Make Kindness Count


Show kindness to the people you come into contact with each day and you’re doing something thoughtful for both them and yourself. That sounds like a pretty good thing to me. Showing some kindness to customers, co-workers, animals, the environment, strangers, friends and family; it all translates into making the day a better one for all involved.

Need some ideas to get you going? Fair enough. Please comment and add some of your own and pass this piece on to others – maybe an act of kindness on your part!

  1. As you approach a door, take a glimpse behind you to see if there isn’t someone you can hold the door open for. Whether you let them pass ahead of you or you enter first and hold it ajar for them, it delays you for 4 seconds tops.
  2. Acknowledge people with a smile as you walk along a street. Some of the most fragile people in our society feel completely invisible. Yes, something as simple as eye contact and a smile conveys, “I see you” and sends a positive vibe.
  3. Send an email to one person today expressing something you admire in them.
  4. Leave a note of appreciation for the night cleaners who empty your garbage can, dust your furniture, clean your cubicle or office. You may never meet them, but you can imagine the surprise when out of the blue someone unexpectedly says thanks.
  5. Get up and offer your seat to others when on transit. Be they elderly, pregnant, in poor health, or perhaps entirely able-bodied and young, it’s still a nice thing to do. Kindness doesn’t discriminate.
  6. Drop your change into the charity collection box which is probably on the counter by the cashier or just under the drive-thru window.
  7. Turn the tables on the drive-thru employee and as they hand your food to you, look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for this! I hope YOU have a great day!”
  8. If you hear the recycling and garbage trucks coming up the street, walk out to meet the people picking up what you’re disposing of and thank them for doing their job.
  9. On a blistering hot summers day, offer the people picking up your trash a bottle of cold water.
  10. About that clerical support you benefit from each day; tell them how much you appreciate what they do just loud enough so a few of the people around them hear the praise. Keep it genuine and short.
  11. Go through your clothes closet when there’s a change of seasons and bag up any items you no longer wear and drop them off in a charity box or second hand store. Be kind; wash and dry them first.
  12. When others are rude, give them the kindness they may not deserve anyhow. What they are doing might be entirely out of their norm, they might be under extreme stress and pressure.
  13. Schedule family time and make family a priority.
  14. Cut your lawn and keep your weeds down. Neighbours will thank you.
  15. Put a lid on your recycling bin if it doesn’t have one. No one appreciates picking up your plastics and paper which has blown all over the neighbourhood.
  16. Let the faster vehicles pass unimpeded. Does it really matter if you’re not the fastest car? This keeps their road rage down, gets speeders out of your rear view mirror and if someone’s going to get a ticket, let it be them! Be kind to yourself.
  17. Cook dinner; something they love even if you don’t.
  18. Clean up your room without being asked. This goes whether you’re 14 years old at home or 47 years old at the office.
  19. Acknowledge the customer in line if you can’t get to them immediately.
  20. Answer the phone with a smile; it translate better on the other end even though they can’t see your face.
  21. When a co-worker has a particularly challenging time with a problem, offer to lend a hand.
  22. When you walk in to the boss with a problem, have a possible solution to suggest.
  23. Share the road with others whether they are on a bike, walking, jogging, driving a car or truck.
  24. Keep from getting behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking or using drugs. Whether on the lake or the roadways, you’re endangering lives and risking hurting the ones who care about you back home.
  25. If the food or service isn’t up to par, let owners know without being rude, loud or obnoxious. Take the high road and tell them in a helpful way so they can be better.
  26. Thank the newspaper carrier, the postal worker, the hair stylist, the car wash and gas station attendant.
  27. Extend an apology when you know you had a part to play in what went wrong.
  28. Give credit where credit is due.
  29. Praise publicly.
  30. Discipline privately.
  31. When you ask someone, “How are you?” stick around long enough to hear the reply.
  32. Make time for the people you don’t have time for.
  33. Do something fun for no other reason.
  34. Get healthy so you’re around for those who love you and would miss you.
  35. Visit dad and mom; call if you can’t.
  36. Laugh often; your heart will thank you.
  37. Bag your own groceries and speed up the checkout line.
  38. That check out line for people with 1-12 items is for people with 1-12 items.
  39. Recognize the good in others and the good in yourself.
  40. Pat the dog and get out for a walk.

