Empathy matters

Let me begin by confessing that I’m a bit of an idiot sometimes…

Long story short, I had an iPhone from Verizon that ran out of contract. I found a new carrier that wouldn’t lock me into a 2 year contract. If you know anything about people born after 1978, you know that we don’t really like anyone to tie us down. Oh, and it’s roughly 1/2 price from what Big Red was charging me.

verizonAs a part of the switch, I ordered a new SIM card, popped it in, and then got an error message that this card wouldn’t work because my carrier had to unlock the phone. No problem, right? The phone was paid for.

When that happened, it ported my number from Verizon as if the SIM card worked. Because it didn’t work, I now have a service with a new carrier but no phone that will allow me to use it. That’s when I called Verizon…

“We don’t do that,” the customer service agent said, “we only unlock it if you’re going overseas and want to get a carrier over there.”

Funny thing is, the other carriers will unlock an iPhone, but Verizon says they won’t. Hmmmm…

What emotions do you think I felt?

Yep, all of those. It’s been a few days now (without a cell phone – man I’m in the stone ages) and I’ve had time for my lizard brain to subside and my adult brain kick in. It got me to thinking about empathy.

You see, before this, I wouldn’t have thought much about a company basically refusing to release something that I gave them hard earned money for. Heck, Wouldn’t have crossed my mind because that would be practically stealing! Not so anymore.

Unfortunately, I had to experience first hand the experience of dealing with a company policy that makes me feel like I’m dealing with a thief, or at the very least, a company who doesn’t care even a little bit about me as a customer.

This, however, is not Empathy, it’s Sympathy. Sympathy is feeling the same thing as someone else because you’ve felt it. Empathy is understanding that feeling without ever having necessarily felt that yourself.

I do not have enough empathy. In my job working with successful corporate leaders, I find that my problem is a common one. That’s no excuse; I need more.

Ask yourself, do I empathize? Can I understand and anticipate the way people feel, even if I don’t feel the same way? If you’re a leader, you should probably ask a series of questions like this:

What are we doing that makes people angry? Sad? Frustrated? Feel less important?

I’ll bet that there are great people at Verizon. I’ll bet that some of them can sympathize with my situation. It appears that the problem is that the leaders of that particular company have an Empathy gap. They only see things in terms of dollars and cents and haven’t been able to see what their customer is experiencing. That’s a shame.

Puppy empathySo thanks, Verizon, for helping me stop a minute and think. I am trying to “Make progress every day.”

What about you? Do you have empathy? If so, we need to talk. I have to get better at this if I’m going to serve the way I need to serve. Let’s connect!

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Can’t see the trees for the forest

forestI know this is backwards. Follow me here…

I’m working with a very high level team of people doing a session to help them understand each other better and ultimately drive better business results.

Individually, they’re all top performers who understand the business and think at a very high level. As a group, they aren’t clicking on all cylinders. The good news, is they want to get better. The bad news, they don’t realize where they are.

After using a few individual and team assessments, it’s evident that they collectively think they are a very high functioning team. Realistically, they’re not as highly functioning as they might think.

Where’s the gap?

Most people struggle with thinking at a high enough level. Sometimes, it’s possible to think too highly…

Make sure you’re taking time to notice areas that could be improved. Yes, you have to focus on business results; however, the areas of communication and real teamwork can take a backseat. The danger here is missing opportunities that would actually make the business better.

Communication and teamwork provide candor, feedback, new ideas, less downtime due to silos, etc.

What are you doing to work at being a better team? If you don’t, you’ll likely only see the forest – and miss the trees. Without the trees, it’s not a forest…

Top 5 things I’ve learned working here:

Today’s my last day.

No, not from this site (sorry), but from my current role teaching leadership and management in the government sector.

On Monday, I’ll start my new role as AVP of Learning and Talent Development for an awesome company here in Birmingham. I am very excited to be trekking back over into the private sector to head up their leadership development programs.

As I’m cleaning out my office today, I’ve been looking back over the last few months and trying to reflect upon some the lessons I’ve learned. I’ve been able to learn from people I work for, people I work with, and people I’ve taught.

