Let’s start with a true story
His routine seldom varied. Up punctually each morning at 5:30, showered, shaved, and dressed by 6:00, and out the door for a morning cup of coffee at a local café by 6:15. Even on the weekends, the only change was that he’d make the coffee at home. So when he got up that Sunday morning, nothing seemed different. Different day, but same routine.
Before your eyes
Looking at his wedding ring, he noticed that the skin of his hand looked different in the light that filtered through the kitchen window. Stepping into the breaking daylight on the back porch to confirm his initial suspicions, he noticed that what he thought he had seen was worse than initially thought. His skin had turned a jaundiced dull yellow, and it was everywhere he looked.
On the drive into the local hospital with his wife of nearly three decades, his mind began to scan for signs of what might be wrong. Sure he’d been a little more tired lately, but that was due to the hours he was working in establishing a new sales territory, right?
Everything was the same, except it wasn’t.
Once at the hospital, hope turned to horror as the doctors worked. “Your blood’s poisoned; had you come in here a day later, you’d have been gone for sure.” Test after test quickly followed, all pointing to the same result.
“You need to know that you’re going to die,” the surgeon told him. “At best, you’ve got a year with treatment, but it might be as quick as six months.” At that benediction, the cold chill that had been creeping over him gave way to a flash of anger and determination to fight and prove the surgeon wrong.
And wrong he was. Instead of six months, the rare cancer did its job in just under three, leaving me to bury my father before my 20th birthday.
The important ones
Growing up in my career as a professional, I often wished for his advice and counsel, and found myself wanting to tell him just how much the formative lessons that he had taught me still stick with me today. As a child, you’re typically not inured to the thought that your parents might become ill or die one day, and that you’ll be unable to adequately show your appreciation for their advice and counsel over the years.
We’ve all had similar experiences. Whether they’re a family member, a boss who gave our first big break, or a trusted colleague and mentor, we’ve all lost people important to us professionally or personally who are either no longer with us or with whom we’ve lost touch over the years.It’s important to take stock of our lives and the people in them before we let the time slip away.Click To Tweet
We’ve all got perfectly acceptable reasons for not letting those conversations of gratitude happen, on the surface at least. However, with a little probing into them, they crumble readily, proving to be more excuse than reason.
The power of gratitude
In the day-to-day routine of our lives, we’re often not told “thank you” for more than cursory exchanges. Holding the door open for someone might earn you a quick “thank you”, but a heartfelt expression of gratitude from a colleague or supervisor is rare in the workplace. This is despite research that solidifies the value of both receiving the thanks, as well as giving it.
In Janice Kaplan’s book The Gratitude Diaries, she identified that 70 percent of individuals in a research study responded that they would feel better about themselves and their efforts at work if their supervisor thanked them more regularly. We clearly want to be noticed and acknowledged for the things that we do; even if not in a public, self-serving way, a quiet expression of gratitude for what we’ve done for others is meaningful.
The interesting part is that despite an overwhelming majority of us enjoying that validation, we’re remarkably loathe to provide it; Kaplan notes that in the same study, only 10 percent of those surveyed said that they regularly showed gratitude to their co-workers or supervisors.
A boost of happiness
This is despite evidence that doing so, and doing so in writing pays amazing dividends to our own well-being. As noted in a Harvard University Medical School mental health bulletin, research by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, identified that the action of writing and delivering a letter of gratitude personally to someone who the writer felt had never been adequately thanked for their kindness, delivered impactful increases in happiness scores, more than any other activity tried in the research.
Not only did writing to someone to properly express gratitude provide a meaningful boost in happiness, but it also did so for an extended time, with benefits reported as long as a month after doing so.
Praise you like I should
For some of us, doing something so raw as writing a letter of heartfelt gratitude feels like a tad too much vulnerability. “Most people believe vulnerability is weakness, “said Dr. Brene Brown in her TED talk on the power of vulnerability.
“But really, vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves…are we willing to show up and be seen?”
It takes courage for us to open ourselves to write about what the contributions of someone else has meant to us—especially if there’s a chance that that person might be unaware of what a small act of kindness on their part actually meant to you.
A gift twice given
However, it’s the opportunity to step outside of those insecurities that gives us the power to not only reap the benefits of being grateful, but also provides the recipient with the incredible gift to know that they were impactful in some way, especially if the event had happened in the past at some point.
A personal example of this happened over the holidays; out shopping with family, I was stopped by a person who looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite recognize. She went on to effusively thank me for helping her when she came to my office, telling me that it meant so much to her and she was so grateful to me for assisting her. I thanked her for telling me this, and assured her that it had been my pleasure.
As we walked away, my wife asked me what it was that I had done for her; I had to truthfully say that I didn’t really remember, but whatever it was didn’t stand out in my mind as being extraordinary in nature.
And there it was: a gift twice given.
I had, apparently, in the past given her assistance when she felt she needed it the most and was now able to tell me what that had meant to her. She had given me the gift of knowing that my work had, at least for her, meaning and value.
