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Calling for Random Acts of Kindness

September 12th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

In the current divisive and rather mean environment, I imagine many of you wake up wondering, “What is this world coming to?” I know I do. It would be so easy to just crawl under the covers with a good book and a powerful flashlight and wait until the world gets better. But then, I’ve never been one to just wait around for things to change. I think we each have a responsibility to make the change we want to see in the world – even if we can only make it one small step at a time.

I’d like to suggest that we start the change by committing to a random act of kindness every day. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be a kind word, a smile, opening a door, helping someone across the street.

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” – Bob Kerrey

As much as it’s about the kind things you do and say, it’s also about NOT doing and saying the unkind things that may sometimes fight to be heard. The rant against someone who thinks differently than you; the angry email to a co-worker who let you down; the horn or (admit it) hand gesture in response to a careless driver; the snarky, anonymous comment on an online article. Pack those away in a “venting box” in favor of a kinder world.

Tomorrow, instead of waking up wondering what the world is coming to, wake up and ask yourself, “How can I be kinder today?” Then commit to looking for opportunities to show someone you care. Here are some ideas.

• Do a chore or run an errand for an elderly neighbor.
• Let people merge in front of you – even when they’re rude about it.
• Call your Mom.
• Say “please” and “thank you.” Always.
• Volunteer at a food kitchen.
• Smile and say “hello” to everyone you pass on the street.
• Buy breakfast or lunch for a homeless person.
• Donate to a food bank.
• Give a blanket or some warm clothes to those in need.
• Help a stranger.

You probably will find lots of opportunities, big and small, to be kind. I’d love to hear about your random acts of kindness and how they made you feel.

“Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead

Till next time,
Karen

Kindness, Life, People

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Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past year or so (and who would blame you?) you’ve probably felt the effects of the big black cloud of negativity that’s looming about. I see it hovering in the buildings of the organizations I work with, reflected in the grim expressions of people on the street, and bolstered by the politicians and pundits we hear every…single…day. Even Pollyanna might have difficulty finding something to be glad about today.

So what are we to do? Give in to the negativity? No! Despite what’s going on around you, you have a choice as to how you respond to it, just like in this Native American legend.

One evening an old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."

"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

I’m here to suggest that you feed the right wolf. Make a conscious effort to focus on the positive, and increase what Shirzad Chamine calls your “positive intelligence” (PQ). Not only will you be happier, you’ll improve your relationships, increase your success at work, and, let’s face it, be a lot more fun to be around!

Here are some ideas for feeding the right wolf.

-Think about one thing that is causing you a lot of stress. Now think of three ways you can turn that into an opportunity.
-Practice saying “Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…”
-Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down something positive about the day.
-Surround yourself with positive people.
-Turn off the news and turn on a comedy.
-Get away from your computer and go for a walk, a hike, a run or some other activity OUTSIDE.
-Play.
-Watch kids at play.
-Meditate.

And check out my latest podcast: Please and Thank You - words that are very easy to use.

Let’s make positivity (and politeness!) “trending…”

“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.” – Joyce Meyer

Till next time,
Karen

Kindness, Life, People, Stress, wellness

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Giving Feedback That Matters

May 9th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

Feedback 500

For employees to thrive (and stay!) they need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. One of the best ways leaders can help employees feel this way is to give them timely and effective feedback on a regular basis. In other words, feedback that matters!

Now, I get that giving feedback isn’t always easy. For that matter, neither is RECEIVING feedback, but we’ll talk about that next time. Often when we hear the phrase, “I’d like to give you some feedback…” our defenses go up and we prepare for the worst.

Giving feedback, however, shouldn’t immediately trigger a negative response. Feedback is actually very much a positive. It’s a real opportunity to help someone get better and stronger. And as leaders, it’s our responsibility to help our employees get better and stronger.

Remember, employees want to know how they’re doing. You may believe “no news is good news” yet your employees may not see it that way. They may interpret your silence as apathy, and begin to wonder, “Why do I even bother?” Take the time to acknowledge and show appreciation for their efforts. Likewise, if there’s an issue, don’t assume it will resolve itself. Unless you say something, they may not realize there’s a problem. Poor performance does not improve with age.

Effective feedback is a gift and provides benefits for all.

Here’s how to give feedback that matters.

