Would You Remove Them From Class?


I’ll put my position right up front; never. Nope, I’ll never remove someone from any class I lead with one exception. (Drat! There’s always one exception; and if there’s one exception I can hardly say I’d never remove someone now can I?)

Seriously, the only time I’ll remove someone from a class I lead is when it is clearly in THEIR best interests. I’ve known a lot of people over the years who kick people out of their classes simply for their own personal benefit. Oh they may say it’s for the good of the other participants but in reality, well, we know better!

Now you might not agree with my position on refraining from removing people from a class for sporadic attendance as an example. Well, here’s how I see things. Perfect attendance is ideal; after all you can’t learn what you miss hearing, seeing and experiencing. When you’re in a class where success is achieved by building on what was learned the previous day, missing class is a huge barrier.  However, the way I see things, when referring to adult participants, treating them like adults means the accountability lies with them rather than me. In other words, they get out what they put in. I’m here, I’m sharing and instructing to those who show up, and if you come and go, you have to assume the responsibility for both what you learn and what you miss.

I know unemployed people have more than just the job hunt taking up their precious thoughts. I’ve met a vast number of people who earnestly want to get a job. All they can control however – and make note of this point – is what they can control. That sounds trite but my point is unemployed people never just have the lack of a job to focus on; no, not ever, and they may lack resources to solve problems too.

Right off the top, the lack of a job often means the person lacks an identity. Instead of saying, “I’m a Carpenter and I work for ________”, they can only say, “I’m a Carpenter by trade”, leaving out the shared identity with an employer. Coupled with this loss of identity as employed is a huge hit to self-esteem. Why after all do you think people hide their unemployed status from family and friends as long as they can? And when was the last time you asked someone what they do for a living and they responded with a confidently delivered, “Why I’m unemployed and in receipt of government financial assistance. Thank you for asking.” Yep; never.

So lack of status, self-esteem and obviously financial income. No job, no money. No money, mounting bills. Mounting bills, increased debt. Increased debt, poor credit score. Poor credit score, no job in some organizations. All of these lead to soaring stress, anxiety, confusion; a trip along the rollercoaster of applying for jobs with high hopes, crushing defeats of being ignored completely, rising hopes when interviewed, dashed dreams of success when rejected..

Now let’s add the stuff that isn’t shared by everyone. You know, the specific problems a person has. Here you can choose from dysfunctional families, homelessness, threats of eviction, physical ailments, concerns with being too young or too old to be taken seriously. Literacy issues, isolation, depression, single-parent status with no childcare, lack of appropriate clothing for interviews, transportation, gaps on the resume, lack of current education and/or expired licences and certificates. Take a breath. How about rent payments due, lost bus passes to agonize over, mislaid identification, court proceedings with the ex to discuss support payments and visitation access. Let’s round things out with the parents who fret and worry about you being so vulnerable and who keep saying you just need someone to take care of you; totally undermining your long held belief that you are independent, strong and quite able to take care of yourself.

Yes, so with all the above going on – or if not all the above then certainly a lot of the above going on with those looking for a job, it borders on cruelty to misread someone’s sporadic attendance as entirely their responsibility or fault and penalize them by removing them. All this accomplishes is adding another failure to their growing list of things to feel bad about.

So when someone doesn’t attend the way you’d like in your class, demonstrate empathy and allow them to continue. Don’t ask why they can’t commit because honestly, they may not be able to articulate all the reasons. As for the others in the class who do show up daily and do contribute and do their best to succeed, praise them for doing so.  You might tell them that you’re taking notice of their good behaviours and that their actions are all contributing to their future success. You might even go so far as to remind them that the stresses they are experiencing may be similar to what others are going through, only the others have fewer resources than they do to cope.

The gift you give your participants is a new perspective; empathy for their fellow classmates. You are suddenly not just teaching people about job hunting or career exploration etc., you’ve just added a life skill; a human element that came as an added bonus not mentioned in the promotional brochure that enticed them to attend.

Well done!

Those Across The Table Struggle Too


Have you ever thought much about the people you deal with every day who sit or stand across the table or counter from you and provide a service? Far from robotic, these too are average folks who get up, go to work, do the best they can and go home. They have personal struggles, mental health issues, real-life disasters, hopes and dreams, wants and needs just like me; just like you.

