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Walking the Talk?

Sometimes it helps to look at others and then look at ourselves. Is someone else living up to their word? Are they “walking the talk?” Do their actions support what they say or write? When the answer to those questions is not a firm “yes”, we get a couple choices. We can complain about “them”. We can try to change “them”. Or, we can look inside ourselves for a similar example. How about learning from “them” and improving ourselves?

I have a small example of not walking the talk from two businesses. A health insurance company (UHC) and a hospital (PHP)  are having a “disagreement”. To keep it simple, the two companies cannot agree how to pay UHC for services at PHP locations. This has disrupted thousands of people’s health care. As full disclosure, this does NOT affect me at all.

I recognize that businesses sometimes cannot agree. But in this case, both of these organizations know that people choose their health care in the winter of the year before (in this case 2016) for coverage all year the next year (2017 in this case). So to have a “disagreement” in the middle of a year, knowing that your customers are locked into a year long “contract” that it very disruptive to change, seems to not be fair.

So I looked at each companies’ words. Are they living up to them?

Here is what UHC says on their web site: “What unites us is our mission to help people live healthier lives and make the health system work better for everyone.

We are working to create a system that is connected, aligned and more affordable for all involved. One that delivers high quality care, responsive to the needs of each person and the communities in which they live. We are also partnering with care providers, collaborating in new ways to improve patient care.”

Here is PHP’s Mission: “People will choose Premier Health over any health system in southwest Ohio. We will earn their choice, and grow our market leadership, by anticipating their needs and exceeding their expectations

Their Values include: “Act with INTEGRITY to do the right thing in all aspects of our responsibilities. And,
Serve with COMPASSION that embraces each individual’s concerns and hopes.”

I’ll be honest, I don’t think either company is living up to their words. “Make the health system work better for everyone”? “Do the right thing in all aspects of our responsibilities?”

I am not going to pound on either of these organizations. That is not the point, they are just the example. But do their actions – a dispute that means people cannot get the health care they wish at the prices they contracted at the locations they wish – match their words? I think not.

Here are the interesting questions for you. Does your organization truly live its words? How externally focused is your organization, honestly? Does your organization really walk the talk? How about yourself? Do you really follow through on what you say? Is your public persona backed by your private persona?

It is really easy to justify a position that might be interpreted by some as contradicting your values or principles. In fact, both UHC and PHP are doing that in this case.  But is the justification simply an excuse? Are you willing to do some real soul searching to truly understand if you are living your values, mission and vision?

The Greeter

I read the following the other day, and it got me thinking:

“A greeter greats people”, says Jim Churchman. . . “I try to project that’s there’s a happy spot in life, that anybody can find some happiness each day. If you come to Walmart, you usually come to buy something, but if you don’t, that’s fine. I’m spreading goodwill.”

“I’m spreading goodwill” – that sounds pretty worthwhile doesn’t it?

How many of us have belittled the “Walmart Greeter”? Have you ever said, or heard someone say, “Well, if you can’t get a real job, you could always be a Walmart greeter”? The idea is that the least qualified person could get that job. Or that job is so low on the scale of job that they must be willing to take anyone. Let’s face it, we think of it as a “joke” of a job.

But is it really?

In the short story above, the man chose that position. Why? Because he likes to greet people. He gets a lot of enjoyment out of it. He recognizes that his smile and hello may be the best thing in someone’s day. His effort to make someone feel welcome is a big improvement over so many other “encounters” we have at other places. Who of us likes to stand in line for a long time somewhere? Ever get to the checkout and be met by a grumpy person who barely makes eye contact? Ever been left to feel like you are imposing on someone by asking a question about merchandise? So in his mind, he is doing something he likes to do, is good at it, helps others and is an improvement over so many other experiences people go through in a day. Can you say that about your job?

He recognizes the value his job creates for people

So choosing to be a Walmart Greeter may be a really noble calling for some. They truly like to meet people. Someone who greets people at a church is considered a wonderful volunteer. Is the Walmart greeter any different?

Maybe the person has a desire or a need for some income. Can we begrudge them for that? For many of us, our jobs are a large part of our identity (if you don’t buy that thought, ask someone out of work how hard it is to answer the question, “so what do you do for a living?”). Maybe it makes someone feel a little better to say they work at Walmart than to say “I am a retiree”. In fact, in Jim’s case he was “retired”, as a former teacher and principal. He was looking for some way to stay engaged.