 

 

Believe In Yourself, Then Get Going!


“It doesn’t matter if I believe in myself or not because that doesn’t change the fact that other people are holding me back, denying me my chances. Bitter? I’ve got every right to be. Unemployed, no job interview in years; at my age who’s going to hire me now? I haven’t got a hope. I might as well just pack it in and give up.”

The above pretty much is word for word what I was told by someone out-of-work recently. Examining what was said, breaking it down into pieces, here’s what I see as issues:

  • no personal accountability
  • self-perception as too old
  • loss of hope
  • bitter, frustrated attitude
  • lack of interview experience (perhaps fearful as a result)
  • unemployed

That’s a quick summation of what’s been expressed. I wonder as you read those words if you did so in your own voice or if you imagined another? Did you picture the speaker and if you did so, what did they look like? Have you pictured a woman or a man and how old did you create them in your mind? 64? 60? 58?

The above statement came from the mouth of a man of 51. His prevailing attitude is unfortunately his biggest problem because quite frankly he’s projecting a strong, negative image. An employer would find him a tremendous turnoff for he comes across as a cancerous virus, dumping his negatively on everyone he interacts with. He’s got a self-imposed scowl on his face, appears to look at people with smug disdain, and there’s no way he would be welcomed into a workforce for fear he’d infect those around him. Even though he’s of average height, he somehow appears to look down on those around him.

The irony is that he’s got job-ready skills and experience. The bitterness he’s carrying around with him however has left him with no patience for tailoring his résumé to each job. This he declares is an utter waste of his time. I didn’t point out that being unemployed time is one thing he has in abundance. Why go there and be provocative?

Now the one thing people know who have worked with me is that I’m not afraid to share with people my personal opinion when it comes to identifying their challenges. In other words, I’ll tell you what I believe you need to know and not only what you’d like to hear. It might be nice to hear only the things which you are doing well, but sometimes the most important information you can have shared with you are the things you might consider changing and/or improving upon.

After deciding upon what to share; the information the person needs to hear, the next challenge is deciding how to communicate that information. Sometimes a soft, gentle approach works best, lest you offend the person. Letting someone self-identify their challenges works well on occasion, or having the person tell you what others have suggested to get at what they’ve perhaps heard before. Ah but then there are times you decide that while this person before you is deserving of your respect, what they truly respect is blunt, raw, no holds barred, tell-it-like-it-is, is, in-your-face brutal honesty; “Your attitude sucks. You’re your own worst enemy. Stop using your age as your personal crucifix.” Take your pick.

When all is said and done two things really emerged; he’d stopped believing in himself and he wasn’t doing anything to help himself. Instead, he was engaging in self-destructive behaviour, threw up and fortified on a daily basis a defence that kept people away from him and limited himself in the process. To actually get the help he needs, he’d have to drop the façade, open himself up to trying and be receptive to intervention. Ironic then that before he could believe in himself, he chose to find someone he believed in and respected.

Getting some job interview experience is relatively easy. You start preparing by defining what a job interview actually is. You find the questions you’re likely to be asked, go over the format you’ll use to answer them, cover body language, first and last impressions etc. then have a go at a mock interview. Building on that, you ready targeted resumes with the help of someone who knows what they are doing. With better applications circulating, interviews are coming so get ready. So much for the easy stuff.

The more important and harder aspects of preparing for job interviews is what’s going on between the ears. You can improve your chances immensely simply by going in with a positive attitude which comes about when you actually DO believe in yourself. Look, no one owes you a job. Like most other people, you’ve got to prove you’ve got what the employer is looking for and needs, backed up with proof from your past. Are you going to face rejection? It’s highly likely so expect you’ll put in some effort that won’t produce the immediate results you want. Get over it. Don’t give up. Get going again. You owe it to yourself.