Not many of us care to know quite frankly. When we go in to renew our licence plate stickers and get in that 12 person deep line, shunting our way up to the counter, we just want to pay our dues, get the sticker and leave. We may even share with those we meet for the rest of the day our complaint about the long line, the inconvenience of the process and high fees, and to finish off our rant, complain about the attitude and tone of voice of the man or woman who served us.

And this lack of thought isn’t confined to someone at the licencing centre. No, we likely don’t give much of a thought to the well-being of the Bank Teller who handles our transactions, the person who serves us in the drive-through, the shopkeeper who sells us an item in their store. If you’ve got something – some things – on your mind that worry, stress, preoccupy and keep you from focusing on what you’re doing with a 100% positive attitude, why is it hard to understand that the other people we interact with daily have similar challenges?

Now, to be clear, when we are dealing with such people, it’s inappropriate for both you and I to stop and ask with sincerity how they are doing and whether or not they’d like to open up and share their problems with us. We don’t all have the necessary training to start with and there’s that growing line behind you that you’re now holding up and in doing so, you’re compounding their stress to serve others. And surely, you don’t really expect them to honestly share much of anything with you in that public setting, nor expect them to fully trust you whom they don’t know much at all?

What you and I can do however is our very best to be everything we’d expect in return: courteous, respectful, kind, pleasant to deal with and yes, smile which makes us nicer to deal with.

You might think this is a given; it’s known, basic, interpersonal skills 101. However, I see many people approach those behind the counters and treat them poorly. Raised voices, a lack of manners, scowls at the outset, seemingly looking to provoke an altercation, foul language, animated faces and drama more suited to a theatre stage than a bank reception area. I’ve even found myself apologizing for someone else’s rude behaviour when it’s my turn. Just acknowledging the difficulty they had providing service to the previous person goes a long way.

The thing is we expect the people who serve us to be 100% focused on us. Some would say, “That’s what their paid to do so yes, just do their job.” And honestly if that’s your reaction, you’re likely one of the people who doesn’t care to think about other people as, well…. people. Why would you assume they shouldn’t be working if they’ve got problems on their minds? My goodness, many people would sit home for long periods were this the case.

The truth of the matter is that a great number of people with problems, worries, stressors and mental health challenges find the inner resolve and strength to go about their work day each and every day. They do bring their problems with them to work, then to the grocery stores where they stand in line served by others, then to the gas stations or bus stops where they are surrounded by more people and served by the Cashier or the Bus Driver. On the outside they may look like they’ve got it all together; not a care in the world. On the inside, hidden away from the public, they too may be dealing with all kinds of things we’ve no idea of.

So it’s important therefore to be kind, respectful and yes, even empathetic when we don’t get the absolute best from whomever we are dealing with. If the Waitress neglects to bring us the ketchup we asked for, it’s surely not something to make a big deal over is it? Ask a second time and be kind about it. Maybe she’s worried about getting a call from the school about her child’s behaviour, perhaps she received an eviction notice just before coming to work and she’s conflicted with being here at work serving you so she holds on to her job, but really would rather be packing up or planning to fight it.

To close, I often suggest to you readers that you take advantage of counselling services to unburden your load, share your troubles and in so doing, move forward. That person listening to you, for all their expertise is a human too. As you pour all your feelings out, you’re one of 3 or 4 to do so that day and every day. That’s a huge responsibility they take on gladly, and while they are paid well, they also pay a price you can’t measure.

Be kind, show gratitude, be understanding. Every day with everyone.

A Simple Act Of Gratitude


Yesterday I was in the middle of facilitating a résumé workshop when I heard the Receptionist over the intercom say, “Kelly Mitchell if you’re in the building would you contact Reception.” Fortunately for me, I was in view of a co-worker who, seeing me look at him and throw up my hands in a helpless gesture, picked up his phone and told them I was not available. I continued on.

It was only a few moments later that I saw standing off to my left the smiling face of a man I’d worked with a couple of month’s back. He’d been one of 12 people who’d accepted an invitation to work with me on an intensive basis over 10 days in the hopes of landing interviews that would lead to employment. He’d been successful too; getting and accepting an invitation to work despite a couple of employment barriers that had previously turned off employers from giving him the chance.

