in the circle. This brings equality.



(3) When everyone who wishes to has spoken, summarize the conversation and what you will do with the information.

STRATEGY #2: SEEK OUT THE “ORANGE BATONS”

If you happen to get a window seat on a plane that is coming into the terminal, look out and find the man or woman who is guiding a 737 aircraft (weighing over 90,710 pounds) into position. Those small orange batons wield plenty of authority in the moment. And well they should. You see, there’s a line painted on the tarmac to show exactly where the front wheel of the 737 MUST stop. Otherwise, passengers at the gate literally would have a pilot in their laps.

The problem: the pilot sits too high to see that line. 

The pilot depends upon the “orange Batons” - those closest to the situation-to move the craft into position. Everyone has orange batons in the workplace. The higher up an organization a manager sits, the more crucial is the conversation. As customers, we’ve all been privy to disgruntled customer service reps who can’t help us because senior managers have created practices that tie their hands. Recently, I asked to speak to the support service personnel on a Delta Sky Miles Account. The agent informed me that even THEY can’t TALK to support personnel. “We can only use FAX and Courier service,” was the response. I was angry and so was the agent. “They” had made decisions without asking the Orange Batons what the ramifications might be.



STRATEGY #3 PAY ATTENTION TO LITTLE DAVIDS

When Patrick Harker, now the former Dean of Wharton School, was asked what made the critical difference in the school’s most successful fund-raising campaign ($425 million in six years), he replied that he made it a priority to engage the next generation of alumni leadership. Listening to the voice of David is a tradition from the Middle Ages and the Benedictines. The abbot of a monastery made decisions after getting the input from all the monks, beginning with the youngest monk. Had the elders in the Old Testament listened to the young kid with the slingshot, the giant Goliath would have been dispatched quickly. 

Little David was right, but it took time for the tribe to understand that young (or new) did not mean “unskilled.”

Who are the newest and/or youngest on the team-your David’s? It is often the newest members who ask the most discerning questions. They are not jaded by politics, the past, or protocol. Ask them for their opinions. Tell them that you expect them to teach you something at the end of three months. I guarantee that those employees will search high and wide to bring you innovation or, at the very least, an insight into some of your procedures, products, or services.

“Words of wisdom are spoken by children at least as often as scientists.”
-James Newman, American Astronaut 

STRATEGY #4 LAUGHTER LIFTS THE LOAD

In tough times, humor is an essential survival skill. Talk can also be funny. Not the sarcastic biting humor of put-downs and inside jokes, but rather the humor that can lighten a difficult situation or put something in perspective. A travel agency was known for helping its agents get through difficult customers by awarding the Order of the SALMON. At the end of the week, agents would know which agent had the most challenging week with customers yet still managed to keep a positive interaction going. With much fanfare, the agent explained the challenge and was urged to exaggerate and use as much humor as possible. She was then awarded a plastic salmon for her ability to SWIM UP STREAM.

Being able to talk about the week, laugh at the difficulties, and be rewarded for staying calm helped generate both fun and connection within the office. 

Laughter can put people at ease if it is used to acknowledge what everyone is thinking. I was asked to speak at a convention in which the main session room temperature hovered around 50 degrees. People were wrapped in tablecloths. By the end of the second day, it still had not warmed up. When it was my turn to talk, I welcomed them by saying, “Welcome to the land of the frozen chosen.” Gales of laughter and applause burst out. It made a point. The attendees were CHOSEN to be there. It was a privilege.

Humor also lets us divide the serious from the mundane. Yes-the room was way too cold. But in the scheme of things, it was not as important as gathering to work out a new marketing strategy. Humor can also point out the trite and the silly things we all do in work, relieve tension, and probably improve a process. When one group acted out a very funny skit around the various voice mail doom loops a customer had to go through in order to get to a human being, everyone laughed and the system changed in short order.

BREAK THE SILENCE

The last challenge will be pulling people away from their PDAs and text messaging to actually have a conversation. A number of organizations are experimenting with “topless” meetings-as in laptop-less meetings. San Francisco design firm, Adaptive Path, has also put a crackdown on “crackberries”, as President Todd Wilkens calls them in his company-wide blog. He claims that people now look each other in the eye, develop closer connections and meetings are more productive. Productivity? Performance? If the talk quotient is increase, you bet. Talk might very well become the golden key.

 

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Turkey Trot Humor Brings a Message for Resilient Living

By Eileen McDargh - Monday, November 25, 2019

When I laced up my running shoes and headed down to Dana Point Harbor on Thanksgiving morning, I did experience a twinge of regret. No Thanksgiving at my house. A broken hot water pipe under the floor of my kitchen and dining room had turned my gorgeous wood floor into splinters. Restoration crews had already yanked out my cabinets and an environmental team was scheduled to show up the next day to break into walls and determine mold damage. 

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Bad Examples Are Great Teachers

By Eileen McDargh - Monday, November 18, 2019

Positive role models are always touted. But I believe, we can learn just as much—if not more—from negative examples. What do we NOT want to do? How do we NOT want to behave? These lessons are often more powerful and easier to grasp.  

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Top Two Critical Workplace Skills Needed in 2020

By Eileen McDargh - Monday, November 11, 2019

The Institute for the Future teamed up with the University of Phoenix Research Institute to pinpoint critical skills essential to thrive in 2020. Here are the top two: Sense-Making and Social Intelligence. 

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Help! A Vegan is Coming for Dinner!!!

By Eileen McDargh - Monday, November 04, 2019

Time to throw down the towel and admit there are some events in life over which I have no clue and stand helpless. Perhaps you have had them, too. This is the time when you frantically search your data base or your brain and say, “Now, who can help me?” 

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Getting Back on Schedule

By Eileen McDargh - Monday, October 28, 2019

One would think that with September behind us, all the scheduling for school events, business meetings, business trips, and project deadlines would be complete. Alas, work is never done and what we think was a manageable load becomes the creeping embers for potential burnout.  

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Employee Health Improves with Kindness

By Eileen McDargh - Monday, October 21, 2019

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that a $20 million gift is funding a UCLA institute studying the benefits of doing good for others. While skeptics might consider this just another California “woo woo” experiment, an interdisciplinary research approach is discovering that kindness to others alters genes that can lead to heart disease and certain cancers.  

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Guest Post: Excerpt Of The Intelligent Leader

By Eileen McDargh - Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My colleague, John Mattone, has graciously allowed us to offer an excerpt of his new book The Intelligent Leader: Unlocking The Secrets To Leading Others And Leaving Your Legacy.  Resilient organizations must have excellent leaders who find and keep outstanding employees.  John shares what it takes to unlock leadership talent. 

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The Words We Use Shape Our World

By Eileen McDargh - Monday, October 14, 2019

We have all heard the expression: “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.” The same thing applies to words that we toss around so casually. Words color our imagination and evoke emotions. In fact, someone said recently said to me, “Don’t look for deficiencies. Look for proficiency.” The simple word changed my thought process. 

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