Quick Thoughts: True Friends Tell You What You Need To Hear

If I were to ask you to think about who your friends are, there’s a good chance you’d think about who you love hanging out with on weekends and having fun. You’d think about who you get along with the most, who you’re happy to be around.

But maybe you should also think about those people that brave the potentially uncomfortable and awkward situations to tell you what you need to hear, regardless of whether you want to hear it or not. Now granted, you have to trust that those people have your best interests at heart. But in the end, it’s the friends that are willing to give you the needed reality check that are the best.

You Don’t Know Someone Until You’ve Walked In Their Shoes

Who says all the cool random conversations have to happen in the office? A technician came to change my gas meter the other day to swap out the old one with a new smart meter which will allow the company to take a reading without having to come by my house. I thought that was pretty cool. When he rang the bell and I answered, he asked if I went to Penn State because I was wearing a hoodie that said it. I answered no, but that my brother had attended the university. As it turns out, the technician attended Penn State for 3 years and then went into the military, serving overseas as well as here in the States. And while he is no longer part of active duty, he is part of the National Guard.

His military service started a really interesting conversation about politics, war, civilian life, racism, and community influence. It was great to hear his about his experience in the military and how it was different for him as a minority. In fact, all of his responses and opinions on the topics we spoke about were fascinating to hear and I was very thankful that he shared them with me. And I did thank him for his service to our country.

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Before passing judgment, try walking in someone else’s shoes.

I was reminded of a valuable lesson after my conversation with him. And that is that you really don’t know and cannot understand what someone is experiencing unless you walk in their shoes. As human beings we have our own opinions on things and we don’t always agree with others. That doesn’t mean the other person is wrong, an idiot, uneducated, or stupid. It just means that they see the world in a different way than you do.

I recently watched a film called “Citizen Soldier”, and the story was about a group of soldiers in the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. I found it interesting because these were soldiers that had regular full time jobs, trained for 40 hours a month, and were sent into Afghanistan and into combat. After watching the film, I had my own reservations and questions, and this tech was able to clear them up for me.

It’s really easy to sit on a perch and pass down judgment on everything you see around you or what’s fed to you by the media on television or online. Social media has given everyone a megaphone to share their opinions in an open forum regardless of understanding situations. People just don’t listen anymore before they speak. And this leads to landslides of negativity that you see in your feeds every day. The “glom on” effect is just rampant.

It’s not wrong to have an opinion. It’s better if you have one. But before you choose to share your opinion about someone or any situation that you haven’t fully experienced, try speaking with someone that has.

What do Employees Need to be Motivated?

When I commute to the office in the morning, traffic gives me the time to think. I know that this must sound pretty ridiculous but sometimes I welcome that. But as much as traffic gives me time to think, I don’t look forward to sitting in traffic. I don’t want to sit in traffic.

But while in traffic I tend to think about a wide range of things, but today it was about employee motivation. And so I asked myself the question, what motivates me as an employee? Is it schedule and work location flexibility? Is it a good relationship with my manager and coworkers? Is it meaningful work? Or is it financial?

Do you know what motivates you as an employee? Before you answer, I suggest you read “How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs influences Employee Engagement”, by Steve Smith. I would also suggest that managers read the article as well, it just might help keep your talented team members from leaving.

Curious to hear your thoughts and feedback, what truly motivates you as an employee?

Why Goals Should Have Measurements for Success

I ran my first marathon last year in New York City, and at the time my goal was just to complete the race. The time it took didn’t matter, I just wanted to cross the finish line. While I’m proud of myself for completing the goal that I had set for myself, I didn’t really have any measurements for success.

I know that completing the marathon could be seen as a success, and I would agree with that. I’m very happy and proud to have finished it. But I think success, or a win, should be seen as something beyond the goal. To me, having measurements for success take you beyond completion of your goal.

Historic stop watch time measurement.
How do you measure the success of your goals?

I tend to think we make goals broad and general so that they can be achieved. And I can’t argue with that. If you set goals that are unattainable, all you will ever know is failure, and that is not very motivating. On the other side, if all you have is your attainable goal, you’ll most likely only do what’s necessary to attain that goal, when you could have gone so much further.

Nick Saban, the head coach of Alabama’s top ranked college football team, has an incredible track record of keeping his teams at the upper echelon of the sport. And in college football, that’s really hard to do. Coaches are tasked with keeping their teams motivated at all times, even against teams that aren’t as talented on paper. That’s a hard task, and Saban has found a way to do it consistently. I absolutely love this quote below from him:

“It’s not human nature to be great. It’s human nature to survive, to be average and do what you have to do to get by. That is normal. When you have something good happen, it’s the special people that can stay focused and keep paying attention to detail, working to get better and not being satisfied with what they have accomplished.” ~ Nick Saban

So after the marathon last year, I made another goal, and that was to run all of the New York Road Runner borough races. To be honest, I wanted to complete those races in the same calendar year so I could take a photo of the medals. That’s the photo geek in me. But along with that goal I also set a success metric, and that was to finish the races with an overall faster average time than last year.

