Leadership Tales from the Cube


Recently in a staff meeting, my manager was running through the usual updates in our department. There were about ten in the room all chattering about the enormous changes happening in our industry, the potential government shutdown and the cruddy broken printer. After 15 minutes of this, one of my bright-eyed colleagues changed the subject and praised a new system our technical coordinator put in place. This lightly changed the tone of the room. Wanting to continue this positive tone, I quickly spouted off highly positive feedback received on an inaugural team project I worked on. Someone else caught on and cheerfully pointed out individual kudos for everyone. Suddenly everyone was smiling and giggling at their accomplishments forgetting about the ratty old printer.

It’s amazing how the thermometer vs thermostat technique works. The metaphor has been around for a long time and used in all sorts of situations, especially in the workplace. Using it at work is fun since it’s one way you can change your environment.

Apple’s trusty widget dictionary says a thermometer is an instrument for measuring and indicating temperature. A thermostat is a device that automatically regulates temperature, or that activates a device when the temperature reaches a certain point.

The thermometer in our meeting was all of us. Some didn’t want to be there, others were worried about their deadlines and the temperature stayed a chilly 41 degrees. I was exhausted and just listened to the normal corporate speak. At that moment, I wasn’t concerned with adding warmth to the conversation. I was just displaying the temperature, nothing more. Thermometers don’t change anything, they just conform to the environment surrounding it.

It wasn’t until my colleague popped in with a compliment on the new system that I woke up out of my zombified state and agreed. She chose to be a thermostat and change the temperature of the room. I was starting to feel the place warm up a bit. I chose to go for the gusto and throw in more positive fodder. Suddenly, we were up to a balmy 75 degrees. Another colleague caught on, offered serious kudos and voila, it’s 85 degrees and everyone feels warm and fuzzy. The benefits didn’t stop there. As we filed back to our desks, we continued complimenting each other and kept the plastered smiles on our faces. One co-worker took it upon herself to write “You’re blindingly awesome” on a teammate’s message board. She was glowing the rest of the day. How awesome is that?

What happened in this 45 minute meeting? Three people made a choice to change the conversation to a positive tone. It takes action to change a thermostat, just as it takes a conscious effort to change the quality of a meeting at work.

Think of those chilly conversations that go on in meetings at work. Do you see eyes rolling and glazed looks? How about questionable comments? Maybe someone fell asleep in the corner? It doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re tired of constant negativity in your conversations and meetings try offering:

  • a light-hearted comment
  • a compliment to a teammate
  • a positive point on a project
  • a humorous work story
  • a big smile

If you’re there anyway, why not bring rays of light in? You have the power to change the temperature, even if it’s temporarily. When everyone’s smiling, they’ll eventually learn being gloomy isn’t the way to go and learn from your shining example. Go forth and crank up the heat!

Inspirational Seconds

Positive change? What’s that?

For several years, I’ve wondered why many people have a negative association with the word “change”. When employees hear “We’re changing the company’s procedures”, it’s followed by groans and speculation. If your spouse says “I need a change”, your heart drops. In baseball, a pitching change means the pitcher walks off the mound with his head held a little lower. Change, why are you met with such disdain? Why don’t we realize you signify one of the most awesome and powerful forces on earth?

Many of us interpret change as failure, the unknown or just plain annoying. This may be true some of the time. I’m more interested in looking at the positive side of change, because it exists and you just have to look for it. Many feel getting outside our comfort zone is a negative thing. What if getting outside our comfort zone was viewed as a positive action? Now you’re talking about life transformation by embracing change. Since external change is mostly out of our control, let’s talk about internal. It’s a much more exciting topic anyway.