We hold some jobs on a pedestal. Other jobs seem like the bottom of the barrel. Maybe it is time to stop making those assumptions until we really consider the circumstances. Jobs are quite often the result of what a human being puts into them. A fancy sounding job with a lot of pay at a prestigious organization executed by someone who doesn’t care is not necessarily one to be envied. Maybe a simple, low-paying job executed by someone who cares is a better answer. But it is hard for us to separate the title from the truth. A little reflection might get us thinking differently.

I don’t go into Walmart very often, but next time I do, I am going to take a moment to notice the greeter. Maybe they will make my day a little brighter!

Organizational Culture and Finding a Job

I was at a Job Seeker’s Meeting last week and was struck by the simplicity of a message. That message made me pose a question to the audience about their preferences for organizational culture as opposed to the “perfect job” or the “right pay”. I believe it has deep implications for anyone trying to decide “what’s next”.

The meeting had a HR representative from Caterpillar Corp talking about their HR hiring process and tips for job seekers. The striking message was as follows. Caterpillar has a person read every resume submitted for a position, not an Applicant Tracking System. If you get an interview with Caterpillar, they will have all of the decision makers involved. They will also take you on a tour of the building so that you can get a feel for what goes on there. All interviewees are contacted, in person, to tell them if they are going to be offered a job or not. My recollection was that this contact was either always on the phone or highly encouraged to be on the phone, I can’t remember this detail for certain.

So that led to my first question for the assembled group. How many of you had Caterpillar on your list of companies to work for? After all, they are in a rather mundane industry – large construction equipment. I do not think anyone had considered them. In fact, the HR representative from Caterpillar said she never thought she would work for the company either.

My second question was this. Would you be willing to take a lower paying job or one that was not quite what you have listed as a dream job to work for a company that cares about its people – and the people that interview with it? So many people have experienced (and rightfully complained about) companies that “never get back to you”. Many had stories of companies that took a long time after interviews, often not even communicating that the person was not selected for the job. They feel like a pawn in a game.

That gets to an important lesson from the day. Culture matters. Culture is what we all deal with, daily. In the end, I would argue it is more important than what the organization does for profit. It probably is more important than the specific tasks you are asked to do. If you are having fun, working in a positive place, or being around people who are pleasant every day, you are probably enjoying work.

Doesn’t that sound like the right thing to do?

Think about the job application process today.  First,  a person finds a job they might be interested in. If done right, that person spends a great deal of time and effort applying for a job. They tailor their resume for the job description. They probably write a cover letter. Most of the time, an applicant will do some research to see if they know anyone at the company. They might even do some research on the company’s website. Multiply this time the number of jobs most people apply for and the hours add up to a very large number.

What if you changed this model a bit? Spend time trying to find out about a company’s culture might be a much better use of time. Why not? You might find a Caterpillar. And a job that fits you way more than the “ideal”.

Asking for Help

Why is asking for help so hard to do?

Like the last option in a decision tree, we wait to ask for help.  Like some painful condition, it is to be avoided. It is almost as if we are conditioned to not ask for help.  Perhaps it is a part of our history, passed on from “Gronk” the caveman. Perhaps Cro-Magnan man was expected to take his club, kill dinner and drag it home on his own.  Asking his wife or comrades for help might have been a character trait that did not get passed on to following generations.

I think this question is especially true for men.  Asking for help means you don’t have the answer. You are letting the world know you cannot solve something on your own. It can be viewed as a sign of vulnerability. Perhaps it is a sign of weakness. You have to make yourself a little bit humble.

But if you think about it from another angle, it can be liberating.

Don’t think about it as asking for help, think of it as telling someone else you would “value their input” or “would like their perspective” or “want to know their opinion”. If you can turn around the need for help from you-centered to the other person-centered, I think it makes a difference. The difference is you recognize “two brains are better than one”. You are recognizing that someone else’s perspective will be helpful.

Let’s say you need someone to look at your resume.  Might changing your request from “will you look at my resume?” to “I’ve been looking at my resume for a while and could use another set of eyes” be more palatable – and more accurate? It seems easier to say. You are also giving the other person a better idea of why you are coming to them.

