Monthly Archives: May 2015

Your Weekly Noodle: May 27, 2015

Noodle* on this…

We are all unique and the same. This is our common humanity.

We are all unique and alike. This is our common humanity.

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. ~ Margaret Mead

We are all alike, on the inside. ~ Mark Twain

Both of these statements are true and they are complementary. Yes, we are all unique. Even identical twins, born minutes apart, develop different perspectives on the world and have different experiences. According to psychologist Tara Brach Ph.D., each of us is wonderfully, imperfectly, messily unique.

And, we are alike because we all experience, sadness, joy, anger, excitement, guilt, frustration, pleasure and pain. Buddhists call this our common humanity.  We all face pain and obstacles in the course of living our lives and often we feel like we are alone – that we must bear our burden, our suffering, alone.

Discovering My Common Humanity
I had a persistent cough for more than three months. For the first few weeks, I knew it was a cold – I had all the symptoms. Then I thought it was allergies – it was spring and peak allergy season. Then, I didn’t know what it was. But, I was embarrassed and was constantly apologizing for coughing. I even worn a surgical mask in public, but, that embarrassed me even more. I found myself withdrawing. Finally, I realized that family members, friends, co-workers and even acquaintances were reaching out to me, offering me support and suggestions. With that concern and support, along with the care of excellent  medical professionals, I discovered my common humanity – I was not alone.

Our common humanity may be summarized by the lyrics of John Lennon and Pail McCartney:

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends… Oh I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.

We can get by and even thrive by helping and supporting each other as we deal with the pain, obstacles, frustrations and successes of life.

Your Weekly Noodle Challenge
We are all in this life together. So, share your common humanity with others this week. Take a look around you. Who can help you out? Whom can you help?

Check out Tara Brach’s website to learn more about our common humanity.

Share your common humanity experience with us in the Comments section below.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of wpmudev.org

 

Your Weekly Noodle: May 20, 2015

woman connected to illuminated bulb with energy sparks

Noodle* on this…
At times, our light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude off those who have lighted the flame within us.

~ Albert Schweitzer

We don’t live in a vacuum, we are connected, interact with and rely on one another.  We rely on other drivers to be courteous and not cut us off, we rely on friends and family to be there for us and we work together in teams. Even freelance writers like me rely on others for support and inspiration.

For example, my friend Jake is a nurse manager at a large hospital. One day we were chatting about the demands of working in health care, specifically what it means to be a “health care professional” and that it is not just about having an education, medical license and experience. I asked him to give me his definition of professionalism. He though about it for a moment, then responded, “Doing the right thing in the right way even at 2:00 AM when no one else I around or even if it is a menial task.”

Jake’s definition was a spark for me the illuminated a writing problem I that had plagued me for several days.  It was literally an “Aha moment” for me. I said something profound like “Wow, that gave me an idea. Thank you!” He grinned and said “You are welcome.”

When was the last time you relied on someone or a friend or co-worker said something that sparked an idea for you. Did you thank that person?  No matter how long it has been, it is never too late to go back to that person and say “Remember when…? Thank you for your help!  Show your gratitude to someone this week by saying thank you.

Share your gratitude experience with us in the Comments below.

Read more about gratitude and the power of thank you.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of FaveImage.com

Two Magic Words – Thank You

THank you word cloundi n many languagesDid you know that just two words can make you happy? They can reduce anxiety and depression; strengthen your immune system; lower your blood pressure; help you sleep; make you more resilient; strengthen your relationships and promote forgiveness. What are these two words that have such power? Thank you. That’s it, just thank you! There is no cost involved, and on the job, it can lead to increased recognition, esteem, and maybe even bigger pay raises than you might otherwise receive (see below).

What is Gratitude?
Gratitude or thank you is an appreciation for what one has received. When someone helps us with “no strings” attached, we express our gratitude by saying thank you. According to Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at the University of California Berkley and an expert on the topic:

Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves… We acknowledge that other people – or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset – gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

Georg Simmel, an early twentieth-century sociologist defined gratitude as the moral memory of mankind.

In fact, gratitude – saying thank you is a universal human notion. It exists in all cultures around the world, and history is filled with discussions of gratitude. Gratitude and references to giving thanks appear throughout the Bible as well as in Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist texts. The Greek philosopher Cicero (106 – 43 BC) said, Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.

