Thursday, April 11, 2013

Things I Carry But Not In My Bag

Over the past two weeks or so I have read a number of blog posts entitled "Things I Carry".   The first post I read was a spinoff of the "What's In My Bag" from US Weekly.  Like the author of that blog, I too must admit I secretly enjoy flipping through the magazine and I do take time out to read that article.  However, it's not the article that I look forward to with each reading.  I am more fond of the 25 Things You Don't Know About Me.

While I can't say I really care if Jon Cryer is on Facebook or not, I did enjoy learning that he engages in triathlons and speaks fluent Cantonese.  Now, does that information do anything for me directly?  Well no.  But those are things about Jon that you wouldn't find out from looking in his bag.  Maybe not even from having a general conversation with him.  This type of information takes getting to know someone or getting published in US Weekly.  But let's face it, none of you reading this are going to end up in this magazine.  No offense.  We're just not that important....wait I meant famous!

There are things about each and every one of us people would never learn if they simply looked in our bag.  This rings true for our employees, colleagues, leaders, etc.  If we just look at them at a surface level or try to hard to keep our relationship on a completely professional level we miss out on some important aspects of the individual.  I get that many people want to draw a line that they don't cross.  But I ask you this, how do you really know what drives, motivates, engages, excites a person if you don't look beyond their social persona?  When you take time to really get to know those around you great things happen. 

You get an opportunity to learn what people's aspirations are, what scares them, what they do in their spare time, what they would like to do.  All those things not only make it easier to lead them, develop them or motivate them but taking the time builds a level of trust you wouldn't have otherwise.  People are social by nature regardless of if they are an introvert or extrovert.  We need relationships to thrive and succeed. 

So I'll leave you with this thought.  You may be able to identify what is in someone's bag but can you recite a list of not even 25 things, just 10 things about each of those people you work with closely?  If you can't, I challenge you to go find them out.  Focus on them for a while and you'll be amazed at what you learn.

Friday, March 22, 2013

When I Stop Talking, You Should Get Nervous

As a mother of three energetic, creative daughters, I have come to learn that when they stop talking, I need to pay attention.  When I stop hearing them ask for something, nag at each other or just overall go on radio silence, I know something is up.  Unfortunately, the old saying "no news is good news" is not the case in this instance.  Come on, I know you can relate to what I am saying.  It goes from a loud, obnoxious roar to silence.  Then, the next thing you know finger paints are out and you have had your bedroom redecorated.  Let's just hope the paints were washable.

As someone who has spent my entire professional career focused on people, I have found this holds true in the workplace as well.  All of us have had or currently have the opportunity to work with talented individuals who openly share their opinions with us and others.  At times, the opinions being shared may not be ones we want to hear but we hear them regardless.  We have perhaps even prayed that those individuals would stop talking and just remain silent for a period of time.

Just like our children, when your employees who are typically out-spoken and open to sharing stop talking, you should get nervous.  In many instances, this change in behavior is not because they have  become introverts and less driven to provide feedback.  We all know, behaviors don't change dramatically over time.  It comes down to a change in their engagement, a feeling of lack of interest or just overall defeat.

You see, employees who openly share their thoughts, opinions and feelings do so because they care.  I worked with an individual back in the day who was incredibly passionate about not only his role but the organization.  At times, his approach to providing feedback was a bit unorthodox but he genuinely cared which is why he was so open with his opinions.  Then over time, he became less vocal.  He came to work, did his job and went home.  His engagement was dropping dramatically and no one even took the time to recognize it.  The company was growing quickly and leadership was less concerned with hearing what employees had to say.  Their focus was no longer on their people but on building a global footprint.

Does this sound familiar to you at all?  Have you had employees who have stopped talking either suddenly or over the course of time?  If you look at recent research published by Gallup, you will see we are all being affected by this trend.  Over 71% of workers are not engaged in their jobs.  Even more alarming is that 19% are actively disengaged.  Those are staggering numbers and quite frightening. 

So I ask you this question, are you even slightly nervous that your people have stopped talking?  If you're not, you should be.  Something is going on and it's up to you to find out what it is.  If you don't, your competitors might find out about it when they leave and go somewhere they feel valued and listened to.   It doesn't take a lot to make an employee feel valued.  It just takes time and commitment and a little bit of listening.  Are you ready to hear what they have to say?