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” — Jim Rohn

Notice Jim didn’t say life gets worse. He views change as a positive tool in life. You want a better life? You NEED change. A seed in the ground can’t grow to a beautiful oak tree if it just sits there for decades. It has to break out of its shell and change. It also doesn’t become an awe-inspiring tree overnight — it takes time.  Notice that same oak tree didn’t consult his tree friends if it was ok if he became gigantic and wonderful. He also didn’t check to see what the other trees were doing first and then followed suit. He sure as heck didn’t wait around for five or six seasons thinking about doing it and then said “I’m not sure I wanna change, sounds kinda tough.” He just did it. (Yes, I just personified a tree)

A seed changing into a tree is natural. Why is change for humans so…unnatural? (see the comfort zone reference above) If you’ve tried tirelessly to change internally, perhaps a few tips for success are in order:

  • Assess how you look at changeDo you catch yourself saying “It’s going to be difficult” or “I have a long, bumpy road ahead of me” or even “I’m not looking forward to this”? Maybe it’s time to flip that perspective to “I’m excited to be on this journey”, “Something fantastic will come from this challenge” or “This will all be worth it in the end” An internal change means personal growth, positive outcomes and brighter days ahead. Who wouldn’t want that?
  • Picture the outcome
    Are you striving to be a smarter entrepreneur? A more organized employee? A more compassionate parent? A more influential leader? Picture it. We are visual creatures. If we can’t see the end result, our belief falters and soon, change looks cruddy and unreachable again. Take a few minutes every day to picture how this positive change will look. Are there 100 more clients in your roster? Do you have more balance and less stress at the workplace? Do you picture less arguments with your children? Are there 500 more people following your vision? Be vivid in your picture. What’s it look like? How do you feel? How are others reacting?
  • Remember your courage
    Many people want you to get ahead, just not ahead of them. When you look at change as a positive, exciting aspect of life, you’ll still be surrounded by those who don’t. You’ve changed your outlook, you have a vivid picture of the victory, but your social circle says “Are you serious?” This is a tough one that I’ve struggled with. When you’re ready to break from the pack and do something “unnatural” in their opinion, there will be friction. It takes courage to overcome this. It may mean associating less with negative people who don’t support your life-changing dream. It could mean while you’re getting outside your comfort zone, someone else watching you strive for excellence jumps out of theirs too. They’re uncomfortable with this new-found “you”. You’re taking control of your life while they’re still chilling out in the ground happy as an ungrown seed. I brought this issue up to my mentor once and he smartly responded, “Don’t ever let someone else’s insecurity to grow stop you from improving yourself”. I was trying to make others comfortable by blending in. What good is that? How do you become a better you by being like everyone else? Let your vivid picture of an awesome life feed your courage.

Make positive change work in your corner. It opens the world to new ideas, better opportunities and a passionate life. Who wouldn’t want that?

“Change your thinking, change your life” — Brian Tracy

Inspirational Seconds

So whatcha waitin’ on?

Regardless of your musical preferences, there are innate, relevant messages in song. This is especially true when the musician is genuine, sings from the soul and loves what they do. While busy with deadlines yesterday, I needed some low background music in my headphones. Alicia Keys, an R&B singer, fit the bill. Most times, I barely hear the lyrics since I’m focused on my work, but this time, I was destined to hear them. iTunes rolled onto a song called “Piano & I” which made me smile. Maybe you can relate.

“Whatever stops you from dreamin’, Whatever tries to stop you from livin’
Flip it

Welcome home
‘Cause right now what I have to do, Is I gotta amp myself up as well as you
So, yeah, so what it took me like, maybe two years and sh*t, but I’m feelin’ prepared
You know what I’m sayin’, and I’m feelin’ a little more ready for the world
And less lost, as I once was

So come on. What you waitin’ on?”

Wisdom comes from many sources. Let’s “break it down”. (see what I did there?)

Whatever stops you:
What are the obstacles stopping you from a life you truly want? Finances? Kids? Spouse? Lack of education? More than likely, the big obstacle is you. You can’t get past you and the second-guessing thoughts you have. There are thousands of pages worth of stories on people who overcame financial woes, unsupportive family and not even a high school degree in their hand who have created a legacy of success. You probably thought of a few already. They didn’t have superhuman abilities, they weren’t handed those opportunities at birth and they surely didn’t have anything fall in their lap. The obstacles that stop you from achieving what you know you should be doing with your life: Flip it for good. Make it your reason to pursue your passion, it makes the victory that much sweeter.

