of us had a conversation the other day about trying to help two people change
their public images. The other people in the conversation were well-intended
friends of the man and woman needing (desperately needing) help. My friends
were trying out all kinds of indirect methods for approaching these people.
They were afraid to deal with the topic directly.
part of my consulting practice is to help those seeking professional growth, to
look at their image and to make suggestions for improvement (I’ve even been
known to go shopping with clients), I told them you need to be direct but use a
warm and friendly manner. If you tell these people that it would enhance their
public image if they made slight changes in their grooming and manner of dress,
they might be hurt for a second or two, but if they like you they will
recognize that you are trying to help them and will be responsive to your help.
we don’t want to hurt their feelings” was the surprised reply. But, having
worked with people for over thirty years, I know that if you are trusted and
liked, you can be direct and honest. It might hurt for a second, but is far
less painful than being caught in levels of subterfuge.
moral of the story: people are a lot stronger emotionally than we give them
credit for – honesty with kindness – usually works well.
all talk about the value and virtues of team work. But, what happens when a
bunch of people all have to be satisfied and any decision becomes watered down
to please everyone? There is something so different about getting input from
those who have expertise or a stake in the project from everyone having to
agree. Trite expressions like “too many cooks spoil the broth” come to mind
when too many people are actually involved in the decision itself.
input from others is so valuable – but the fewer people involved in the actual
decision, the better. This is true about a great many things, including
interviewing prospective new employees.
been involved in the process of being a finalist in contract negotiations
watching the difference between organizations where someone in charge makes the
actual decision, and organizations where the “team” or “committee” makes the
decision. In the latter case, you have to please everyone and so the less
outstanding or unique or controversial you are, the better off you are. In the
first case, the person or group hired is most often the best of the companies
always – well, maybe almost always – yields something less than what is truly
desirable. The most obvious example of course is the decision to merge black
and white and get unwanted gray.
can’t write this without recalling the young professional couple who
compromised on the selection of their new car. She wanted a station wagon (this
was years ago) so she could transport a bunch of kids to all their activities.
He wanted a big red convertible as his gift to himself for becoming a
successful professional. They could have easily afforded both. Instead they
made a compromise and bought a four door sedan and neither was happy.
if you want a horse – a beautiful sleek thoroughbred – get an expert who knows
how to build your horse, don’t have everyone in the building involved in adding
their good ideas and watch the lumps start to form.
The flying geese have the right idea.
Apparently they select a leader based on the task on hand. The goose that knows
the route best will be selected to lead them home, and the best nester will
teach the others how to build their nests.
Do we do the same? Do we defer to experts? Or,
does the need to look good get in the way of deferring to others.
Have we become so “politically correct”
that we look for the feet of clay in our great people? Do we demean our heroes
instead of worshiping them?
I ask all these questions because of an
article I read in the San Jose Mercury News, written by New York Times
columnist, David Brooks.
Mr. Brooks notes that contemporary
monuments of great people, reduce them to ordinariness as opposed to elevating
them. He compares the FDR memorial to that of Lincoln and Washington. We look
up to the statue of President Abe Lincoln and President George Washington. FDR
is seen according to Mr. Brooks as “a kindly grandpa.” David Brooks goes on to
state, “The proposed Eisenhower memorial shifts attention from his moments of
power to his moments of innocent boyhood.”
Why? Are we afraid of greatness?
Quoting the same article:
In his memoir, “At Ease,” Eisenhower delivered the following advice:
“Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those
who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than
To have good leaders you have to have good followers – able to
recognize just authority, admire it, be grateful for it and emulate it. Those
skills are required for good monument building too.
This is a pet issue of mine because it
personally bothers me when I hear people tear down and gossip negatively about
great leaders who are no longer with us. Although it may be true – or not – I
don’t really want to know that someone I admired actually had warts. Sure, none
of us are perfect, but let’s look up to people, not down at them.
Looking down may make you think it makes
you look better, but it doesn’t. Only people with self-esteem – true
self-esteem – are comfortable looking up.
