3 Key Questions

I just heard a very interesting message this morning. The speaker shared 3 key questions that can really make an impact whether you are a CEO, a middle manager, or a front line worker.

1. What is the problem?

2. Who are the people?

3. What can I give?

I love these questions because whether you are in sales or you have a more back office/administrative/operational job, these 3 key questions can really help clarify your focus so that you can make a positive impact on your coworkers and/or your customers.

Every day we have the opportunity to solve problems and help make life better for others. Every day we need to identify who those people are whose problems we can solve. And finally we need to ask ourselves what we are capable of doing to help solve the problems for those people.

My challenge for myself in 2021 will be to keep these 3 questions at the front of my mind and to act on them.

Do you want to take up the challenge as well?

Be a Noticer

One of the podcasts I enjoy listening to on my morning walks is “The Professional Noticer” by Andy Andrews. Andy’s podcast is “built around Common Sense, Wisdom, and Laughter.” Andy calls himself a Professional Noticer – someone who pays attention to the great individuals and ideas all around him and then shares that with the rest of us.

This morning on my walk, I was thinking about this. How am I a noticer in life? How can I be a noticer who can bring out the best in others and even myself? What will I “catch” when I begin to notice more. How will my eyes be open to things I haven’t noticed before? How can I notice more of the positive people and things all around me? I certainly don’t need to focus on the negative. And neither do you.

Would you like to be able to “tune” your awareness and mind on the positive life around you? You can do it. In fact, I bet you already have done it before.

When you’ve shopped for and then bought a new car, didn’t you start noticing that car model all around you? Prior to your search and then sale, you probably didn’t pay much attention to that as you drove back and forth to work or to the store. But now that you’re in your new car, you see them everywhere.

There is something at work. It’s called the Baader-Meinof effect. This happens “when your awareness of something increases. This leads you to believe it’s actually happening more, even if that’s not the case.”

Years ago, I challenged a group of managers at work to start noticing yellow cars on the road. For weeks after this challenge, they reported “suddenly” seeing yellow cars. But did those yellow cars really, suddenly appear? No! But their awareness of seeing yellow cars increased and they started noticing them. I then challenged them to notice what our customers were saying in conversations so we could help them save money, make money, save time, and protect their assets better. And my managers did!

So how can we apply the Baader-Meinof effect in our day-to-day lives? How can we become, as Andy Andrews calls it, professional noticers? Try some of these ideas on:

The Team You Lead

Are you focused more on assigning tasks to your team vs noticing how they approach their work, how their family life affects their work life, how their health either helps them or hurts them etc.? Have you noticed subtle comments in a coaching session that gives you a peek into how they feel about themselves, their work, their impact?

Take time in your next coaching session (even it is virtual) to notice something differently than you have in the past. If you are virtual right now, tune up your listening skills. Don’t be afraid to ask, “tell me more about that” if you hear something that you notice might help you help them move forward in their development. Notice personal changes such as a death in the family, moving into a new home, changes in relationships, kids graduating, etc. You can celebrate and understand your team far better when you pay attention to what may seem like the “little” things.

Notice their results and celebrate their wins. Ask them if they noticed how they accomplished their goals. Coach them to see those opportunities and actions that got them there.

Community Leaders

As you network in your community (again, even if it is virtually), notice what is happening in the lives of your community leaders. I find the best tool to use is LinkedIn. If a connection (or even a 2nd or 3rd level connection) has accomplished a milestone, engage with them to share a congratulatory comment. This tells them you noticed!

Read their content. Share their content if you feel it is appropriate. Promote their business. Noticers do more than merely notice. They take action. Action that adds value to the other person.

Strangers

Years ago when my kids were in the middle of their elementary years, we were eating at a local restaurant. I noticed an elderly couple sitting a few tables away from us. I called over their waitress and asked that she allow me to pay for their meal and to keep it anonymous. My daughter, I think she was a 4th grader, seemed appalled by this. “Dad, do you know them?!” I said I did not. “You can’t do that!”

“I certainly can. What I’m doing is a random act of kindness. You guys know what that is, right?” They both said they had talked about that in school. I then asked how do they think the couple will feel when they know that someone paid for their meal that day. My son said, “I’d feel great.” “Now you know why I’m doing this,” I said.