There is another way to think about asking for help. You are boosting the other person. You are making them feel welcomed. We all have an innate desire to help others. Most people get some satisfaction from being able to help someone else, even in a small way. Therefore, most of us, when we are asked to help, jump at the chance. When you ask, you are opening up that opportunity to the other person.

Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are “being a bother” if we ask for help. So like the proverbial male driver who is lost but won’t admit it, we wander around aimlessly. We might even be wasting our time. Worst of all, we might give up on a promising opening that just needs another set of hands.

I guess some people could view you asking for assistance as an indication of weakness, being a nuisance, being indecisive.  But who’s issue is that?  Yours or the other person’s?

Is it okay to be a “people pleaser”?

I’ve talked with a number of people who have said one of their strengths is they are a “people pleaser”. By this, they generally mean they are driven by being in service of others. They enjoy helping others out. At the end of the day, they have been successful if they have made someone’s day easier or more pleasant. Seems like a great characteristic to have, doesn’t it?

However . . . .

There is a really dark side to being a people pleaser. The dark side hurts both the pleaser and the person they are helping. Like so many other things in life, an excess of one thing is not good for you.

First, for the pleaser. They will stop whatever they are doing to help the other person. This may lead to them not getting things done – ever. The pleaser gives up the “self” – or at least self is subsumed. Their identity is wrapped up in what they accomplished for others. This characteristic becomes a barrier (or is it an excuse?) for inaction (“I can’t do that thing for myself now now because I have to do something for the other person”). Like an addiction, the service of the other person is the only place they get their satisfaction. Unfortunately, they don’t think about what they would like to do – or at least don’t act on it.

Second, this pleaser attitude is a detriment to the person they are constantly pleasing. They never allow the other person to do things for themselves. The other person becomes solely dependent on them.  You could argue it stunts the other’s growth (ever seen a kid whose parents due everything for them struggle to do things in the world when they are on their own?). Maybe even more sinister is that the other person loses appreciation for what is being done for them because it is routine. A service becomes an expectation, not an act of kindness.  It is actually doing a disservice to the other by not allowing them to grow, to learn, to be independent.

Some will argue that they “enjoy” helping others. Or that they are more qualified or able to get things done. Perhaps they are repaying a parent. Or they justify it as “I don’t want others to go through what I had to go through”. Those may be noble sentiments. But in the end, are they really helping two human beings reach their potential?

Part of the work/life/self blend that defines us must have a piece of self care. That does not mean you are being “selfish”. Selfish means “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” That does not describe a people pleaser’s problem. They are actually stunting their own growth. They are tied down to helping others.  Self care simply means you recognize that honoring self is critical to a productive, growing life.

The sad thing is many people pleasers end up unhappy and unfulfilled. They deferred personal growth for too long. They missed out on opportunities that presented themselves but have now faded away. They don’t get recognition, or appreciation, for their service. In fact, they are no longer pleasing anyone.

It may be the case that you are really good at helping others. You have a talent and motivation for it. But like almost everything in life, too much of a good thing is bad for you.

Are you, or do you know someone, who is a “people pleaser”?

Little Celebrations

Is it good for you to celebrate a personal accomplishment? What if the accomplishment is nothing profound? What if the accomplishment is the simple act of being consistent? Would you judge someone if you knew their celebration was for something that seemed pretty trivial? It seems to me that celebrating one of life’s accomplishments almost feels like a form of bragging, calling attention to yourself.

But I am going to do it anyhow. And I will try to explain why it is important.

I am celebrating a little bit today.  This is my 300th blog post.  That means I have been posting once a week for nearly six years! I believe it is important to stop and celebrate occasionally. My blog is not a “best-seller”. I doubt is has a profound impact on people’s lives. It rarely reaches 100 people in a week. Some of the posts are pretty good, a few are my favorites and a lot of them don’t quite meet my original goals for them. But I get joy from doing them. I love the challenge of new ideas. Writing is fun for me. Coming up with something new to say is not easy. Putting my own ideas, or my spin on other’s ideas, is work. So a long, consistent performance deserves a celebration.

Hooray for me

In her post (https://www.forbes.com/sites/catescottcampbell/2017/02/28/the-key-to-creative-growth-celebrate-and-then-celebrate-some-more/#4d8dbd1d4782), Cate Scott Campbell challenges us:

“The problem, of course, is that this lack of celebrating success has put me at major risk of ignoring the big and small triumphs of creative growth—the triumphs that remind us of how far we’ve come, how courageous we’ve been, and how, even when it got bleak, we kept on.”