Gratitude at Work
More than ever before, we are connected to one another. Thanks to computers, smart phones and other technologies, we are never alone. This is true, especially at work. My friend Lisa is a Six Sigma Black Belt who is constantly on call for questions and issues related to the process improvement projects she leads. She said that the only way she could get away from e-mails and phone calls was to go to Antarctica – literally!

Because of this constant interconnection at work, establishing and maintaining good relations with co-worker, superiors, and customers are more important than even. Saying thank you is essential in that effort. Yet, according to the results of a 2012 study conducted by the John Templeton Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on creativity, gratitude, freedom and related topics, you are less like to say or hear “thank you” at work than in any other situation. According to the study, only 10 percent of workers regularly say thank you to their co-workers and just 7 percent thank their bosses. In fact, we are more likely to say thank you to a stranger who opens a door for us than we are to say it to a co-worker. According to Professor Emmons, gratitude is a relationship strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.

Saying Thank You at Work
Effective expressions of gratitude at work at timely, sincere, specific and brief.

  • Timely: Don’t wait a week or two or even a day to two to say thank you. The closer in time the thank you is to the action that elicited it, the more meaningful and powerful the thank you.
  • Sincere: When thanking a person, make eye contact, smile and don’t mumble – speak clearly.
  • Specific: Tell the person exactly what they did and how it helped you.
  • Brief: Keep it short; do not go into great detail.
  • Do it Yourself: Do not use “fill in the blanks” templates and do not have your assistant write a thank you note or e-mail on your behalf.

Saying Thank You is Enlightened Self-interest
Enlightened self-interest tells us that saying thank you can bring us tangible benefits, in addition to the physical and emotional benefits desired in this article. According to a study conducted by Adam Grant and Francesca Gina in 2010, saying thank you increase prosocial behavior in the workplace. (In other words, being nice and helping others.) If we say thank you to our co-workers and managers, we are more likely to get help from them when we need it.

In addition, other studies report that workers who say thank you regularly are respected, seen as  good team players and more productive, which may lead to better performance evaluations and merit pay increases. Think about it. Saying thank you enhances your well-being at work and may even enhance your paycheck.

Consider this…
Feeling Gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~ William Arthur Ward.

To whom have you forgotten or neglected to say thank you?  Say it today. A late thank you is better than none at all!

References
Emmons, Robert, “Ten Ways to Become More Grateful” Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley, February 17, 2010,http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ten_ways_to_become_more_grateful1

 Shelton, Charles, S. J., Gratitude, Moral Emotions and the Moral Life, Poynter Center, IN\Indiana University, 2002, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ten_ways_to_become_more_grateful1/

Grant, Adam M.; Gino, Francesca, “A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude

 

Your Weekly Noodle: May 13, 2015

Noodle on this…River water follows the path of least resistence.

If you choose to not deal with an issue, then you give up your right of control over the issue  and it will select the path of least resistance.      ~ Susan Del Gatto

Flowing water follows the path of least resistance and often, we humans do the same thing. We follow the path of lease resistance, which often means doing nothing about a problem instead of trying to solve it.  And just as flowing water may move in unpredictable ways, so problems may expand in unforeseen ways.

What problem have you been ignoring and postponing action.  What will happen if you continue to do nothing?  How might it expand or get worse?  What step can you take today to start solving the problem.

Read more about problem solving.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of Dr. Pregun Csaba and Dr. Juhász Csaba

 

Problem Solving with Perspective

Quote: A penny will hide the biggest star in the Universe if you hold it close enough to your eye.~Samuel Grafton and image of the north star partly covered by a pennyLife is a matter of perspective. Both the cause(s) of a problem and its potential solutions are a matter of personal perspective. When a problem arises at work, what is our typical reaction? Is it, I don’t know what to do, or I know what is wrong, or I’ll just fix it? Many times, we know exactly how to fix a problem, but what if the problem is new, complex or one, we haven’t seen before?  We tend to act in a context of: We know what’s wrong. Let’s just fix it. But, do we really know what’s wrong or is it just our personal perception of the problem? Understanding other people’s perspectives and the reasoning behind it can help us in problem solving by defining the situation and helping us see the problem clearly.

