Stop Reading and Start Doing

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I read. A lot. Books, blogs, reports, research. Tweets (of course). You name it; I read it. Throughout my adult life  I’ve believed that I read because I’m curious. I’ve told myself and others that I read because I am a proud life-long learner.

Of course I am both of those things. But if, like me, you spend more time reading than doing, you may detect the deeper problem here — can you spot it?

Truth is, there is a deeper story. I read because I’m scared. I read to avoid what I do best, which is write.  In my moment of truth I had to ask, am I really learning or simply running?

Do you read as a way to postpone real action? It’s cool if you don’t want to raise your hand. I’ll be honest; writing this blog post is uncomfortable. It stirs feelings of shame that here I am — with a God-given talent — and I’m not fully using it. I’m hiding in the pages of someone else’s good writing.

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2010 Advice: Feed Your Starving Staff

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Whether or not you make New Year’s Resolutions, here’s a 2010 leadership resolution I challenge you to make.

Fix Morale.

Morale is a leading indicator of your team’s ability to deliver  game-changing results. Take a good hard look at the individual and collective vibe among your direct reports. Have you fed their confidence or inadvertently starved them in the last year?

Relax, I’m not advocating lofty or poofy “love thy employee” initiatives. This isn’t about an HR-driven campaign. You don’t need posters, pom-poms or anything containing the words success, initiative or move my cheese. Workers don’t need you to announce one more motivational contest that you pulled out of a New York Times bestseller.

Simply pay attention to your people.

Give your employees thoughtful attention.

What is thoughtful attention, you ask? It’s any act on your part that shows you notice the small stuff. Below you’ll find examples that have worked well for me (as both the giver and recipient).  Each action carries an implicit affirmation that your employee matters, not just to an organization but to you.

  1. Tools that enhance their performance
  2. Encouragement and reinforcement
  3. Demonstration of trust

Things to give them = TOOLS

  • Magazine subscription (their pick)
  • Levenger gift certificate (don’t underestimate the power of a nice pen or a Circa notebook)
  • Subscription to an online resource (As a marketer, my faves are Ragan.com and MarketingProfs.com)
  • The Artist’s Way
  • Any book. (Better yet – send them to the bookstore and tell them to expense it)
  • Updated equipment or software (without forcing them to labor over a cost justification, for goodness sakes)

The littlest things can really make  me feel appreciated…new stock photography or fonts, fun notepaper, even desk accessories can make me smile. ~Kim Brandt, marketing manager

Things to Communicate = Encouragement and Reinforcement

  • When you delegate a tough assignment, tell them in ADVANCE they have what it takes
  • Give them a card and in it praise them (Guys, if you do only one thing this year, do this.)
  • Scribble a short “atta boy” on a Post-it note (there’s nothing like it when an employees finds good news stuck to their monitor)
  • Leave a positive voicemail or email in the off hours (it’s a groovy feeling to know your boss is thinking positively about you in his off-time)
  • Take him or her to lunch and talk about what keeps you up at night. Be human.

A gift card to Starbucks and a thank you note for a great job. I will never forget that on my chair. Loved it! ~Travis Hall, designer

Opportunities as Things = TRUST

  • Send them to a workshop or a conference (give her an assignment to bring back one innovative idea that could spark change)
  • Give a change of scenery. Tell her to work at a coffee shop for the afternoon. Or library or anyplace that inspires her (home doesn’t count)
  • Proxy for you in a meeting (then ask for fresh feedback)
  • Ask for input before a company meeting or a speech (“What do you think your coworkers really need me to address?”)
  • Offer your full attention. Use a 1:1 and don’t put them on the spot. Set down the Blackberry. Find out what’s in their way and what they’d do to fix it if they were you.)