Make it timely. This doesn’t mean you have to praise them each time they complete a task. Be sincere! It means saying “thank you” immediately when they’ve made an extra effort or providing praise shortly after they’ve solved a complex problem or achieved a new skill. It also means giving negative feedback no later than 24 hours after observing the behavior. And be sure the feedback is based on your observation rather than what you’ve heard from others. Giving feedback regularly will help you build trust with your employees and make them more receptive and motivated to improve.

Make it specific. Focus on facts not feelings. Use the SAR method. Situation. Action. Results. “Thank you, Jane, for stepping in to complete that report while John was out. Without your help we would not have been able to complete the project milestone.” Or, “Bob, I’ve read through your proposal and some of the figures don’t quite add up. Accuracy on these proposals is essential to avoid future issues with the client.” Be sure you don’t fall into the “but” trap. “I really like your approach on the presentation, but I think the slides are too busy.” What will the employee hear? “The slides are too busy.” Use “and” instead. “I really like your approach on the presentation, and I think it will have more impact if you have fewer words on each slide.”

Be kind. As frustrating as the behavior may be, keep a check on your emotions and words. Stick to the facts and focus on the solution moving forward. Help them understand how what they do – or don’t do – impacts other individuals, the team, the project, or the organization. Also, be sure that you conduct negative feedback in private.

Listen. Deliver your feedback in a manner that allows a two-way conversation versus a finger-pointing monologue. Be open to the employee’s ideas as to how they might improve. Include them in designing the development process.

Follow through. Giving the feedback and recommendations is just the first step. If you leave it there nothing will happen. Once you’ve clearly defined expectations and next steps, help your employee improve by keeping them accountable. Set specific goals and periodic check-ins. Revisit the conversation to acknowledge progress made and/or reinforce development plans.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

For more on feedback, tune into my “Giving Feedback That Matters” podcast.

Till next time,

Karen

Accountability, Leadership, learning and development, People, Performance

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Want to Keep Your Top Talent? Give Them a Reason to Stay!

February 22nd, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

The job market is looking pretty good these days, which means many employees – especially those whose skills are in demand – no longer feel bound by the “just be happy to have a job” mantra that has kept them in place. The competition for top talent has been heating up, and if you want to keep yours, you need to give them a reason to stay.

Why is it so important to keep top talent? Well, aside from the obvious (that they are high contributors to your success) these employees are rare and in demand, they cost more to replace, and they often take other top talent with them.

So, what can you do to keep ‘em?

To be engaged and loyal, employees need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. Today, unfortunately, many are feeling overextended, under-appreciated and exhausted from trying to meet ever-increasing productivity expectations. And…with more opportunities out there, many are just a phone call away from leaving…

If you want your employees to be loyal to you, give them a reason to stay. Demonstrate that you value and appreciate them. Make them feel…

Valued by listening to them, and acknowledging their need for work/life balance.

Connected through ongoing communication about the direction of the organization and their role in it. Show them that they are a community and have a purpose bigger than themselves in it.

Challenged through growth opportunities and a clearly defined career path (NOT by more work, more hours…).

Recognized by frequent, sincere appreciation – both monetary and non-monetary – for their efforts.

Don’t let valuable mindshare and talent walk out your door. Start working to keep them today.

For more tips on how to keep your top talent, and some specific examples of actions that work, listen to my podcast “How to Keep ‘Em.”

Till next time,

Karen

 

company culture, Engagement, Leadership, People

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Keep Your People! Make Development a Priority

October 25th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

Development-1

As I work with leaders, teams and organizations to improve their effectiveness, it’s apparent that for many, learning and development has taken a back seat to, well, just getting the job done. Getting the product out…acquiring new customers…all while working lean and OVER-working everyone.

This is short-sighted and a sure-fire way to encourage top talent out the door.  If you want to keep that talent and grow your business you’ve got to provide opportunities for your people to learn and grow. The best way to do that is by creating and implementing effective employee development plans. Here’s how.

Ensure job descriptions are current and well-defined. Roles often morph over time as responsibilities expand or business needs change. This can be frustrating to the individual in the role – and detrimental to the team/organization – if training around new skill requirements and responsibilities isn’t included with the change. It’s also difficult to hire for, train for or promote someone into that role if you haven’t updated the current skills and responsibilities for the role.