Job searching requires some mental fortitude. Believe in your ability to eventually succeed and get what you’re after. This must be your prevailing thought. Accentuate the positive and you’re not required to see the world through rose-coloured glasses.

If you have a hard time changing that attitude ask yourself honestly what it’s doing for you to keep it.

 

 

 

 

 

Growth Starts With An Open Mind


Your future is likely to replicate your past and present unless an element of change is introduced. In other words, do what you’ve always done and you shouldn’t be shocked to find that things stay relatively the same. This is wonderful if you generally like things the way they are. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something different, hopefully better than what you’ve got, change is more than just desirable; change is critical.

Most people are quite open to change actually, as long as the change required isn’t uncomfortable or involve too much effort on their part. These kind of people have a guiding philosophy that goes, “I’m open to change as long as things stay relatively the same; or if the change is occurring in people around me and not in me directly.” Uh, that’s not going to work.

This article however has the word, ‘growth’ in the title, so why the focus on change in the opening couple of paragraphs? Growth occurs simply put when change occurs and one learns from the process. Just because things change however doesn’t guarantee that growth occurs. A person can move from one city to another hoping for a fresh start with that change of address. While the intention might be good, without behaving and acting differently, it is likely that the person will find themselves living the same kind of experience and being treated by others the same way they were in the past because change only occurred in the address not the person. Their behaviour remained the same and thus the world around them continues to interact with them in a similar way, and they continue to experience their reality in much the same way.

Personal growth occurs when new challenges are initiated, new experiences are undertaken and one is open and receptive to receiving. An open mind; seeing things perhaps that have always been there before us but looking at them through a new perspective. Sometimes this comes about through instruction from a mentor, an expert or an instructor. Sometimes things become revealed to us equally through the eyes of a child, by accidental discovery or through pause and reflection.

We can of course open our minds to a problem every by simply by introducing a different stimulus. If you’re having a problem with something, you’ll often find that taking a break, going for a walk or any diversion really can help you return with a new perspective and often a solution you hadn’t considered before. What’s occurred is the break in the thinking process; you’ve returned without the linear thought lines you had, and see things anew.

I have found that for me personally, there are many moments when I’m working with other people which places me in a position to learn. Formally speaking, I might be the facilitator in a workshop, the expert helping give employment advice or being the listener as someone shares their troubles. While I might be seen as the one imparting the advice or sharing my knowledge, these are moments of growth for me personally if I recognize them as such and open my mind to the moment.

So for example, when I’m passing on some information, I may find that the person I’m attempting to instruct is having a challenge grasping what I’m saying. If I keep repeating the message over and over hoping to drive the point home eventually I may succeed, but it’s unlikely. Why? Because the way I’m delivering the message isn’t being received in a meaningful way by the other person. By opening my mind to other ways of delivering that same message, I will invariably find I meet with success. How? I opened myself to the moment, reassessed the situation and arrived at a new way to make a successful connection, having my message not only be sent but most importantly be received in the way I intended at the start. True communication has occurred as a result and we both learned something in the process; each of us growing as a result.

You’ll find that many employers are wary of the seasoned veteran; the know-it-all who comes to them with decades of experience. It appears to the applicant that they’ve got this sizable advantage over the relatively inexperienced competition who they don’t legitimately give much thought to. However, often times an employer will favour and select an individual with less experience simply because they are open to change, receptive to new ideas; in short they will grow in the position. They fear the person with decades of experience will be – despite their assurances to the contrary – close-minded to learning new procedures, methods and practices. This is the classic, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” mantra.

There is a fallacy in white-washing an entire population or group with the same brush however. Some older workers make excellent employees because they marry their experiences both work-related and life-wise with an open mind. They continue to grow and learn and are genuine in their excitement about continuous learning. The challenge they face is expressing this and being believed.