Making gratitude a part of your life
So how do we incorporate these types of events into our daily lives more often? Professionally, I did them by design. Once a year or so, my staff and I took the voluntary opportunity to anonymously let others know of the way that we appreciated one another. I took our staff roster and distributed it to everyone, with the instructions that it was totally voluntary, and that they could write as much or as little as they wanted. The goal was to identify the people on staff that they were grateful for, and, in a few lines, express exactly what they were thankful for about them.
The response was staggering every time, with close to 100% participation. Every single person on staff had at least one expression of gratitude given to them by a colleague, and many had several, often multiple sentences long. These were typed for anonymity and given to the staff in sealed envelopes so that they could read and experience them however they chose. Over time, it led to staff members being more willing to share their expressions of gratitude with their colleagues face-to-face and with increasing frequency.
So, when you sit down to write such a letter, what do you write and to whom do you send it?
Be comfortable with your level of vulnerability in thanking the person for something that meant much to you, and consider sharing with the person the reasons that it did. While not recommending that you overshare—sometimes the toothpaste can’t be shoved back into the tube, and some things might be a bit too personal — I would encourage you to be as honest as you can be as to why their action was meaningful. That allows the recipient to have context for why their actions or words were so meaningful to you.
And as far as the audience?
You can feel free to express your appreciation to anyone, for acts large or small.
The only caution I might suggest is that you make certain that you’re heartfelt in your desire to thank them, and that the acts were truly meaningful. Even if you’re sincere in your appreciation, a hastily worded letter that seems trite or overly saccharine about a commonplace nicety can come across as being insincere, causing more harm than the good that you intended.
Reflect, write, read, and send.
What happens next?
Gods do not answer letters
Or so John Updike wrote about famed Boston Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams, who famously hit a home run in his last at-bat and did not return from the dugout once he’d rounded the bases, never acknowledging the adoring crowd chanting his name. You may never receive an acknowledgement from your reader once you’ve sent it.
That may sting. After all, you took the time to tell this person how much they mean(t) to you and how grateful you are for what they’ve done, and nothing?
And you’ve got to be okay with that. The purpose of this specific exercise wasn’t to establish a dialogue, but rather to tell someone that you appreciated them and their actions towards you. You’ve now done that, and you’ve got to provide room for your audience to experience their letter in their own way and own expression of it. The important thing is that you’ve done it.
So, this week, in a quiet moment, I’d challenge you to take a moment to reflect on the individuals in your life who’ve meant the world to you, or whom you appreciate, but they perhaps just don’t know it. Follow that reflection with action; after all, there’s no time like the present to erase that lack of knowing how special they truly are.
Have an in-person job interview? 7 tips to crush the competition
EDITORIAL) While we all know the usual interview schtick, take some time to really study for your next face-to-face job interview.
So, you’re all scheduled for an in-person interview for a job you’d kill for. It’s exciting that you’ve made it to this step, but the question is, are you ready? Especially with remote interviews being the new norm, your nerves may feel shaken up a bit to interview in person – but you’ve got this! And many of these tips can be applied no matter the interview setting.
We all know the basics of a job interview: dress nice, get there early, come prepared, firm handshake, yada, yada, yada… However, it’s good to really sit and think about all of the requirements of a successful interview.
There are seven steps for crushing a face-to-face interview. Do your homework upside down and inside out in order to walk into that room.
Which brings us to the first step: know everything you need to know backwards and forwards.
This can be done in two steps: getting to know the company and getting to know yourself. By doing website, social media, and LinkedIn research, you can get a feel of the company culture as well as the position you’re interviewing for.
By getting to know yourself, have a friend ask you some interview questions so you can practice. Also, take a look at your resume through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. Make sure everything is clear and can compete with other candidates.
The next step is to anticipate solving future problems. Have some insight on the department that you are interviewing for and come prepared with ideas of how to better this department. (i.e. if it’s marketing, give examples of campaigns you’ve done in the past that have proven to have been successful.)
Step number three requires you to go back to the research board and get some information on the employer. Find out who you’re meeting with (head of HR, head of the department, etc.) and make your self-presentation appropriate for the given person.
Next, work on making the interview conversation a meaningful one. This can be done by asking questions as people like to see you take an interest in them. Also, be sure to never answer the questions as if it’s your regular spiel. Treat each job interview as if this is the first time you’re presenting your employability information.
With this, your next step is to have stories prepared for the job interview. Anecdotes and examples of previous jobs or volunteer/organization experiences can help bring life to an otherwise run-of-the-mill resume.
After this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re showing enthusiasm for the position you’re interviewing for. Don’t jump on the couch in the lobby like you’re Tom Cruise on Oprah, but definitely portray that you’re excited and up for the challenge.
Lastly, make a good impression by being impressive. Be professional and in control of your body language. Put yourself in the mindset of whatever position you’re interviewing for and show them that you have what it takes.
The benefits of remote work are just too good to overlook
(EDITORIAL) Employees scream it from the rooftops and businesses don’t want to admit it: Remote work is just too beneficial to pass up- and here’s why.
Remote work has been rising in popularity in the past several years. Especially following the COVID-19 global pandemic, more companies saw significant benefits for both their business and their staff that went beyond the realm of finances by allowing remote labor.
