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Opinion Editorials

The true value of generosity (a personal story)

The simple truth of a moment of kindness. Generosity is not always money donations and big actions, and sometimes quiet, genuine moments can have the longest lasting effects.

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A hug and a baby wipe

In October of 2011 my father was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. About a month before the news broke, I’d traveled to Colorado to visit my two sisters for my birthday. I’d just turned 23 and was in my last year of college in Gainesville. My parents lived about 80 miles south of my door at the time.

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I was aware of my dad’s appointment afterward, but my parents were unusually cryptic about why he’d gone in the first place. Looking back, I’m sure that the symptoms were worse that they ever let on, but I distinctly remember how my stomach churned when they dismissed the appointment so easily. My dad wasn’t the type of man you could get into a doctor’s office even if you affirmed that his visit would be rewarded handsomely.

After his colonoscopy, which happened a few weeks after I’d returned from CO, we knew there were polyps, but not how many or how big. What we did know is that they couldn’t be removed routinely.

Getting the results

A few days before Halloween, he had the big appointment with the surgeon. Naively, we went into it thinking little about cancer (the physician who did his colonoscopy didn’t even mention that as a concern).

At the time I was working as a floor instructor at a huge gym in Gainesville, and I knew I’d get the call about the appointment during my shift. I informed my supervisor that I’d have to step out for a few minutes, and before I knew it, the call came.

I sat on a bench outside the two-story complex, and waited on the line for my parents to conference call both my sisters. My hands trembled.

My mom, in a shaky voice that has grown too familiar in the last few years, broke the news. We sobbed together, miles apart. My heart broke and pounded behind my ears.

There are utterly no words to describe the grief I felt, so I won’t try.

A stranger’s kindness

As active as the gym was, I couldn’t control my tears. They rushed in, and as I sat on the bench for what seemed like hours after the call, I cradled my head in my palms. Eye makeup ran down my hands and caked itself to my cheeks, chin and neck. God only knows how long I sat there sobbing before she tapped my shoulder.

A young woman (I could tell by her shoes) rubbed my arm. I was afraid to look up, but when I did, humble eyes met mine – her’s and her daughter’s. The little girl had beautiful, bouncy blonde curls, and her mother’s face was draped in the same radiant yellow.

She was a stranger, but her words are some the most generous I’ve ever heard. I will take them with me every place I go for the rest of my days.

“I don’t know what you’re dealing with, but it looks like you need a hug.” Without thinking, I hugged her as she held her daughter’s hand.

After a few minutes, we finally broke our embrace. “Honey, you should see your face. Do you want a baby wipe?” I shook my head and accepted, thanking her.

She didn’t say another word, just looked at me and smiled. I looked from her eyes to her daughter’s, both offering calming kindness, and she was gone. I watched her daughter’s angel curls bounce through the parking lot.

Generosity in the small things

It was a hug and a baby wipe that made all the difference that day, and the memory has made all the difference so many days since. Sometimes being generous doesn’t mean giving something monetarily, but giving something much more valuable. Near the end of October in 2011, that hug meant more than all the dollars in the world.

I don’t even know her name. Someday maybe I’ll get the chance to tell her exactly what those few minutes meant to me. I can only hope so.

#Generosity

Staff writer, Ashley Lombardo, earned her B.S. in journalism from The University of Florida and has used her skills to report on everything from the economy to productivity. She is well-known for her tremendously positive presence, and when she's not trying to save the world she indulges in red wine, friends, fitness, books, bubble baths, shoes, family and love.

Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.

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What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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