Abrogating Responsibility to Create the Simplest, Most Effective Process
written about this before, but my experience last week at an event leaves me
having to write about it again.
intern, a young man in his twenties was assigned to add some labels to a few
hundred programs (there had been some last minute donors after the original
programs had been printed) and to fold the programs for distribution to people
as they came to this event. The expectation was that it would take about a half
hour to complete the task.
the time for guests to arrive was nearing, the event coordinator for the event
noticed that the programs were not yet ready and since I had arrived early, she
asked if I would help finish the project.
joined him and observed him slowly and carefully – too slowly and too carefully
– folding the programs one by one. As I watched for a minute or two, I noticed
the labels sitting on the table. There were two sets (two different people
needed to be honored on the program – in two different locations on the pages.)
They didn’t look touched.
explained where they needed to go, leaving me to ask, “So, are the ones that
are folded complete?” “No”, he replied “they still need to be inserted.” “So,
why are you folding the programs only to have to unfold them again to insert
the labels?” I asked.
he replied. I quickly recruited two
other young men to help. One to unfold, myself and another man to insert
labels, and the original intern to refold – this time much more quickly since I
showed him how to do it.
you could say the intern was lazy and that might have been true, but more to
the point, no one showed him how to do it properly – leaving him to figure out
his own system. No one even checked to see if they could offer suggestions for
process improvement. As usual, the assumption was that he would figure it out
happens much of the time in the business/government world. Managers think they
are empowering when they assign a task without teaching a proper process. They should at least find out if the person
assigned the task knows how to complete it in the most efficient and effective
is wasted. Money is lost. People become frustrated.
A few years ago, I conducted research with
approximately 50 C level executives here in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the
country. I sought to learn how they managed for creativity in their
organizations – and where they wanted to achieve it.
I operationally defined creativity as a
process and innovation as product. Creativity is wanted everywhere in an
organization but there is little done to encourage it, and much apparently done
to thwart it. Innovation – e.g. specific product design – is allowed in
specific groups, such as R&D, but is often ignored when the potential for
it is “bubbling up” outside of R&D groups.
Yet, throughout the world, competition is
based on creativity and innovation. You’d think we would design our entire
educational systems to encourage new thinking, trial and error,
experimentation, creativity and innovation among our youth. But, mostly we
don’t. Mostly we demand memorization, conformity, and quiet unobtrusive
I’m going to share some personal stories
with you – to make my point.
My mother convinced the New York City
school system to allow me to enter Kindergarten (the year before first grade in
public schools here) one-half year earlier than the usual acceptance date. I
was not yet five years old. In a conversation with my mother, in my hearing, my
kindergarten teacher said, “A piece of her tongue ought to be cut out because
she asks too many questions.” How’s that for an introduction to all that
education could and should be? I learned to hate school as a child.
Years later, when my hatred dulled, I
became a college student. I was taking an undergraduate course in The Philosophy of Religion which was
actually an introductory course comparing many religions of the world. Having
read all the great books of the Western World, and many others describing
eastern philosophies in the years before I ever entered college, I was excited
to take this class. Our instructor informed us that we were to be given essay
exams. That made me even more excited, because I knew the material, I had all
those years of personal study into philosophy, psychology, politics and
religion and I wrote well and quickly.
We had our first essay exam. I had a
wonderful time incorporating information from the text, the class lectures, my
other reading and my own ideas. I synthesized and wrote what I considered to be
a brilliant essay exam. Imagine my horror and shock when my paper was returned
with the grade of B. I thought I
deserved an A+.
I made an appointment to see the professor
and asked him why I had received such a low grade. He looked at his notes and
basically informed me that I had not mentioned specific words and phrases and
thus he didn’t know for sure that I had read the text and listened to the
lectures. I asked him if he couldn’t surmise from my synthesizing that I had
not only read and heard, but had understood and used the information
creatively. He responded that he wanted the exact words so he could grade
From that time on I regurgitated the text
and my notes and received “A”s.
These are two examples of many from my
personal experiences as a student in New York City (Kindergarten) and Silicon
We here in the United States are supposed
to be freer and more creative and innovative than people in many other parts of
the world. I think we are losing our edge – if we haven’t already lost it. We’ve
lost so much of it that it now seems unusual when others say, “Innovation is
the road to the future.” (Innovations: The
Road to the Future, an advertisement by BMW.)