It is amazing what we can do for others when we notice others around us. The sales person at Best Buy who just got yelled at by an unreasonable customer. The Downs Syndrome bagger at Krogers who does his job with an ever-present smile on his face. The barista who always remembers your drink even though you don’t remember her name. The young man who helps an elderly woman who just dropped something and she is now embarrassed.

You’ve witnessed scenes like this, I’m sure. Noticers notice. But noticers can take it one step further. Say something. Walk up to that sales person and assure them that not everyone will be cranky today and that they handled themselves with dignity. Tell that grocery bagger you appreciate them. Look your barista in the eyes and say “thank you” and use their name (I bet they are wearing a name tag). Walk up to that young man and let them you know you noticed his kindness.

For me, I’ve taken in a step further. My wife started a fun little game for us that I’ve expanded on. She created an engaging way to tell me she loves me. You can read about that here (https://smilyspreadlove.com/home/). I have created “coins” that I carry with me. If I notice someone doing a random act of kindness or someone needing a lift in their day, I give them one of the coins. I’ve paid for someone’s McDonald’s in the drive-thru and asked the cashier to give the coin to the driver behind me. I want to encourage them to either spread some love to someone else or know in that moment that they matter.

People love noticers. It validates them. It makes their hearts visible to the world. It makes them – for that moment – believe they matter – and they do!

As we wrap up this crazy year, determine to be a noticer in 2021 and beyond. Tune your mind to become of aware of the great people and things around you. Build someone up. Add value to someone. Spread love.

Your Team – Emotions, Energy, Empowerment

I am looking forward to a new year. While I don’t have grand hopes that 2021 will be better than 2020, I am hopeful that we will apply what we have learned in the past 9 months to make the new year better.

What is your team experiencing right now? If they primarily work from home, they are experiencing a sense of isolation even if they are surrounded by kids doing school from home. They are isolated from teammates that probably have been a good influence on them. They are isolated from a routine that is healthy for them. They are isolated from stimulation from a job they enjoy and find meaning in.

And when people feel isolated, other feelings enter through that gateway.

  • FEAR – Fear of the virus. Fear of their significant other (or themselves) losing their job. Fear for their family’s wellbeing. Fear of the unknown.
  • WORRY – Worry about staying healthy. Worry about following health mandates. Worry about their future.
  • ANXIETY – Change can easily usher in anxiety. The work environment has changed. The world has changed. The political environment has changed. School has changed. Family activities have changed.
  • STRESS – The recipe for stress is all of the above. People’s emotions can be on edge. Patience becomes shorter. The news is hardly ever positive. Domestic violence, abuse, and suicide are on the rise.

So this is the world we are in right now. And this includes your team. You work hard to be connected via Zoom, Skype, etc. Your team meetings are as good as they can be. People say the right things. They seem engaged.

But how do you go beyond the surface to connect to your team’s emotions, energy, and engagement?

In coaching sessions, ask better questions. And listen. You do not need to become a personal counselor to your team members – in fact, don’t be. If you discover that a team member is struggling, refer them to your employee assistance program (EAP) if your organization offers one. Encourage them to seek help. It is healthy to seek help from a trained professional.

Give your team member something specific to focus on. For some folks, when they become stressed out, everything seems to rise to the surface screaming for attention. Help them find some clarity by helping them identify the truly important from what seems to be urgent. Again, ask questions to help them self-identify what personal projects, initiatives, tasks will make the most difference. Once they accomplish those, walk them through the clarifying process again. Celebrate their wins. Encourage them in their journey.

Pay attention to their energy. Working from home can, for some, be a time of burnout since they are “on” all of the time. Encourage healthy habits – walking 20 minutes a couple of times each day, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, etc. Share inspiring articles, videos, or blog posts with your team.

Team members want to know that you are there for them. They are seeking validation in their work. They want to make a difference in the lives of the coworkers and customers. They want to know they can make a positive impact.

Identify with your team’s emotions. Help them sustain the energy necessary to do their work. Encourage engagement by asking great questions that make them think and then act in new, more effective ways.

Here’s to a better new year.

History Does Repeat

It’s true, you get what you repeat.

So….

At the beginning of this work week, what are you inclined to repeat over and over again? Is that what you want to do?

If not, start a new, better habit and then repeat that over and over again.

If you are not getting what you want – better results, better relationships, better health, better vibe – then change what you tend to repeat that is currently giving you lack-luster experiences. Perhaps the “secret” to your success lies in what you habitually repeat – good or bad.