Need for Perspective
Each of our co-workers, customers and managers has their own view or perspective of the world that is filtered by their life experiences. Even identical twins look at the world from different perspectives. Finding out what other people think about a situation is an essential part of effective problem-solving, particularly with new, complex or highly visible problems.  When deciding what input you need about a problem, consider the following:

  • Who might be able to  add to or clarify my thinking?
  • Who might be seeing something that I do not?
  • Who will need to carry out the decision and how might their view affect the planned solution?
  • What functions are not represented in my thinking?
  • Who is new on our team and what is that person’s point of view? Sometimes, that person may see things we miss or take for granted.

Ask Questions
What is the best way to learn the perspective of others? Ask questions! Not only will it give you a different perspective on the problem; it will build stronger relationship with those you ask. Remember, as much as we like to think, “I know it all,” we really don’t. Our co-workers may have more insight about the problem and clients. When seeking a person’s perspective, remember that there are no right or wrong answers. Even the “facts” of a situation depend on their knowledge and experience. Here are some tips for asking questions to elicit the perspective of others.

  • Ask different types of questions: factual, interpretation (how or why), and evaluation (opinion, belief or point of view).
  • Ask open-ended, rather than yes/no questions.
  • Check your assumptions and those of the person with whom you are speaking.
  • Listen carefully and ask clarifying questions.

Remember to ask the Five W and One H questions reporters use for basic information gathering:

  1. What happened?
  2. Who was involved?
  3. Where did it take place?
  4. When did it take place?
  5. Why did it happen?
  6. How did it happen?

Consider this…
“Asking the right questions (and listening carefully to the answers) can help you think more clearly, take   accountability for your actions, and accomplish your goals more easily…”  Merilee Goldberg, Ph.D What question do you need to ask for a different perspective on a problem?

References
Goldberg, M., (1997) The Art of the Question: A Guide to Short Term Question-centered Therapy, New York: Wiley.

This article was originally published on Linked In Pulse June 10, 2014.

Your Weekly Noodle: May 6, 2015

 

Noodle* on this…People working together example of team work
Collaboration is important not just because it’s a better way to learn. The spirit of collaboration is penetrating every institution and all of our lives. So, learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy.                                  ~ Don Tapscott

Enlightened self-interest tells us that collaboration and teamwork are essential to our well-being at work. Effective collaboration and teamwork require mutual trust and respect. We don’t have to be best friends with our teammates, we need to know that we “have each other’s back;” that we are working with the same goal.

Think about the people you work with. What can you do to build mutual trust and respect with you teammates?  Share your thoughts with us in the Comments section below.

Read more about teamwork.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of European Commission – Justice

Teamwork

People climbing a mountain using teamworkLook on any Internet job posting site and almost every job listed will include the phrase “must be a team player.” Ask any human resources professional and they will tell you that they hate seeing the phrase team player in a resume and will place the resume in the “no” pile. The phrase has become meaningless even though work teams, project teams, even “cross functional” teams are a fact of life in almost every work site and office.

So what exactly does bein a team player mean and who decides if you are or are not a team player? In many workplaces, being labeled as “not a team player” is the kiss of death (Italian: Il bacio della morte), especially when it comes from someone in management. Remember Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II telling Fredo “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!” The consequences of not being a team player in the workplace are not quite as severe as they were for Fredo. Nonetheless they can be significant. When raises or promotions come around, your name is at the bottom of the list. When lay-offs or down sizing occurs your name is at the top of the list.

Being a Team Player
So what does it mean to be a team player, to be considered for the good assignments and promotions? It means that you…

  • Know and understand what the team is working to accomplish.
  • Are not afraid to ask questions.
  • Share information with team members and management in a timely manner
  • Understand that each person on the team has a unique skill set and that all must do their part to produce the desired results.
  • Are willing to give up a favorite theory or pet project if it does not support the teams goals.
  • Are flexible and can easily change course when necessary.
  • Take accountability for mistakes.
  • Helps your team mates when they need it.
  • Take part in team meetings and planning sessions.

This is just a partial list of team player characteristics.  The list includes many other positive characteristics such as reliability, punctuality, integrity, cooperation, commitment, effective communicator, proactive, respectful, etc.

Consider this…
According to Jeffrey Liker in his book The Toyota Way (2004), Sam Heltman, the former administrative vice president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc. summarizes the concept of team work and team players in two simple sentences.

Americans think teamwork is about you liking me and me liking you. Mutual respect and trust means I trust and respect that you will do your job so that we are successful as a company. It does not mean that we just love each other.

How do you show respect for and build trust with your co-workers, especially those whom you may disagree?