Wisdom would seem than to be going about with an open mind, being on the lookout for learning opportunities which are around us daily. Seeing things from multiple perspectives, being receptive to new ideas, and pausing to reflect when hearing views different from those we hold ourselves. May you continue to grow.

 

 

What’s Your Status?


Not all those who are out of work are seeking it, nor are those who seek it similarly motivated to find it. It could be that you or someone you know are among the growing number who are either dissatisfied with their current job but content to keep it or unemployed and increasingly frustrated to the point you are no longer actively looking. In both cases, the growing numbers are unsettling.

There is a tragic irony at the moment when what employers’ look for most in those they hire are enthusiasm for the work to be performed, bringing a positive attitude to the workplace and self-investment. Where’s the irony? It exists in the growing numbers of workers who have for some time now grown increasingly bitter, discouraged and frustrated with the prevailing behaviours of employer’s generally, who treat their employees as expendable and interchangeable.

Ironic as that might be, there is a real cost to our society that is hard to measure quantitatively but is real just the same. Treat an employee with respect, give reason for them to believe that they can aspire to positions of greater responsibility and corresponding income and workforce engagement increases. With a more engaged workforce, individual workers commit more to what they produce, increasing their overall efficiency, resulting in turn in better products and services.

However, the opposite is also true. Treat an employee with a lack of respect, give them little reason or hope to think they will ever aspire to positions of greater responsibility and limit their financial empowerment, and they disengage from the workforce. Individual workers are less committed to their work, productivity drops as does the quality of the goods and services produced. Rare indeed is the employee who will continually invest fully of themselves and continue to invest at a high level when they don’t feel valued by their employer.

As for the unemployed, it is no surprise to find that when a person has little to no reason to feel encouraged and hopeful that they will find a job, they lose enthusiasm for the process. We might meet a person who is out of work and depending on the moment we find them see them heavily invested or entirely detached from seeking employment.

Whether a person is looking for a survival job or a job with meaning that they attach to it, how they experience the job search has a great deal with how fast or prolonged that job search will be. So the job seeker who finds themselves getting no replies at all to their applications – not even an acknowledgement that they’ve applied – this person will grow increasingly despondent. The person who gets acknowledged, and even better the odd interview and some meaningful feedback has reason to hope.

It is common for an unemployed person to wonder, “What’s wrong with me?”, “What am I not doing?”. Without feedback, some go on making the same mistakes out of ignorance, then lose enthusiasm to even look or eventually stop looking altogether. The cost to the person then rises; gaps in resumes appear, smiles morph into faces of consternation, the optimistic turn doubtful, the experienced lose their relevance.

No wonder than that a number of employers openly question the quality of applicants that approach them for employment. Where did all the highly motivated, skilled workers with current work histories and best practices go? It is far too easy to lay all the blame at the door of all employers. Some in fact are exceptionally good at cultivating investment in the people they employ.

This problem of disengagement isn’t confined to the out-of-work only. There are many current workers who are holding on to jobs they once found challenging and satisfying who are now just putting in time. They are performing at levels just good enough to keep their jobs, but they mentally invest less and less and produce items and offer services with less investment. The result is that the employer becomes interested only as it affects their bottom line and addresses not the core of the problem but oft-times the symptoms.

So why do workers stay in jobs they no longer feel engaged performing? Primarily it comes back to the economy. It’s precarious to leave the known for the unknown; security of employment only to start new and fresh in the hopes of not just getting a job elsewhere but regaining things like seniority, similar benefits like the number of vacation weeks one’s earned. With so much competition out on the streets already, maybe it’s fear that keeps many from moving on. And of course, putting a résumé together, writing letters, going to interviews, being rejected, trying again and networking etc. just seems like so much more effort than what one’s doing at the present.