So there he was, a respectable 10 feet outside the area I was in, grinning like a little child, intent on seeing me. There I was too, obviously in the middle of a presentation and fully aware that he wasn’t going without a brief word. Hmm…

Well, I acknowledged him by first apologizing to the group and waved hello, telling him I was just in the middle of a presentation. To me he said, “I know, I just stopped by to thank you again for your help.” “Things are going well then?” I asked. At this point he said that things were going great and that the resume and job search tips had paid off. It was at this point that I realized there was a real win-win-win situation here to take advantage of.

Yes, you guessed it. I waved him in for a moment and now in full view of the people in the workshop, I asked him to repeat what he’d just said. Well it was a real endorsement of my skills and the information I was sharing with the participants that I couldn’t have planned any better had I tried. With his grin and kind words, he told us assembled that not only was the job going well, he had since accepting that first job, a total of 6 companies contact him for job interviews, and he was very close to getting an extremely good job; one that he’d been hoping for as a long-term goal I’d previously known of. “The résumé works! I change it for the jobs I’m going for and it’s really made a difference.” Then with a handshake and some last good wishes, he was gone.

If you believe I’m sharing this with you for the purpose of saying how great I am, you’re missing the point; completely and utterly. His generous act of gratitude and thanks says more of him than it does for me. That same information you see that I shared with him, I’d shared with others, and continue to share. I am so happy for him but also so proud of him, for not only his success but in how he’s going about things now. Dropping in for the sole purpose of expressing his gratitude, feeling that he wanted to say thanks in person and knowing the impact it would have on me.

Of course, I brought him in largely to show to the group that the ideas I was sharing really do work. I mean, here before them was a bona-fide success story that they could replicate for themselves if they applied the same ideas and concepts in their own situations. Oh and believe me, the room lit up, the energy shot up in the room and everyone was smiling. When I said after he left that I hoped they didn’t mind the interruption, that it was so good to see him so happy, they simultaneously and to a person indicated it was more than okay.

In attendance I also had a co-worker who was sitting in to improve her own confidence helping people with their resumes. A long-time Employment Consultant, she wanted to both see and hear my presentation and from there use the same resources I made to help others. So you can imagine how wonderful it was for me to have this unexpected visit and expression of both gratitude and success in front of her.

So I felt great, the participants and my co-worker had proof before them the ideas work, and the gentleman himself left feeling good in having accomplished what he wanted to do; see me and extend a heartfelt thank you.

No matter how hard we work, how many successes we have, how many people we see, we all need those moments when others acknowledge what we do and express their appreciation. His act of kindness and the impact on me will last some time.

I urge you to do likewise when the opportunities present themselves. Genuine gratitude is always welcomed and could come exactly when needed most for some people. We all like to think we make a difference in this field of social work, that we’re having a real positive impact on the lives of others. Sincere acts of gratitude like I’ve described here reinforce that belief and give us encouragement to do more, give more and strive for more. He couldn’t have given me a more precious gift than his thanks.

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.

 

 

Give A Gift To Someone In Need


So you’re out in some mall looking for that perfect gift that someone on your Christmas list would appreciate. Or perhaps you’re sitting in your favourite seat at home tapping your fingers and wrestling with the thought of what the people on your list, ‘need’. If you are like many people I know, many of those on your list don’t, ‘need’ much at all.

Each gift received not only comes with the ribbons, bows, wrapping paper and scotch tape; each gift comes with the message, “I am thinking of you.” The gift may be homemade or store-bought, expensive or not, but still each one says, “I think enough of you that I wanted to present you with something to let you know I appreciate you.” Well something like that anyhow.

Sometimes the gifts we give are given to people we’ll never know personally; people we don’t necessarily want to know personally, but we give them just the same. Take the financial donation or food donation you make to the local food bank; the clothes you donate to the Diabetes Foundation, the change you throw into a Salvation Army kettle or some other charity box.

Maybe – just maybe mind you – you’re like the little drummer boy who doesn’t have any money or items of value to give and you wonder, “What could I do?”

And so, here’s some ideas for giving both during this festive holiday season and for other times of the year.

First and foremost, one of the easiest and free things you can do is acknowledge the presence of the down-and-out, the destitute, the poor, and the homeless when you see them on the street. You and I both know they aren’t invisible. You know they are there because you look everywhere but where they sit or stand as you pass them by without a glance. Maybe just having the courage, assertiveness or whatever it is that you need to look them in the eye and actually give them a slight smile would help them feel visible. Sure it’s a small thing; but it’s a start.