Lessons learned (in no particular order):

  1. Make time for fun. Spending time in the classroom, I know that having fun and being engaged is essential to learning. If I want to continue learning in my new spot, or even in life, I must be engaged and have fun.
  2. Expect more from people and they’ll deliver. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a great team for a great leader. My immediate manager has made it very clear that he expects us to deliver great product. It doesn’t matter how we get there, just get there. And you know what? It works!
  3. Connect with your team and you’ll be connected. Duh, right? Easy to say; not so easy to do. Everyone can’t be on the team. You should include everyone, but learn who gets it and who doesn’t when you’re trying to move something forward. Often times it’s easier to focus on those who tell you why things can’t change than to run with the folks who are changing things.
  4. Make a difference everyday…even if it doesn’t feel like it’s working. Some days are better than others, no doubt, but as Bob Ferrell say, “Show enthusiasm…I didn’t say be enthusiastic.” His point is that it’s always a show, whether or not you feel like performing.
  5. Practice what you preach. Often, people say “those who can’t do teach.” I can say whole heartedly that you’re going to make much more of an impact than you can imagine if you practice what you preach. It’s easy to say the right things but much harder to live them. I saw that 1st hand when my manger found out I was moving on. We’re good friends and I know he’s sad to see me go, but he’s been genuinely excited for me. Here’s a link to his philosophy. I know for a fact that he lives this. I hope I can always model the behavior I’ve see in him.

I’ve learned countless other things, but these are the 1st 5 I got down on paper. I’m sure I’ll share a few more pretty soon.

See you on the flip side!

FISO – Fit In before you Stand Out

“You have to Fit In before you can Stand Out.”

This is a lesson that one of my really smart grad school professors taught me. I certainly think it’s true. Here’s why:

Anytime we take on a new role, whether it’s a new job, new volunteer position, a new anything, there are a couple of things we need to remember:

  1. There are established group norms that you need to understand. It’s a challenge when you jump in with a new perspective and identify problems that need to be fixed. To be successful long term, you need to operate within the framework that exists. Otherwise, you’ll alienate people and make it very difficult to change anything.
  2. As a leader, you inspire people and lead them from where they are. Think about it. If I told you that the way you’d been doing things is completely wrong and you were obviously not as smart as I am since you’re doing it that way, you’d totally blow me off, right? That’s kind of what happens without people saying it out loud. You must build alliances before you go into battle.
  3. You cannot have my mind, until you have my heart. That’s something that many people just don’t understand. There is no shortage of good ideas. There is a shortage of good ideas that are effectively implemented. If you don’t win me over as a person, I don’t give two hoots about your ideas. The upside to this is that when you have won my heart, I’ll go with you and fight for you in ways you never thought possible.

As you move into anything new, look for ways to FISO. Small wins early mean much more than a big “win” that costs you long term.

You’re smart. You’ve got great ideas. You’ve got what it takes…if you’re patient. As a Gen Y, that’s not the way we’re wired. Ironically enough, that is the way we’re led.

You want to contribute. You want to make a difference. You want to be valued and appreciated. So does the new team you’re on.

What do you think? Does FISO sound credible to you?

How’s your vision?

I’m surprised how few people know the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement; however, I’m even more surprised that people don’t have their own, personal vision and mission statement.

If Gen Y can get this right at our age, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish. It focuses us. Can you even imagine how much we can do if we’re focused in an A.D.D. world.

Let’s start the discussion with definitions:

Vision Statement: This simple ONE sentence tells where exactly you want to be.

It’s the WHY behind everything. You should be able to look at that statement and ask yourself the same question anytime you have a decision to make.

“How does this decision move me closer towards that vision?”

Mission Statement: ONE (or possibly 2) sentences that explains the things you do regularly to achieve your mission.

This is the HOW you are going to get there. It involves activities that contribute to the end result you’ve laid out in the vision statement.

Believe it or not, it’s much easier to do this for an organization than it is for an individual…Especially if you’re a Gen-Y. We hate commitment. This sounds an awfully lot like a rule/chain and we’d rather not be tied down.

GOOD NEWS! It’s not a rule, it’s a principle.

Principles guide you in your decisions. No matter where you are in life, you can still use your vision.

Write it out. Maybe think of it as pre-writing your tombstone quote. What do you want people to remember about you? Better yet, what do you want to be? (hint: rich sounds stupid on a tombstone)

I think a great vision is used by my church. It’s simply “To be found faithful as God’s people.” No matter what else, every member of the organization can ask themselves with every decision I make, does this help me to be found faithful as God’s people?