This isn’t a good recipe for finding the brightest and best. This is a recipe that could eventually with the right agitation lead to major changes by way of disruptive instigation brought about by necessity for change. More people growing anxious about finding employment; more finding it harder to feel acknowledged for their efforts as well as their results.

While respect for the job seeker isn’t the only answer, respect for people no matter their employment status and ensuring that work performed is meaningful and appreciated is a good start.

What’s your take on some of the thoughts I’ve raised here?

Get Your References Together Now


It’s not surprising to start pulling together a list of references when you’re looking for a job or planning a career move. What isn’t immediately clear to many however is the point in assembling your references when you are gainfully employed and have no career move in your immediate future. Good advice dear reader is to start compiling that list now no matter your situation.

The usual objections to lining up references when a person isn’t actively job searching are that its extra work to do so, and that they don’t want to confuse the people agreeing to be their references; getting them ready for calls that won’t be coming because no employers are being approached for employment. To the first objection I say it takes very little effort. To the second, your references shouldn’t be expecting calls from employers at this stage if you have properly advised them of the situation.

We all hope it doesn’t happen to us, but there are many examples around us where companies suddenly close their doors. In my community, I can think of two businesses which, in the last two weeks just closed up without any notification. One day they were there and the next they were locked; signage removed within a few days. The employees that worked for those organizations had in at least one of the two situations no notice whatsoever that this was about to happen just 24 hours earlier.

Now if your company closes quickly and you’re out of work you want to be equally quickly out of the gate and ahead of your former co-workers in applying for work. It could be a time of confusion, anger, resentment, shock, disbelief; and the last thing you should be doing is trying to pull together your résumé and job references when thinking rationally and being your usual upbeat self is challenged. This is a big case for keeping your resume current and having your references assembled.

Many times I’ve helped someone with their job search and found that they cannot find people who could best vouch for their work because they simply have no way of contacting them. They may not know someone’s last name, don’t have their contact information or simply have no idea where they’ve relocated to. Now is definitely time to pull such information together while you see these people regularly.

You don’t have to give people the impression you’re job searching with earnest and they should be expecting calls. No, that would be misleading, setting them up for calls that don’t materialize and disrespect them by putting them on alert.

A good practice is to approach potential references and seek their permission to get their endorsement of you in the event you wish to take advantage of an opportunity to advance yourself. You’re only requesting their contact information to be proactive and will inform them that should you actively begin a job search, you’ll do them the courtesy of letting them know you’ve put yourself in play, at which point you’ll issue them with your résumé and application information so they are then prepared. At the moment, they need not actually, ‘do’ anything other than agree to the request you’re making of them and supply their contact information.

So now, who to ask? Typically of course you’re after co-workers you feel a strong connection with; ones who value your contributions. You don’t want to start a rumour mill, so of course make it clear you’re simply being proactive. Similarly with your immediate Supervisor or others in Management, best to clearly tell them that they need not start thinking of how to replace you, you’re just being responsible and thinking forward. Reassure those you feel you need to that there is no immediate want or action being taken on your part to part ways. This wouldn’t be a good time to take home the family pictures on your desk for re-framing for example!

Once you have compiled this list of people willing to stand for you and back up your claims of experience and work performance, make sure you have this information available to you outside the workplace. Put it in the Cloud, on your home computer, in a filing cabinet etc. within easy access. The importance of this information will dramatically elevate when you need it and you don’t want to scramble wondering where it is should that time arise.

Look, it doesn’t have to be pulled out when there’s tragedy and loss; it just might be that someone puts a dream job in front of you with a real short timeline for applying. With a current resume you can submit an application on any given day and as for references, you’re doubly ready. Even if you never apply for another job, you’ll be practicing good behaviours and demonstrating to others how prepared and organized you are.

Honestly however, most of you who read this will agree the practice is good in theory but won’t do it for yourselves. This is the nature of such forward-thinking and advanced preparedness. Most people wait until the need arises and scramble to put together their resumes and find references.