When I was in Toronto this fall I was out with my daughter and some people were handing out free bottles of water on the street. While I drank mine down due to my thirst, my daughter hung on to hers for a few blocks and then without breaking stride set hers down beside a sleeping man on the street. Again, not much, but he awoke with something he didn’t have when he fell asleep.

You can also hold back on your judgement of others; we don’t know what they’ve endured or continue to endure. Even when the decisions they make contribute to their current plight and we would rather they made better decisions, we don’t know what events in their past have shaped their present. They probably have multiple problems, some of which are of their own making. Maybe a little tolerance, a little support, or even holding back from voicing our opinions would be a small start.

You can volunteer your time too if you’ve got it to give but draw the line on contributing financially. Yes, you can join a non-profit organization, contribute your talents in bookkeeping, leadership, organization etc. Helping to guide an organization, support the people who staff it and the users who benefit from its services; do it and if you need something for yourself, add it to your resume. Why not?

If you run a cleaning business, offer free cleaning for people who have job interviews coming up and can’t afford your services because they are jobless at present. If they get a job, think how much they might appreciate your help. If you have that, “why don’t they just get a job?” mentality, you’ll actually help them get one and pay their taxes if your motivation must be so inclined.

You can opt to be more courteous too. It costs nothing to give up your seat on a bus or subway, to actually smile instead of frown, to actually look at people and talk instead of walking around with a perpetual frown. When you enter a fast-food restaurant drive-thru, thank the person who takes your money and gives you your food. Break up their monotony with a ‘thank you! Have a nice day!” or ask them where their smile is. You’ll get a smile immediately and make their day.

That harried check-out Cashier who gets verbally abused by customers who think they alone should be served first and hold up the line examining their bills to make sure they aren’t overcharged? Why not thank them for doing a great job and telling them to forgive that rude person. These folks usually make minimum wage and are people too.

It’s not hard to think of all the small things you; you and I, could do to make the lives of others around us just a tad better. If you see a couple with a dog on the street trying to get by begging for change, don’t forget the dog. If you pass them every day, drop off some dog food every now and then – something they can easily carry. That’s just cool.

When you do any of the above, you send them the message, “I’m thinking of you – you’re not invisible.” Good on you for your act of kindness. You never know what your small act might mean.

Our Small Deeds Define Us


When we are bucking for a promotion or want to be assigned some project or assignment, is it at these times when we suddenly change our character, act kinder to those in influential positions or conversely do we stay true to whom we are throughout?

Having just had Christmas pass, in a few of the movies I watched recently some of the characters in the shows mused openly about how kinder people were at this time of the year; why couldn’t people carry this kindness and thoughtfulness with them throughout the balance of the year? Usually these people wondered about others instead of turning the question inward and asking it of themselves.

Have you ever noticed that a child who wants something often is on their best behaviour? That an adult who wants a change in behaviour from a child often says something like, “Remember Santa’s watching”, or “Somebody is having a birthday soon aren’t they?” and the hope is the child is angelic henceforth. Thing is those strategies do work most of the time but only until the birthday or Christmas morning and then what? And are we really wanting our children to be on their best behaviour only under the threat of no presents on Christmas morn or no party to celebrate?

Why then should we ourselves be any different in our workplaces? Imagine if you will that you are told the person who currently holds the position you covet is close to retiring or some other scenario that creates a vacancy; a vacancy you’d like to take over. Okay now ask yourself honestly if you would say your current production, your attitude, your leadership etc. has put you in a position to be a logical candidate? Would you do more, do things better, put out a better attitude, be more cooperative, strive a little harder? Are you doing enough?

Some of us of course can honestly answer that we do invest ourselves in our work and were such an opportunity to arise, we would feel confident in being able to point at our record with pride. On the other hand, you might be doing exactly what is in your job description and not an ounce more. How you are doing that work might be suspect, but you meet the minimal requirements of your current job. Ask yourself, “Does my employer want to promote those who do the minimum in their jobs or those who perform at their best routinely and excel?

Of course you might argue that you have no further career ambition; that you are in the very position now that you have always wanted to be in and are content to remain so. That in my opinion is a wonderful thing and you are to be congratulated for finding your ideal position. Well done! Would you like to keep it? Or would you like to inspire others with whom you work, who do what you do in the organization to work with as much zeal and honest effort as yourself? These are reasons to invest yourself each day and throughout each day.

