Bring Your Best

A couple days ago, I had an appointment scheduled at a local coffee shop. As I walked up to order my tea, a young woman greeted me with a huge smile on her face. She motioned to me to come over to where she was busy ringing up customers. I commented to her about the new renovation that had just been completed in the coffee shop. She excitedly waved her hands around the room and shared how much she loved the way it looked. When I inquired about the different drinks, she patiently explained each one and went to great pains to ensure that I would order something that I would enjoy. We continued to talk for the next few minutes as I finished up my order.


I walked away from the counter with a big smile on my face.


I watched her for a while after I sat down. I was curious if that interaction was just an outlier or this was her normal workplace behavior. I realized that she truly was that incredible with every person she encountered. She made each person that walked up to the counter feel like they were the most important person that she had come across that day.


I know for a fact that young woman working in the coffee shop is not a manager. She is just a regular old customer service worker that I doubt makes more than 10 dollars an hour. I am pretty certain that she would have given me that exceptional service no matter what she was paid. She took great pride in her work and was committed to giving her best to everyone that she encountered.


In the book, Linchpin, Seth Godin says that “the world no longer compensates people who are cogs in a giant machine.” In the past, industry desperately needed employees that could learn the rules and processes and not think outside the box. Today’s world needs Linchpins. Godin says that “linchpins are the essential building blocks of tomorrow’s high value organizations.”


You know those people that really stand out? They’re the ones that go the extra mile and see beyond their job description They’re creative, energetic and do more than just follow the rules. They bring their strengths and talents to their job every day. They are willing to see possibilities and take scary risks. Yes, they are willing to deviate from the regimented rules and risk failure.


Now, maybe you’re thinking that, you, too, could be a Linchpin in the right job. You’re just stuck right now in a position that doesn’t let you be “you”. Well, you could be half right.


But let’s go back to my friend in the coffee shop. I have a feeling that working for 10 dollars an hour is not her long-term goal for a career. There’s a lot about her present position that is monotonous, stressful and mundane. However, she has found a way to bring her best self to her job every single day.


She stands out.


The question for you is, what do you aspire to be? It’s possible that you are in a position right now that stinks and you’re bored, frustrated or even miserable. However, you have a choice. You can make it a point to be a linchpin. You can be that very different person that daily brings your strengths and talents to your work. You can stand out.



Forced Changes

image railroad tracksI was sitting in a local coffee shop with my tea trying to focus on my work. However, focus was an uphill battle for me. You see, trying to work when something is “going on” around me is quite difficult.


Let me explain.


I believe the way my mind works has a lot to do with my childhood. I have a memory of being with my parents in the car at a stoplight. My mom looks over to the couple next to us and she starts talking.


“It looks like they are not getting along. Look how he is trying to avoid her and she is trying to talk to him. I can tell she is getting very frustrated and this has probably been going on for a while. Why doesn’t he just look at her so that she’ll feel better. I can tell that she is very sad about the situation and is very upset. I bet that they’ve been married for a while and look how uncomfortable the kids look in the back. They look so unhappy. Why can’t parents just realize how it affects their kids”?


Now, I remember thinking:

  1. I can’t understand why she cares about the strangers next to us.
  2. When I look over there I see nothing.
  3. How she can weave a whole complete story in one minute?

Now back to my story. I’m sitting in the coffee shop trying to write a proposal. This is just detail work and not my favorite part of my job. However, I am trudging through it so I can say that I’ve accomplished one more thing. Next to me is a woman and her daughter. When I sat down, I saw the woman wiping her face and for a minute, I thought she was crying.


As I work, I try not to think about her but this is very, very hard. You see, I guess my brain is just wired to pick up on other’s emotion. I try to sneak a glance and I see her wiping her face again. She is talking in hushed tones to her adult daughter. I also notice that she does most of the talking while the daughter listens. I sneak a quick glance at the daughter but I don’t catch much. I can’t really hear the words but the tone is serious.


I force myself to focus on my work and stop being my mom. I hear the words; “I helped you out of debt already.” The other words I hear during the conversation is the following, “ you need to make changes in the way you live your life.” The emotion is all one-sided with daughter being stoic. The last thing I hear before they leave is Mom saying, “I think that I have done too much for you in your life”.


I thought about this for a while after they left. There are times that (to a lesser degree) I am the mother in this scenario. I catch myself wanting the companies that I work with to desperately make CHANGES more than THEY actually want the changes to happen. I find myself wanting coaching clients to make CHANGES more than they actually want to make them happen. I sometimes think that if I keep talking, that the change will happen. Maybe I can WILL it to happen.


But that’s not the way life works.


I think that we are all guilty of this at some point in life and we can waste a lot of energy worrying, persuading and trying to make these CHANGES happen. We do this because we want to control our world and a loss of control is not a good feeling.


I think it’s about time for you and me to accept the fact that we have no control over others desire to change. We have control over just YOU and ME. We can lay it out there for others but the ball is in their court.


So let it go.

Pushed to the Limit


Working Smarter

image working smartRecently, I was working with a business client that was complaining about not having enough time in her day. I asked her to write her schedule down daily. When we reviewed the schedule the next week, she commented that she was certain I could see the problem. There just wasn’t enough time to accomplish everything important in her life!


What I did decipher, among other things, was that she worked an unbelievable amount of hours in her career. In fact, she worked well over 60 of them. Now, I’m sure that this bit of information does not faze some of you. You see a clear connection between the number of hours you work weekly and your desired career success. However, I beg to differ.


I own my own business and am quite guilty of working my fair share of 60-hour weeks, or more. It’s not unusual for me to be working 7 days a week on some aspect of my job. Yet, I noticed something yesterday that I want to share with you. Maybe this resonated with me because of the recent discussion with my client. Anyway, it was Saturday afternoon, and I was sitting at my desk. I had a to-do list beside me and knew exactly what I needed to accomplish. However, I was getting absolutely nothing done. Yes, I kept myself busy by jumping around on the internet and checking this or that- but I neglected to finish one thing on my list.


I was busy, but not with the tasks that I needed to accomplish.


I was mad at myself for not being able to be productive. I pulled up my accounts and began the task of filling in yesterday’s appointment updates. However, my brain was working in slow motion. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t focus on anything. Frustrated, I gave up after 2 hours of being “busy”.


Did you know that 4 in 10 Americans work over 50 hours a week? That probably doesn’t surprise you, but how about this tidbit: your productivity falls starting at 50 hours a week, and takes an even steeper decline at 55 hours weekly. Numerous studies back up the fact that at 55 hours, you become less efficient and the quality of your work declines.


Could this be the reason for the frustrating experience at my desk?


Maybe it’s not that we’re so busy in our lives as much as we waste time pretending like we’re working hard. Maybe we could get much more accomplished if we worked less hours and made those hours really matter.


My suggestion is to step back and take a good look at your work habits. Your life could possibly feel like it’s spinning out of control because you’re working hard, but you’re not working smart. You’re putting in the time, but you’re not making the MOST of your time. You could very well be like me and be wasting time, going through the motions of what you call work.


Before you consider implementing CHANGES, give some thought to the beliefs that you have about work. Do you believe that working hard is the only key to success? Does it soothe your guilt when you work? Do you think that it looks good to others? Does it enable you to ignore another part of your life?


Before you can make positive CHANGES, you need to understand what purpose overworking serves in your life.