Think about how unsettling job searching can be though. You can save yourself a great deal of anxiety and stress in the future by taking a few steps in the here and now.

 

 

Wheelchair Basketball And Relationship Building


Over the last two weeks I was fortunate to be among those presenting workshops for my colleagues in the Social Services Department where I work. This was an inaugural event; hopefully the first of what will be an annual undertaking. I say I was fortunate because there were only 3 workshops offered in any one day and to be involved in facilitating 1 of them was my privilege.

In addition to the workshops, there was a keynote speaker, some testimonials from those in receipt of our services both past and present, and there was a presentation on local workforce statistics too; giving us a fairly tight day. There was of course a much-appreciated luncheon too; if you feed us, we will be happier!

I tell you though, one of the most unusual and looked-forward-to activities of the day however was the opportunity to play some wheelchair basketball with my co-workers during our lunch break. It wasn’t the only option either. Some staff opted to join a drum circle; where 2.5 foot bongo-style drums appeared and a trained player came in to lead whoever opted to join the activity in learning how to play.

Oh and the third lunchtime option was sitting down and learning how to turn those plastic milk bags – the ones that hold three plastic milk bags inside – into a weaved mat for families in poorer parts of the world to sleep on as a makeshift mattress. That was even more unique than the wheelchair basketball; I’d never heard of such a thing and it was indeed something to see completed.

My choice was to get out on the court and try out my skills while confined to a wheelchair and unable to use my legs in the process. It was so much fun the first day, that when I returned on the following two days, I opted to play a second and then a third time too. As those attending each day were different people, it gave me the chance to interact with fresh faces and play with or against co-workers I both seldom see or work with. Our department is very large you see, and we are spread across 5 locations so we don’t actually meet face-to-face often.

If like me, you’ve never had the chance to sit in a wheelchair and play the game, you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity if you can. Forget about your natural talent or lack of it. This wasn’t about finding out who the great athletes are and separating the good from the bad. This was all about having fun and interacting with people we’d only normally interact with in a strictly work-like capacity.

We’d all assemble on the court, strapped in to avoid falling, and then experiment with manoeuvering around the floor. Learning how much speed we could generate, how to turn left or right, how to pick up the ball from the floor and most importantly of course, how to shoot the ball without being able to generate any power whatsoever from our legs. That was a great leveling experience! One of the adaptations we were glad to see was the hanging of two hula hoops from the basket at each end. The lowest hoop counted as a point, the higher one worth a couple and if you did score in the traditional basketball net, it was worth three points.

Make no mistake it was fun; it wasn’t about which team won, how many points were scored or defended against.  We had I suspect about 7 players on each team, although no one really stopped and counted. There were no substitutions or referee, no out-of-bounds even when the ball did go where the traditional boundary lines were painted on the floor. We were lucky in fact that there was netting all around the playing area to catch stray passes and missed shots.  We were onlookers too; curious co-workers cheering on the group of us, curious enough to hang out with us but not interested in actually playing.

Like a lot of activities it accomplished what it was designed to do. Give staff the opportunity to bond with each other and interact in a fun way. In this sense, we all won. It was a good time. So good was it in fact that some wondered aloud if that wouldn’t be a great social activity for upcoming birthday parties with friends. That might sound unusual plans for a birthday party, but it put a lot of smiles on our faces.

When you play together you work better together. Relationship-building is something many good organizations seek to encourage in their employees. The people I typically email or speak with over the phone, but whom I seldom see face-to-face except in training events I now know better. The fun basketball get together is really the vehicle or tool that gives us some common ground upon which to strengthen our working relationship. It accomplishes the same thing for those I work with daily, including the person I share my office with. Getting together in a non-traditional way.

Mission accomplished. I’ve yet to hear anyone involved who didn’t have a good time. I feel that (heaven forbid) I should lose the use of my legs, I have something positive to look forward to, not to mention a real appreciation for those who unlike me, can’t get up and walk away when the game is over.