    (My boss) is always happy to see me. He tells that he is glad I am part of the team, and he honors how important family is to my life balance. That means a lot to me. ~Brooke Green, business coach

Last but not least, Recognition 101:

  • Restaurant gift certificate (big enough for a splurge)
  • Birthday card (a real card — not a boxed corporate set. And, no, signing the group card doesn’t count)
  • Recognition of their hire date anniversary (These are recurring dates on my calendar, and I still send a note to a few of my former employees who were stars on my team)

Does it sound like work? I hope so, because it is. Good morale requires care and feeding like any relationship.

In the successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention. ~Lou Holtz

Here’s the good news, size doesn’t matter when it comes to thoughtful attention. The beauty resides in the detail. So wake up and start paying attention.  Let me know if you need more suggestions.

Powerful Clicks: 5 Great People, Causes or Concepts

Here are the people, articles or topics that stopped me in my tracks this week.

Threads of Love

This weekend, my mother-in-law was knitting a baby’s cap, small enough to cover the tiny head of a 2 1/2 pound premature infant. She doesn’t know the name of the baby who will wear the cap, nor whether the premature infant is struggling to live or has died from complications.

threadsofloveNone of that matters, because Katie does it out of love as do the other women in the  local Threads of Love chapter.

Threads of Love, a non-denominational organization, began in Baton Rouge, La., in 1993 to provide handsewn clothing, blankets and other items for tiny premature and sick infants.  Today, there are 162 chapters across the United States, Canada and Europe.

As you’ll see from their website, this is a simple group without a lot of bells and whistles. Everything is donated, and if you can count to five, they can put you to work.  Threads of Love simply extends the priceless gift of comfort (and prayer) during a time of uncertainty for parents who have just lost, or may lose, their newborn.

When I asked my mother-in-law if she prayers while she knits the little pastel-colored caps, she smiled and said, “Oh, of course I do.” Knowing what a faith-filled woman she is, I have no doubt that the parents of that little 2 1/2 pound baby will sense the unconditional goodwill  tucked into every stitch.

Dan Caro

dancarofacebookYou’ll think twice about uttering another wimpy, ridiculous excuse after you encounter Dan Caro.  A freak  flash fire engulfed Dan at the age of 2, and it burned 80% of his body and took both of his hands and feet.

His harrowing treatments and rehabilitation didn’t deter him from fulfilling his dream of becoming a musician and drummer. I dare you to “meet” Dan without shedding a tear. You’ll resolve to look differently at the challenges at your doorstep.

P.S. I discovered Dan while watching Dr. Wayne Dyer’s latest PBS program called Excuses, Begone. If you see it, stop and watch it.

Carolene Mays

Indianapolis Woman

Indianapolis Woman

There are no chance encounters, so when I met firecracker-of-a-woman Carolene at the June 4  Whale Hunting Women Summit, I took notes.  Mays choreographed the turnaround of the Indianapolis Recorder as the CEO/Publisher of the nation’s third oldest African-American publication.

Impressive? Yes. But that’s the least of her story.   Mays survived life-threatening domestic violence, which fuels her efforts to tighten domestic violence legislation. See her influence in Indiana Senate Bill 32.

Every year, 5.3 million women are abused. This isn’t just a dark horror for the victims; domestic violence creates a costly ripple across society. The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking, and homicide by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year.  Carolene inspired me to learn more and pass it on.

Sharp Brains

SharpBrains is the leading research group that focuses on cognitive science and neuroscience, specializing in the areas of education and health care. Their brand new book about brain fitness shot them to the top of my Top 5 Click List. SharpBrainsGuidetoBrainFitness2

Even if you aren’t reading it as a parent, educator or trainer, you’ve got your own brain to think about — and you’ll be amazed at how much influence you have over the health and longevity of your noggin.

It is simply impossible to walk away from this book without seeing an exciting glimpse of what’s possible for everything from attention disorders, the aging population, to Alzheimer’s patients and brain-trauma recovery.

Ten Rules for Being Human

I found this thanks to a tweet from Tim Ferriss (author of The 4 Hour Work Week).