Create career path outlines. People want to know what’s next for them, what skills and experience they will need to get there, and the opportunities available for them to learn and develop those skills.  People will be more engaged and loyal if they can see a future for themselves in the organization.

Incorporate development into Performance Management. According to a recent Gallup poll, 48% of employees say that they are reviewed just once a year. And only 14% say that the performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve. That’s no surprise. The annual performance review – dreaded by managers, hated by employees – typically focuses on weaknesses, and rarely includes a development component. How inspiring is that? Effective performance management is a continuous process (not an event) and includes a development component that both builds on strengths and develops areas that are not a strength.

Develop for future needs. Development plans should take into consideration organizational goals and the skills and behaviors employees will need to contribute to achieving those goals. They should also take into account the skills and behaviors employees will need in the future to succeed (yes, even if it’s not in your organization).  According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the top 10 skills in 2020 will be:




    1. Complex problem solving

    2. Critical thinking

    3. Creativity

    4. People management

    5. Coordinating with others

    6. Emotional intelligence

    7. Judgment and decision making

    8. Service orientation

    9. Negotiation

    10. Cognitive flexibility



  1. Consider employee goals and interests. It’s also essential that individual employee career goals and personal interests be taken into account in development plans. All too often employees have skills and talents that are under-utilized. Take the time to identify, develop and leverage those hidden talents and unspoken interests. Employees want to use their strengths and feel that they’re contributing to the organization in a meaningful way.

    Creating, implementing and supporting development plans for your employees will not only help keep them loyal and engaged, it will ensure that your organization is ready for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

    “Developing talent is business’s most important task – the sine qua non of competition in a knowledge economy.” – Peter Drucker

    Till next time,

    Karen

    Career planning, Leadership, learning and development, People

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“Connecting” Your Way to Wellness

July 13th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Earlier this month I was in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. with seven girlfriends I’ve known since high school. We call ourselves the “Jersey Girls” and over the years we’ve shared good times and bad, countless phone calls and visits, and lots and lots of laughter.  In fact, I still laugh out loud every time I think about all the fun we had. It was soothing, it was inspirational, it fed my soul. Oh, and did I mention it was fun?

I’m sharing this because in this hectic and often harsh world of ours we often forget the importance of doing things that contribute to personal well-being. Things like connecting with yourself by knowing and doing the things that feed your soul. Connecting with friends who care about you and accept you just as you are. And connecting with others by volunteering your time or expertise.

I was at a point where I needed some downtime. And having allowed myself to take it, I now feel smarter, more energized, and much more prepared to face whatever I need to.  I highly recommend you do the same.

Here’s how to “connect” your way to wellness:

Take care of yourself first.  You can’t pour from an empty cup. Just like you need to put your oxygen mask on first if you’re flying with a child, you need to take care of your health, your rest, and your basic needs in order to be able to do what you need to do for your family, your job, whatever. Know what soothes you and do it!

Connect with friends. And make it in-person connections versus posting on their timeline. Facebook and email give us the illusion that we’re keeping in touch, but nothing beats the in-person, eyeball to eyeball, love-the-sound-of-your-laughter kind of connection. Trust me. This one’s a priority for me.

Schedule a 3-hour window with no meetings.  Do your days turn into meeting mania?  Schedule a block of time where you are unavailable and can focus uninterrupted on work you need to get done, or just spend some alone time to reconnect with yourself.

No meetings after 4 pm on Friday. This should be a no-brainer, and yet there are those who still schedule, or call impromptu, meetings at 4 pm on a Friday. Change that by just saying no. Obviously there are times when it’s an emergency need. But for the most part, it’s just poor planning!

Be “present” with your family…and friends. When you’re with your family and friends put the phone away. Email, text, and the newsfeed can wait. Your loved ones want to see your smiling face and not just the top of your head. Put the phone away and allow for a real connection.

Give back – to your team, to your community, to your favorite charity, to others. Doing good for others helps you feel better about yourself and may improve your health. In a Canadian study, 85% of volunteers ranked their health as “good” compared to only 79% of non-volunteers.

Now start connecting!  You’ll be glad you did.

Till next time,

Karen

Health, Life, People, wellness

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