This little celebration of mine got me thinking. For most of us, we are our own biggest critics. We are really good at pointing out what we didn’t do, what we failed to accomplish, what we are not as good as others at doing. The idea to pause and reflect is not something we generally do. We know the job might not be done. We might feel there is a long way to go. Perhaps we have decided that we really have not accomplished anything. But that negative thinking doesn’t get us anywhere, does it? Why not try a different approach?

There are some really great benefits to celebrating. Research suggests that if you frequently mark off or celebrate mental milestones, life feels as if it slows down and takes on more meaning. The act of rewarding yourself feels good. It helps us to keep moving. Sometimes the celebration simply allows us to realize what we have done and motivates us to move forward.

You might not be a person who likes public displays of celebration. Perhaps you prefer not to bring attention to your accomplishments? Here is an alternative. I really like the idea in the post noted above suggesting a “jar of reflection”. Simply put a jar in your office or kitchen with a number of papers beside it. When you accomplish something, write it down and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, read everything you put in the jar. Your own personal celebration.

Okay, I am done celebrating. Back to work!

Hoarder?

I was talking with someone who is a counselor and a coach the other day. She mentioned how she deals with a lot of people that are “hoarders”. Those are the people who cannot discard anything. They hold onto all kinds of items – books, old gifts, newspapers, recipes, clothing. For them, getting rid of anything is bad. Unfortunately for many of them, the physical mess created by all of the hoarded items has negative consequences in many parts of their lives.

The idea of a hoarder got much more interesting when we started thinking about hoarders of a different nature. These were the people who hoard or hold onto emotions. Those emotions might be old feelings, dreams, slights, frustrations or failures. They might be a time when “everything was great”. Whatever they are, they remain, somewhere in the person’s conscious or unconscious. And just like physical items, these hoarded emotions get in the way of moving forward.

Perhaps you have been around a person who always seems to have a sad story to tell. They reminisce about some event or some encounter. Their existence is so cluttered by the images of the past that they cannot see anything in front of them. It is really not healthy. Nor is it productive. Another is the person who can’t let go of a time (real or imagined that way) when everything was right with the world. They constantly look back at that hoarded image of “perfection”, never to move forward.

I understand it is “hard to let go”. We can always convince ourselves there is a great reason for holding onto something (“I’ll hold onto that old shirt from the 70’s in case I need something for a Halloween party” or “I am going to keep that drawing my son made for me in third grade because it reminds me of him”). We can say that someone else might eventually need the item (“I will hold onto these 1000 wire hangers because someone will need them for cooking marshmallows over a fire or a teacher might want them for a class craft project”). We might even think we will use it – next week.

In the end, the mess becomes a reason for INACTION.

When you start to think about hoarding old feelings, the same situation occurs. A “pile” of emotions hides reality. Holding onto something that is of no use masks something of real potential. Good ideas, a call to action or a chance for a new beginning don’t see the light of day. The dream of using one of our passions in life is lost behind a stack of emotions telling us “why not”. Even something as simple as taking a long-desired dream vacation stands at the bottom of a pile of emotions. Or any of these items get overwhelmed by the size of the hoarded pile.

“I’ve got too much on my plate right now.”  “I am too busy”

We hear people talking about being too busy all the time. Stop for a minute and think about that. Might their be some hoarding going on? Holding onto too many things. Agreeing to do one more item. Not saying “no” to a new request (even though they are “too busy”) because they want to be helpful or put others in front of themselves.

How might we stop being emotion hoarders?

I think it is the same idea as a hoarder of physical items. First, take a moment to do an inventory.

Start with one part of your life, just like you might start with one room of your house. Perhaps you write down all of the emotions associated with one phase of your life. For example, when you think of work, what emotions come forward? What past emotions do you associate with work? Do you find yourself saying “if only so-and-so was not around?” Do you assign blame to others? Envy? Wish for some past job situation? Harbor ill feelings about some person?

Can you discard some emotional time wasters? Is there someone you can finally express those long-held emotions to that can help you release them? Who are some people that are peripheral to your life, but clutter up your judgement or your ability to move forward? How about throwing away a lingering emotion from some battle long forgotten? Is there something you can stop doing?

And then just take action. Stop being an emotional hoarder. See what free space opens up for you.