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Accomplished the goal of taking this photo, but the success was completing the races faster than the previous year.

The measure for success motivated me to take my training and workout more seriously. But it made me committed to the process, which I had to keep all year long. Sure some sacrifices and tough decisions were made, but in the end it was worth it and I’m a better and faster runner because of it.

Goals with measurements for success will help you to achieve more than “just getting by”, if that’s what you want in the first place. What are some goals and measurements for success that you’ve set for yourself?

How Likable Are You? It’s an Important Question.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are driven to want to be successful in the career of our choosing. And we often think that in order to achieve that goal we need to be the smartest, most knowledgeable, and more driven than anyone else. But there’s one other thing that will help you be successful that seems to be overlooked, and that is to be likable.

So just to be clear, I don’t have any data to support my position, it’s just my opinion based on my experience working with others. But I think that being likable is half the battle. And the reason I say that is because if you are likable, people will want to work with you again.

You still have to have substance though, and have to have skill and knowledge. You have to be good at what you do. While being likable helps create a positive impression being likable without substance will end up creating a negative one. And that is something that shouldn’t be ignored.

Part of success isn’t really what you know, but who you know. And if who you know helps you climb the ladder to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself, you had better likable to leave a positive, lasting impression.

Advice for Parents: Lead by Example

As my kids get signed up for Fall sports, I’m reminded how they both got interested in sports in the first place. While they might have naturally gravitated to sports at some point in life, I believe the reason why they got interested so early on is because they saw me actively play. It led me to this conclusion that seems fairly obvious, that my kids will follow my example.

My boys are still relatively young, but I remember introducing them to sports by watching it on TV. I love watching sports, and it probably doesn’t matter what sport it is too. I thought that watching sports on TV would help fuel their interest in it. But instead, it just made them interested in watching TV in general. In a way, they were following my lead.

So to change that I started spending time shooting baskets in the hoop I have in my driveway, and before you know it, both of my sons wanted to do the same thing. I encouraged my wife to take up running, and we both ran a 10K last year. After seeing all the training we both went through, my older son told me that he wanted to run the marathon with me when he gets older, and my younger son continues to want to race me.

Kids are like sponges, and while it might not seem that they’re paying attention to you, they are. And they’re learning from every interaction or non-interaction they have with you. At the end of the day, children want affirmation from their parents, and so they look and see what is of interest to them and emulate that.

I’ve noticed that my kids see how I communicate, and I can see how they copy that for better and for worse. The kids can see where my priorities lie and they copy those as well.

I could go on and on about this but I think you get the point. Parenting isn’t easy, it’s a huge responsibility. Along with all of the other pressures that life throws at you it’s easy to just let kids be. But kids need your involvement and actions speak much louder than words.

The Best Piece of Advice I’ve Received in Years

I find the topic of advice to be pretty polarizing. And maybe polarizing is the first word that comes to mind for most people, but I think it fits because it can create the most opposite of reactions.

Sometimes people go and seek advice, and their either confirmed in their initial thoughts are told something they don’t want to hear. At other times advice is given when not asked for, and in all these cases the reaction from the person on the receiving end can range from being feeling positive and validated to negative and hostile.

How you feel about the advice you’ve just been given also stems from a number of things. Is the source trustworthy? Does the source understand the whole situation in context? What is the character of the source?

All of these things played into mind when I was recently given this bit of advice: “Don’t run away from a bad situation, run toward a great one.” Those were the words from a good friend of mine, David Griner, Director of Digital Initiatives and Innovation at Adweek. I trust Dave and his opinion because he’s not shy of telling the honest truth, saying things as they are, and he believes in paying it forward.

“Don’t run away from a bad situation, run toward a great one.”

~ David Griner

It’s a perspective that I had not considered before and it makes total sense. No one wants to stay in a bad situation or one that is less than ideal, and nobody would blame anyone for wanting to leave something like that as quickly as possible. But if you only consider running away from a bad situation, you will be willing to accept another situation that’s only ideal for the moment. Then it won’t be too long before you find yourself looking to leave another bad situation.

Instead, if you’re running to something good or great, you are advancing yourself and moving towards something that you’re truly passionate about. And a job, position, or situation that you’re passionate about has the chance to last and will make you happier overall.

In order to take advantage of Dave’s advice though, we have to set aside some time to think and remove the emotions that drive us to consider change to begin with. Perhaps the current situation isn’t as bad as originally thought, and the opportunity you were looking to go to isn’t as good as it looked.

Well that’s the lesson that I’ve learned, does it apply for you as well?