In other countries students are stifled
even more than I was. Some educational systems still teach by recitation and
rote-memorization. Students are expected to accept as given the information
they are provided without question.
Yet, there is a demand for creativity and
innovation in these countries as well. It was the needs of Singapore that got
me interested in doing the research I did in the first place. Singapore was
looking for ways to become more competitive in business and was encouraging
consultants to come and teach their educators how to create more opportunities
for innovation and creativity in the classroom. I was not one of the
consultants they selected, because I was not famous enough at that time.
I understand that the primary way in which
they attempted to inspire creativity and innovation was to mandate it for one
hour a day in the classroom. I sure hope that was only a rumor – or maybe only
a temporary solution to start them on the road to freeing their students from
out-loud recitation and rote memorization.
The potential for creativity exists in
almost all of us. Watch little children at play. Yet, it gets shamed –
ridiculed – even beaten out of us as we are taught to conform, to behave, to
“be like other children.” Over time we force most children out of their
spontaneous creative selves and into the mold that is consistent for each
culture at each point in time. Uniformity becomes more desirable than
Technical skills – math, science, chemistry
– all demanding a high degree of “absolutism” are the educational paths that
are considered most desirable and potentially most lucrative. We stifle and
mold and get laser beam focused brilliant technical minds – but we’ve made it
almost impossible for them to “think outside the box.” It’s hard to break free
when you’ve been forced inside a box all your life. We discover how much we’ve
lost when we look around and have no one to promote into management – because
they’ve not only lost their zest for creativity, they’ve been so laser beam
focused that they’ve never developed the people skills necessary for good
In my work I work hard to help people take
risks and try new things – to stretch – to play – to once again let their
creative minds find a path. It’s not always easy. There is so much fear. Fear
of mistakes. Fear of ridicule. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of punishment. Fear
of credibility. Fear of loss of respect. Fear of losing the job.
When you look inside highly successful
companies you learn that there are only a handful of people that are the
creative minds in those companies. They are people who earlier in life had
earned the reputation of being rebels, non-conformists, and even weirdos. Yet,
it’s those minds that open the eyes of others to see things in a different way
– to create – to be innovative.
How do we tap these qualities in others? How
do we allow people to leave the safety of their conforming lives to try new
I have a friend who won’t learn anything
new. She grew up needing to be perfect. People with a need for perfection are
risk-aversive because if they don’t excel at something new they consider
themselves failures. There is no freedom within their psyches to try and err
and try again.
It has to be OK for a little kid to color
outside the lines. To paint a purple cow. To show the sun as bigger and
brighter than the scene below. It has to be OK for students to synthesize their
learning rather than making it easier for the teacher to grade the paper by
using only the rote-memorized words. It has to be more than OK – but highly
desirable – for people within an organization to have opportunities to figure
out better and more effective ways to do the same old boring tasks.
One of my clients had as one of their
values: “It’s OK to make mistakes – as long as they don’t get to the
customers.” It was important. It allowed
people to try new things. It didn’t mean that people could do whatever they
wanted whenever they wanted to – if they wanted to change a process they needed
to do a pilot project and if it worked well get management approval for any
major changes. If they wanted to explore a new software system, or develop a
new product they had to do it in time that was allotted to them after they
completed their “deliverables.” BUT, they were encouraged to try.
Which reminds me of another personal story
– and I apologize if it seems as though I am bragging.
I spent much of my youth and early twenties
working in offices as a secretary, bookkeeper, “gal Friday” (meaning one person
office doing everything), executive secretary, office manager, credit and
collections, and eventually efficiency expert. My college and graduate
education was all at nights while I worked full time days.
I learned to be efficient. Really, I
learned how to turn my laziness into creative solutions to get things done
faster, quicker, more accurately and more effectively. Instead of doing the
work “the way we’ve always done it,” I looked for simpler ways and often found
them. I learned to do more with less – to work smarter not harder – and it paid
off in many ways.
