Monthly Archives: October 2012

Respect and Resilience

An international gathering of small business owners attracted a diverse crowd at this year’s ISSA North America 2012 convention in Chicago’s McCormick Place. The convention floor was crawling with entrepreneurs in search of innovative products and methods. When I arrived at the podium to deliver my keynote address, “Building Great Teams,” the audience was already energized. I began my presentation with a story.

In a past life as a hospital administrator, my leadership responsibilities included the oversight of the facility’s environmental services and housekeeping departments. One of our most talented housekeepers had recently transferred job positions to a clerical role in a clinical area after earning her associate’s degree at a local community college. I ran into her in the hallway during her first week in the new job and asked how the transition was going. She lowered her eyes and spoke of her disappointment in her new coworkers. “Everyone greets me with eye contact and a warm hello when I walk into the department each day,” she related. Confused, I asked her to help me understand why this was disappointing. “I’ve worked in this hospital for six years,” she explained. “Until this week, I wore a uniform and walking through the hallways rarely garnered eye contact or a friendly greeting,” she continued. “I was just a housekeeper. Now that I have to dress in ‘business casual,’ I’ve somehow earned the respect of common courtesy. That’s just not right,” she stated.

Before I could finish my story, hands shot up throughout the audience. Almost everyone had a similar tale with a similar conclusion. In their world, building a successful business included the gauntlet of earning human dignity. Most of the business owners in the room enjoyed higher annual revenues than people would typically imagine for a residential cleaning service. Their approach to building and sustaining a thriving company was based on the same principles as are successful in other industries – clear goals, accountability, willingness to attract and develop top talent, innovative practices, and resilient response to a constantly changing market.

With time to network following the keynote, stories of respect and resilience were traded by professionals transformed from strangers to colleagues. Best practices were imparted with open generosity. Contact information was exchanged for future collaboration. Humility gave way to sharing. Friendships were forged and businesses were strengthened.

Sometimes, the recipe is simple.

Who’s in Your Community

The Mayor’s director of economic development stood at the center of the room as the facilitator carefully arranged community stakeholders in a constellation around his orbit. The exercise was designed to assist the city’s leadership to better understand the priorities of their community partners. One by one, workshop participants were assigned roles and placed somewhere in proximity to the center either facing toward or away from the leader. If it wasn’t already clear before the exercise, there would soon be no question about which members of the community had power and influence in this city’s future.

Curiously, the city leaders’ most coveted stakeholder was positioned outside of the inner circle in the exercise. Although the goal was to become a magnet to attract new residents to the undiscovered beauty, vibrancy, and charm of this city, little investment had been made in discovering what made living and staying in this city potentially attractive to newcomers. Was it the weather … the arts & culture…the school system…the friendly tax incentives for business…the easy access and lack of traffic congestion…the safety and security of the neighborhoods?  

What if you scaled this exercise down to your personal community. What purpose would you place in the center? Perhaps health and safety dominate your priorities. Maybe creativity and innovation call most loudly. For some, it’s financial opportunity while, for others, it’s the chance to make a difference. Whatever your calling, think about the people who should take up residence in your inner circle. Who determines their closeness to the center?

Family, friends and professional colleagues are all added to our circles with intent. Consider what might happen if they each had the power to choose their contribution to the shared purpose and their position in the constellation. Healthy and strong communities begin with this question.

Who’s in your community?

The Best Job in the World

In the morning, the organization’s Chief Innovation Officer laughed as she detailed the creative tasks that filled her typical day. At lunch, another company’s Controller described how good it felt when the books balance. In the afternoon, a school teacher lit up as he told the story of one of his students’ “aha!” moments. At dinner, the real estate agent described the perfect fit between the family and the home they had located together.

I had started my day believing I had the best job in the world. Mind you, I still believe this is true. By day’s end, however, it was clear that I am not alone in this belief. Many among us have discovered that ideal match between our strengths and the activities we define as our work. So what, exactly, is the recipe?

WHAT WE DO: The best job in the world has to be aligned with our personal mission. We have to believe that our work has meaning and somehow brings value to the world.

WHY WE DO IT: The best job in the world reflects the themes of our history. Somehow, a thread runs through all of the important people and events of our lives and lands in a role that, for this moment in time, furthers the reason we are on the planet.

HOW IT GETS DONE: With our own unique strengths and abilities, the way we approach our work becomes an extension of our natural wiring. Every task, every project, every interaction, therefore, becomes energizing and fun.

Take a look at your day. With whom did you interact and why? What activities filled your schedule? Does what you do, why you do it, and how it gets done occur in harmony with your values? Then, you have the best job in the world!