What about you? Do you have a Personal Vision Statement? If not, do you think it could help you understand where you’re going and make decisions along the way?

I do.

Motivation in the workplace

Today, I was teaching a class on Motivation in the workplace. I asked the class to raise their hand if they knew what their organizations mission & vision was…

Crickets…

That’s really, really sad! How can people make effective contributions if they don’t know which way the organization is headed?

Regardless of the generation, people need to understand the ‘WHY’ before they can figure out the what.

Oh, they’ll put in the hours and they’ll do their jobs well enough to not get fired, and they might even work hard enough to do their job well.

But they won’t really buy-in.

A few days ago, we talked about the importance of getting their heart before you get their head. The great thing about getting the heart is that the soul follows. Everyone wants to pour their soul into something but few people make that something their work.

I’m not talking about life-work balance (and yes, I said that in the correct order), but rather connecting with the mission in a way that it becomes part of your life. When that happens, your organization can tackle anything.

I’m a GenY. For us, it’s more important than ever to tie the mission to our job. Without a purpose, we do things like quit, check out, surf FB, text our friends and tell them how miserable we are, and so on. If we have purpose, we’ll still surf FB and text our friends, but it’ll be to tell them how AWESOME our job is and how much we love it.

When’s the last time you heard that? Does your organization tie its mission and values to everyday work? Are people so excited to make a difference that they’ll think about it long after 5:00pm?

Do you even know your mission? Can you tell me what it is? Not verbatim, but really tell me what it means?

People can’t get there if they don’t know the destination.

Gen Y: DY lk me? txt Y or N

So today I attended a networking class. I was surprised at the audience. Of all the people present, guess how many were Gen Y???

None.

Surprising isn’t it. I KNOW! Why wouldn’t we show up for a free class teaching people how to network and get their name out there? 

2 reasons:

  1. We are the connected generation – and by connected, I mean disconnected.
  2. We are convinced that our work will speak for itself so we don’t need to connect.

Let’s talk about the 1st.

For Gen Y, connectedness (calm down spell check, I made it up) is our strong suit, right? Wrong. Today, many people judge their influence by Twitter followers or FB friends but in actuality, how many of those people could you call if you needed a job or broke down on the side of the road and they’d come get you? Although we are more connected with technology than any generation before us, all it takes is a quick #GenY search on Twitter to find blog after blog from Gen Y people talking about how lonely we really are.

FB friends ≠ friends

The good news is Gen Y wants to learn. The bad news is we’ve never had to learn how to network. 

In years past, deals were done on golf courses and racquet clubs but with the globalization occurring all around us, it’s changing. How do we stay connected? How do we network? If we don’t have those cigar smoking boomers to draw us into their inner circles and sponsor our CC memberships, how do we do it ourselves?

Here are 3 tips to successful networking. I know they’re old, but they still work. Continue reading

Gen Y believes they ARE working hard and proving themselves…

Managing multiple generationsBoomers believe way to get ahead is to outwork everyone else. They’re the first into the office and the last to leave. As a matter of fact, they are there way before we get there…(that’s how they know we’re 5 minutes late).

Heck, a lot of us think they actually live at the office…guess that explains the smell!

As most experts will tell you, one key piece of motivating Gen Y is to make sure they understand how what they’re doing ties in with the overall organizational goals.

I think the problem is that most organizations either don’t think they don’t need to share the organizational goals with young workers, or they think they have.

Both are usually wrong.

So how are Gen Yers supposed to navigate the organizational landscape? How are we supposed to know what it takes to succeed? The Boomers think we’re too young and the Xers think we’re too dumb to ‘get it’. Unfortunately, the way we act often solidifies the stereotype in their minds.

I know what you’re thinking…”That’s BS!!!” “This is the way I am! My parents told me I could do anything I set my mind to and these yoyos are in the way! Seniority is dumb! Promotions should be based on performance!”

It think all 4 of the generations in the workplace today can agree on one basic thing: Performance should determine your success.

The problem: all 4 define perf./success differently.

Traditionalists: Success = fitting in (almost all are military vets)

Boomers: Success = Job security (achieved by working harder than anyone else)

Gen X: Success = Having the most skills so that you’re marketable to many employers

Gen Y: Success = Making the most impact to the organization – RIGHT NOW!