I became (as I said before) an efficiency
expert in my early twenties. Now, many years later, I streamline systems,
re-engineer, encourage and manage change, and work with individuals “helping
them get the best out of themselves and others.”
It’s all because of that Kindergarten
teacher. Hating her, hating what she said and hating school because of it, they
couldn’t stifle me and force me to conform. I attended, but ignored them. I
learned how to cut school as often as possible. I was skipped because they
didn’t know what else to do with me. I stayed relatively free – and today am
accused of being creative and innovative.
So, what’s the moral to the story?
If we want to be competitive as a nation,
as a company, as a society, we need to start by allowing young children to
continue to explore and express themselves creatively, while at the same time
having them learn what we need them to learn. It’s about balance.
In the workplace we need to allow time and
create not only opportunities but pathways allowing creativity and innovation
to be recognized – not just hope they bubble up in spite of middle managers’
apparent need to put the lid on the bubbles.
You can’t mandate creativity and
innovation. You can only encourage these by reducing fear of making a mistake and
being ridiculed or punished for it.
Courage is the first of human qualities
because it is the quality that guarantees all the others. Winston Churchill
still an amateur, I paint in both oil and watercolor. I’ve been attending a
series of facilitated groups based on the book The Artist’s Way, written by Julia Cameron – and one of the things
that has become so clear to me is the importance of TAKING THE TIME to get out
of your ordinary day and do something that will enable you to clear the cobwebs
and see the world differently. For me, going to museums or the beach seems to
fill the bill.
how do I apply this to creativity at work? As you know from reading my newsletters, I conducted a survey of 50 C-level
executives asking them a bunch of open-ended questions about managing for
creativity. Most didn’t really create processes for it in their organizations. I’ve helped some of my clients create systems to manage for creativity – and it
really needs to be managed effectively in order to get what you, the CEO really
now I’m wondering – what about spaces designed to stimulate creativity? What
about rooms with videos of the ocean for example – places where people can just
go and chill out away from their desks, computers, iPads, android phones and
other technology. Places that are both stimulating and restful.
you think about it, most creative moments – epiphanies – come about during
restful times – in the shower, driving (without a crowd) washing dishes,
chopping wood, or just daydreaming.
I know too that if I have serious writing to do -- I think about it before ever sitting down at the computer. I let the ideas gestate in my mind for a day or two and then my path to expressing what I wish to express comes clear.
When we elect our neighbors to serve on our
Boards we expect them to be positive and professionals guardians of our
property, common areas, HOA finances and also help resolve any
We do not elect them to become bullies,
corrupted by their power – yet sometimes that is exactly what happens. Sometimes
it happens because the power has gone to the heads of specific board members,
other times it feels as though they have forgotten we are friends and neighbors
and respond to any problems as though we were enemies to be treated as
criminals. In the later cases, I believe it is because they take the advice of
overly-legalistic property managers and/or attorneys.
Other areas that separate the “controlling”
boards from the “managing” boards is how decisions are made. In a controlling
board, the budget is both created and approved by the board, as are decisions
regarding the use of the common areas, the pool, etc. In a “managing” board,
issues are brought before the homeowner’s for discussion and vote.
This is particularly true of the budget –
which in a managing board is submitted at least a week before the annual
meeting, is discussed at the annual meeting, revised if necessary, and voted
upon by the community.
Here are some common examples of issues
that occur in most complexes – and the methods to resolve them by controlling
boards – and suggestions for how they can be resolved by friendly managing
as Bully Examples
One common example of what I am terming
“board as bully” is when a homeowner
comes to the monthly meeting wanting to ask for help and/or express a concern
and is told that they have to submit a form in advance and since they did not
submit that form they could not speak. Now, if we were a huge government agency
with hundreds of people clamoring to speak at each meeting I could see taking
this position. But, for most of us, we are friends and neighbors and only a few
of us at a time come to the meeting to voice our concerns.
What’s a better way? Of course, allow that
person to speak, and if the issue is one that requires further research,
advance notification to others, or anything that actually requires deferring
the matter to a later time, after they’ve had their say, politely tell them
what action will have to be deferred and what to expect.