One of my valued colleagues who works in another city contacted me before Christmas and requested a previous article I’d constructed to share with a new colleague. He is concerned about him and his development, not wanting him to burn out early in a field where it is critical to have the stamina, endurance and positivity to continually make an impact. Dave is a shining example of a person doing his best and working consciously to be a positive role model through his daily actions for the benefit of a peer.

It is the small deeds we do, the words we choose, the actions we take, the time we give that make the biggest impact often on others. It’s when we are observed by others as we go about our routines, habits and the courtesy in our requests for help and appreciation for help given that impact on others. It’s our dependability when we show up each day for work and others view us as reliable. It’s when we stop and consider rather than impulsively decline to give more of ourselves that tells others we sincerely can’t take on something or rather that we can.

When we do small things like consider the workload of others when we ask them to do something for us, albeit a small extra thing, that we grow respectful in their eyes. When we send an email of thanks or acknowledgement, put a chocolate in their inbox or mail slot, maybe just ask how they are doing and actually wait for the answer.

One small deed may be nothing more than a single act. Two acts may be nothing more than a coincidence and three the start of a trend. Four small acts the start of a reputation and continuing small consistent acts solidify your credentials and character. In every day we have opportunities people to do the small things that really matter and make a difference. If you are waiting for the really big opportunities to demonstrate your attitude, leadership and character, you may find those moments few and far between.

Today start with a small act of kindness and thoughtfulness. Say thanks to a colleague, ask about their workload – their interests, their health. Send an email to a colleague and introduce yourself to someone. So many ways to do small things that collectively mean so much.

My Plan To Be Scruffy At Work


I am a proponent of people taking pride in their personal appearance when it comes to showing up at work. Nonetheless, for the month of November I will be growing day by day a moustache, all in support of Movember; the cause that raises awareness and funds for men’s health – especially prostate cancer.

My objective is a lofty one for someone who is taking part in this cause for the first time; I want to raise $1,000.00. Yesterday evening was my first shout out to those I know, and I started the evening with exactly zero dollars. The first three on board were my daughter and her husband, a couple who are long-time friends, and a member of my extended family. All three have generous hearts, and stepped up almost immediately upon hearing of my request for help.

So here’s how it works. I joined a team of men who likewise work for the same employer, albeit at a number of locations around town. All of us will start the month clean-shaven, and will allow the hair to grow under our noses for the month of November. As we do so, people will notice, ask about it, and we’ll explain the reason and maybe collect a donation along the way.

Now to do something like this, you need the permission of your employer because after all, you still represent the organization with whom you work, and in my case, I have to be sensitive to the fact that the clientele I work with may take my unshaven face as a green light to go scruffy anytime and all the time. And that would be missing the point. It is not permissible to show up for a job interview unshaven or without some grooming and expect to have this ignored. While you may explain your cause if job searching in November, you run the risk of being judged negatively and not respecting the hiring process you are in.

The opposite could of course be true, in that the organization you are interviewing with is fully aware of this cause, has staff of its own partaking, and supports social causes such as Movember. If this is the situation you stand a much better chance than say, showing up for your Vice-President of a financial institution interview looking like you have little care for your personal grooming.

http://ca.movember.com/mospace/7254669 is a link to my personal Movember page. If you are so inclined, you can visit the page and click on the,”Donate To Me” link. If you don’t choose to donate, I’m entirely okay with that too because so many of us get requests for assistance and donations. However, I’m hoping of course that you get behind both me and the cause.

So let’s talk openly about cancer and the workplace. There are a number of people who are hesitant to use that word aloud when someone in the workplace has it themselves or has a friend or family member who gets diagnosed. We don’t seem to mind talking about other illnesses, but I suspect cancer is talked about less frequently because the implications for death are heightened; and if not death, certainly a dramatic change in one’s health.

In my organization, it was only last year that a very well-respected and loved Manager was diagnosed with this, and she has only recently returned to work. Just prior to her diagnosis, she accepted a promotion and got all the well-wishes she deserves which were considerable. Knowing she had a huge group of well-wishers and supporters here in our office meant a lot to her apparently, and that’s a fabulous tool in tackling the illness – support.

I don’t have cancer; my dad passed away from it, and quite frankly in his early seventies I know how much I would have appreciated him around all these years later. But it got him. And if it wasn’t that, it would have had to be something else because we don’t live forever. Do you know someone affected by cancer?