I gotta amp up myself:
A successful musician like Alicia has to motivate herself every day as much as the next mortal. There’s no super secret. There’s no special concoction. Keep your eye on the prize and run for it. I didn’t say walk. Believe me, walking is not the way to go as I’ll expand on in the future. Humans need support, love and encouragement when pursuing goals. Even Michael Jordan had a coach to teach and encourage him. Keep that dream in front of you and if it’s your true passion, it will amp up your heart and you’ll want to run for it.

So what it took me 2 years:We’re a microwave society forever in the fast lane. We want success yesterday. Alicia doesn’t chastise herself because she didn’t achieve her dreams as quickly as she thought. So what? If you had a choice to achieve your dream you’ve had your entire life in the year 2015 or not at all, what would you choose? I hope that question was a no-brainer for you. NO ONE and I mean NO ONE wants to be surrounded by family in their last moments of life wishing they had…(fill in the blank). Put yourself aside and start working on that dream one step at a time.

I’m feelin’ a little more ready…and less lost
You are stronger and more capable than you think. You are ready. If you’re lost on how to start, find those who support you and your dreams. Read inspirational blogs like this, ask someone to mentor you, heck, email me! This is your dream we’re talking about! My purpose is to be a master encourager and guide people in changing their life. One of the most influential books I can recommend on finding your purpose is “Simon Says” by Chuck Goetschel. It’s a helpful, interactive guide to help you vividly illustrate and find your passions.

So come on. What you waitin’ on?”
Been there, done that. Never again. Period. There’s a saying that goes, “When you’re traveling to a destination, you don’t wait for all the lights to turn green to start.” Life is life and schtuff happens. How long will you wait until you’re “ready”? Wait until you get that promotion. Wait until you move into that new house. Wait until the kids get older. Wait until you get motivated. Wait until life is absolutely perfect. The only perfect moment to start living your passion is now. That’s the perfect time. Whatever you do, just start. It can be baby steps. Each step is one closer to getting what you really want out of life and you made more progress than not stepping at all. Wouldn’t you like to have a smile plastered on your face every day because you were doing something you were created to do? Yeah, it’s like that.

Thanks Alicia!


Inspirational Seconds

Don’t should on yourself

What? ANOTHER inspirational blog? Aren’t there enough of “those” sites already? Apparently not. Just look at the local news (or don’t, as I prefer not to). Nowadays, people focus only on the ‘rational’ part of inspirational. Seeing is believing. Lead with the brain. Do what makes sense. There’s no hope. Why try?

I have a few answers for you. Seeing is not just for the eyes. Lead with the soul. Do what makes your heart soar. There’s ALWAYS hope. And, according to Yoda, there is no try.

In my little neck of the woods, I watch a myriad of humans getting caught up in life, or should I say, trapping themselves in it. They allow their heart and soul to take a back seat to pleasing a boss, maintaining status, or making ends meet. They get stuck in the ‘shoulds’ of life whether by comparing themselves to others or letting others do it for them.

You should get a real job. You should have kids. You should get a cat. You should make more money. You should volunteer at church. You should go back to college. You should be more like your brother. You should be a lawyer.

I should be skinnier like her. I should have a bigger house like his. I should be smarter like him. I should be a better softball player like him. I should have well behaved kids like hers. I should be making more money at my age. I should be a vice-president by now.

In the words of Chuck Goetschel, “Don’t let people should on you”. You have a life to live and getting “should on” constantly is a cruddy way to live it, whether you or someone else is doing the shoulding. This blog is designed to show you how one human can go through many, many (many) trials and tribulations in life and with a little support, find hope and a new vitality again. I’ll offer suggestions, bullet points, diagrams, and smoke signals on how you can get life back on track. These are real life perspectives, tried and true. It starts with you tuning out those shoulds and tuning into what you have to offer. No one wants to be should on, so why do it to yourself?