Less happily, many people lost their job during the pandemic, but they ended up having more time to put toward their passions or were compelled to get creative with their remote business ideas to ensure a consistent stream of income.
If you remain on the fence about allowing your employees to work remotely, or are considering a career shift yourself, take a look at the top four benefits of working remotely, which may sway your decision.
Better Overall Quality of Life
Allowing your employees to work remotely doesn’t necessarily mean they work from home full time. There are benefits to having your employees work in an office part of the time – say, two or three days – and working from home, in more familiar surroundings, the rest of the week.
In this way, your workers enjoy some freedom and independence while retaining the ability to interact face-to-face with their peers. That provides human interaction, which can play a substantial role in terms of improved mental health for your staff.
Happy employees means healthier employees, which can save your outfit money in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity. But we will get further into the cost-saving benefits a little further on.
If you’re a remote worker, you should see yourself becoming significantly more productive. But why would this be the case if you don’t have a manager over your shoulder watching your every move?
It’s true that when employees have a greater sense of independence, they also experience a significant sense of trust on the part of their employers and managers. This is one of the huge benefits of working remotely because it has a trickle-down effect on the quality and overall production of people’s work.
Can Work Anywhere with Internet
Whether you are a small business owner or have crafted your work to tailor toward a life of remote labor, this is an opportunity for someone who has dreamed of being a digital nomad. You have the ability to work anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the Internet. If you love to travel, this is a chance to spend time in various places around the globe while continuing to meet your deadlines.
Set Your Own Hours
In some cases with remote businesses, you have the freedom to set your own hours. Content writers, for instance, tend to enjoy more flexibility with regard to when they work because a lot of what they produce is project-based rather than tied to a nine-to-five schedule.
When you’re a business owner, this can be incredibly useful when you outsource tasks to save money. You can find a higher quality of performance by searching for contractors anywhere in the world and it doesn’t limit you to workers who live near to your office.
Saves Everyone Time and Money
In the end, remote work typically saves money for every person and entity involved. Businesses save costs in terms of not having to pay for a physical space, utilities, Internet, and other expenses. This allows you, as the owner, to spend more of your income on providing quality software and benefits for your employees so your operation runs more smoothly and efficiently.
According to FlexJobs, employees or remote business owners may save around $4,000 on average every year for expenses such as car maintenance, transportation, professional clothing in the office, or even money spent dining out for lunch with coworkers. Eventually, the costs add up, which means extra money in your pocket to take that much-needed vacation or save up for a down payment on your first home.
These benefits of working remotely only skim the surface. There are also sustainability factors such as removing cars from the roads and streets, because people don’t have to travel to and from an office; or employees missing fewer workdays since they have the ability and freedom to clock in from home.
Weigh the pros and cons as to whether remote work is right for you as a business owner or online professional. You might be surprised to find that working from home for more than the duration of the pandemic is worthwhile and could have long-lasting benefits.
Do these 3 things if you TRULY want to be an ally to women in tech
(EDITORIAL) We understand diversity helps and strengthens our companies, and individual teams. But how can you be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce?
More and more women are leaving their positions with tech companies, citing lack of opportunity for advancement, wage gaps, and even hostile working conditions as some of the reasons why.
What’s better for the tech industry and its employees than cultivating inclusive and diverse departments? Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce. To name a few:
1. Be open to listening to different perspectives.
It can be awkward to hear so many reports of workplace politics stacking against women, especially if you’re not a woman!
Instead of getting uncomfortable or defensive – ask open ended questions and be interested in a perspective that isn’t yours and may be unfamiliar.
Don’t seek to rationalize or explain the experiences you’re hearing about, as that can come off as condescending. It’s common for women to be interrupted or spoken over in team gatherings. If you notice this happening, bring the conversation back to where the interruption began. Offering your ear and counting yourself as responsible for making space will improve the overall quality of communication in your company.
Listening to and validating what women have to say about the quality of their employment with a company is an important step in the right direction.
Expressing something as simple as “I was interested in what you had to say – could you elaborate on your thought?” can help.
2. Develop an Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.
An ERG is a volunteer-based, employee-led group that acts as a resource for a particular group of employees. An ERG can help to foster inclusiveness through discussion, team-building activities and events. It’s common for a department to have only one or two women on the roster.
This can mean that the day to day feels disconnected from concerns commonly shared by women. disjointed it might feel to be on a high performing team, without access to relatable conversations.
3. Be responsible for your company’s culture.
Chances are, your company already has some amazing cultural values in place. That said, how often are you checking your own performance and your co-workers performances against those high standards? Strong company culture and values sound great, but whether or not they’re adhered to can make or break the mood of a work environment.
Many women say they’ve experienced extremely damaging and toxic cultural environments, which lead to hostility, frustration, and even harassment. Take action when you see the new woman uncomfortable with being hit on at team drinks.
Call out those who make unfriendly and uncouth comments about how women perform, look, or behave.
Setting a personal threshold for these kinds of microaggressions can help you lead by example, and will help build a trustworthy allyship.
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