Who knows how this will shake out over the next few years? I certainly don’t. I do know that these definitions vary wildly and cause a ton of headache in the workplace.

Do you agree? Do you fit into the stereotypical definitions for your generation?

Now let’s talk about how we need to act so that all 4 play nice…someone has to be the leader…why can’t it be us?

GenX: Millennials won’t work for it…

Gen Y navigating their careers(Cont’d from earlier post)

Okay, I’m back. Latte in hand.

You saw it didn’t you? I knew you would.

Problems always occur when we try to superimpose our beliefs onto others.  In this case, I suspected Susan was an Xer from the language. She is explaining to people what she has observed in Gen Y. I don’t disagree with her, except that you have to recognize that everything you view is based on your own perspective.

The statement went like this: “There is an expectation within Gen Y that they should get opportunities rather than prove themselves and work hard.”

That’s the disconnect! Gen Y believes they ARE working hard and proving themselves…

As an Xer, most likely Susan holds a view of achievement being supreme. Promotion is the goal because as you move through your career, that’s how you know you’re winning. Gen X typically feels that they’ve put in their time and will be moving into the most important roles very soon.

As a matter of fact, they’re usually very skeptical because they were already supposed to move into those roles but the Boomers haven’t vacated them. They are especially skeptical of Gen Y because Y enters the workforce and expects to bust all the doors down and take the promotions that X has waited so long to get.

To an Xer (and Boomer for that matter), you can’t have expertise without experience. I think you see that evidenced in the grumbling in the workplace as well as the labeling of Millennials as lazy, ME generation, Entitled, etc. Sound familiar?

In certain roles, more experience means more expertise, but I’d argue that those walls are being quickly torn down.

Information is power, right?

Experience vs ExpertiseShould I use leeches to get the ‘bad blood’ out as a new doctor just because a bunch of experienced doctors thought it was a good idea? Of course not! I can read and know it’s a bad idea.

Sure, Y needs your expertise, but we don’t want your experience unless we see how that experience gives knowledge we can’t attain otherwise. If you want us to see things your way, you have to connect the dots. Right now, Seems like there were tons of experienced people who told a certain guy he couldn’t run a 4 minute mile…after all, no one had done it…he didn’t have the experience…

To Gen Y, promotions and advancement should be based on performance…right now, not over the last 13 years…and if I’m killing it more than you, I should get it (Don’t worry, I’ll be bored in 6 months and you can have it then!).

My goal here is not to bash her or Gen X. As a matter of fact, I applaud her for trying to understand what makes Gen Y tick and the more people are willing to put their perspectives out there, the easier it’s going to be to get things done. That’s where we’re headed with these posts.

There are 4 distinct generations in the workplace today.

That’s never happened before. No wonder there’s such grief over Gen Y. Xers thought they would only have to deal with Boomers and then eventually hand over the reigns to Gen Y in their golden years. Uh oh! Missed it on that one.

My goal: Help Gen Y navigate their careers and step on a few less landmines.

Let’s talk about where to go from here, shall we? Xer hang on, I promise I’ll try to redeem myself…

Gen Y: Unwilling to prove themselves and work hard

Gen Y motivationGen Y wants everything right now and isn’t willing to work for it.

That’s the statement I read when reading an article that was interviewing a woman who was responsible for recruiting for an Accounting firm. I don’t know who she is (I purposefully didn’t Google her) but I do know she’s an Xer. How?

  1. The article said she’d been recruiting for 18 yrs.
  2. Most importantly, this is a quote I pulled from her interview:

Gen Y wants more and believe they deserve it,” she says. “There is an expectation within Gen Y that they should get opportunities rather than prove themselves and work hard. It’s great to have structured expectations and ambitions, but they have to be qualified and deserved.

Eureka! (that means STFU in Boomer talk) That’s the problem! That’s the disconnect! That’s the reason there is such conflict in the workplace when it comes to generations!

Do you see it? It’s right there!

Let me stop here and say that she’s being cited because of her expertise on recruiting Millennials. There are some really good points but I want you to focus on the great point I don’t think she realizes that she’s making.

Go read the article Gen Y: Who? Where? Y? and then we’ll talk. No, really, read it…I’ll wait. Matter of fact, I’m going to get a caffeine fix so take your time…We’ll talk on the next post.