But here’s the real deal around men and illness; generally guys aren’t like me. I talk openly about illness and last year had my first colonoscopy. Men seem to avoid medical check-ups more than women, as if somehow if we don’t get checked out, nothing can be confirmed or discovered. Weird. If there’s something to find, why not find it early, treat it, overcome it if you can by making changes or surgery, and then live longer? Maybe not forever, but you might be there to see your kids buy their first home, throw the ball around with your grandchildren, or just be with the love of your life a few years more?

So no pressure intended, and I’ll not think any less of those who opt not to sponsor me, but I have to at least ask you to consider sponsoring me and supporting the cause of men’s health and prostate cancer screening specifically. If you can afford it, big or small, visit http://ca.movember.com/mospace/7254669 and give what you can.

And a big thanks in advance for all your ongoing support!

Nice Little Things You Can Do


Often I write about what to do if you are out of work and searching for it. Other times I write about what you can do to improve your chances of advancement. In both cases, the things you can do are designed specifically to move you ahead. Today however, I want to write about seemingly small gestures and things you can do that are not designed to move you ahead significantly, but are still nice to do nonetheless for their own sake.

For starters, saying please when you ask someone to do something, and thank you when someone does something for you seems almost too obvious to even note. However, if my own experience is any example, there are a great number of people who would be well advised to remember these two basic courtesies. Not only does their use brand you as someone with good manners, it demonstrates your appreciation for what others do in the case of the ‘thank you’ and your request instead of a demand in the case of the ‘please’.

If you work with the public, a smile and eye contact – both of which don’t require you to utter a word – are often all it takes to make someone feel acknowledged. Nothing is more dismissive to a customer or client than an employee who swiftly walks by with their head turned the other way or looking down at the floor in what is obviously an attempt to bypass them without having to interact with them.

Unless you are self-employed, there is a high probability that someone else cleans your desk, empties your garbage and recycling, vacuums your floor etc. If this person does a good job, you may never even think about them. Isn’t that worth a brief note left for them just saying, “Thanks for cleaning my space, I appreciate it?” And if they haven’t done a good job, leaving such a note might encourage them to do it better. Either way, it’s nice to let somebody working odd hours with minimal pay know they are appreciated.

You know much of the time I hear people that they don’t get enough recognition from their boss. I wonder the opposite however; how often have they themselves expressed to their own boss how much they appreciate them? What is it about your boss that you might recognize and appreciate. One way to get your boss to support you and act more the way you want is to reinforce that behaviour by praising it. So you help them and they might help you. But for once, maybe that shouldn’t be your prime motive.

On your way to work or during your break or lunch time, maybe you grab a coffee or tea from some entry-level fast-food establishment. What might it take out of your day to genuinely thank that person and perhaps – just perhaps mind you – tell them you appreciate their smile, their enthusiasm, or their quick service? If you don’t think you’ll be too comfortable doing this at a restaurant standing face-to-face, do it at a drive through after you’ve got your order, then you can dash off. You’ll feel good!

Are you required to leave a message on your answering machine each day? Does it sound like the exact same message, with the same flat tone, the same droning voice? How about having a little bit of fluctuating tone, a rising and falling pitch that sounds normal? Perhaps have a little fun with your Halloween message by pretending to be Igor and Dracula leaving the message for you in your absence. I did that today! Not only do people get a kick out of it, but if you regularly get annoyed people calling (thank goodness I don’t!) it’s hard to be overly annoyed if you’re laughing.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, holding the door open for someone behind you is still courteous and polite. And does it really slow you down on your busy important trip from point A to point B?

Put a smile on other people’s faces whenever you can. I see people in our reception area who are discouraged, frustrated, exhausted, numb and a host of other emotions. They are Social Assistance recipients waiting to talk to someone here. Even when I don’t know them and they aren’t here to see me, I stop often and look right at someone and say, “Where’s that smile?” Then I grin and they can’t help but grin back and then it breaks into a laugh. Then I say, “There it is! I knew it was in there somewhere!” and I walk on. They may ask the Receptionist who I was when I exit, but their engaged, alert and smiling now.

You know there are so many little things you can do to be nice, and some will go noticed while others not so much. Wiping the sink of all the water drops in the washroom when you’re done may never be noticed and therefore remarked on, but it’s still a nice thing to do. Make your workplace a nice place to work by being the change you want to see. Start it yourself with intended acts of kindness!