Another issue, also related to members of
the community wanting to have their say before the board, occurs when the
agenda is set so that the time allotted to community members is very brief and
only at the end of the meeting. This forces anyone to have to sit out the
business of the community, about which they cannot have a say, only to be given
a minute or two to speak.
Is the time of the board members so
valuable that they can’t spare time to listen to the concerns of their
neighbors? I think not. I would much prefer to have the meetings more open and
available to everyone. If a lot of people are there trying to speak, perhaps
there does need to be a time limit so everyone can have a chance. Otherwise, I
suggest letting it take the time it needs for someone to make their point and
have extensive discussion among the rest of the people in attendance.
I’ve also seen boards change the vote of
the community. Two examples:
·At an earlier annual meeting a
community voted to keep the swimming pool open from (people swim laps before going to work)
to (people use the
spa before going to bed). Some years later the new president of the board, who
lived near the spa, decided he didn’t like the noise and so without bringing it
back to the members of the association, arbitrarily changed the rules to suit
his time frame.
·A complex decided at an annual
meeting to have a two year term limit for its board members. Ten years later a
man, who had no professional status of his own, became president of the board
and changed the rules to suit himself. He served as president of the HOA for
five or six years.
You might ask: How do people get away with these changes? The
answer: apathy. Most homeowner’s say they do not want to “make waves” and it is
better to just ignore these things. They allow the bullies to bully.
to Neighbor Issues
When people live in communities they are
often living close to each other and they don’t necessarily have perfectly
compatible values or behaviors. Sometimes they actually rub each other the
wrong way – and resort to complaining to the board.
Typically the response of the board is to
have the property management staff send a formal notice about the complaint,
threatening sanctions if the action occurs again. This of course assumes guilt
– contrary to our belief that people are innocent until proven guilty.
What’s a better way?
¨Make no assumptions about guilt
or innocence. We have a tendency to believe the first person who comes to us –
they are not necessarily telling us the whole story – merely their personal
slant on it. Do not take sides.
¨Ask the complaining neighbor if
he or she has discussed it with the person they are reporting. If they have
not, suggest they do so before bringing a formal complaint against that person.
¨Offer to mediate a dispute
between these neighbors so that goodwill could be restored.
¨Talk, in a friendly manner to
the people involved trying to help them find a solution – this is called
¨If all else fails, suggest they
go for formal mediation.
for Exception to the Board
What happens when an owner comes to the
board to explain that they just lost their job and will be unable to pay their
monthly HOA dues for a few months until they have a new job?
In controlling boards, they are fined,
found to be in arrears, and liens are placed on their property. Once a lien has
been placed on someone’s property, it affects their credit and can even harm
their potential for employment. Unfortunately, too many property managers
advise that the board must take this formal and punitive action because
otherwise they are “playing favorites.”
I don’t agree that this is always the
proper action to take. Sure, if the homeowner has been in default many times in
the past, is very new to the complex and unknown to be reliable and
responsible, or has a criminal record, the board might have no recourse but to
file a lien.
But, if the homeowner is someone who has
lived in the complex for a while, has always paid their dues on time, and can
be trusted – why not trust them? Why not make an exception and give them a
three to six month extension on their dues?
The rationale for not making exceptions is
the statement that the board must be fair and equitable. But fair and equitable
does not mean – nor has it ever meant – treating everyone exactly the same. We
treat people as they deserve to be treated in almost all other situations,
Even in a court of law there are factors in
mitigation and factors in aggravation, with the court having a range of
sanctions available to them.
Just as managers manage differently in the
business world, board members manage their responsibilities in HOAs differently
– sometimes because of their personal personalities and values – but more often
because of the advice they receive from overly-cautious attorneys and property
Yet HOA Boards are dealing with their
friends and neighbors and there are more comfortable and friendly ways to
handle decisions and solve problems. My
vote is to:
·Remember that kindness,
understanding, and courtesy go a long way – a much longer way – than threats
·When decisions need to be made,
it is much better to allow those who have a stake in the results of the
decision to have plenty of time for discussion and even vote.
Finally, do what’s right – not what the bullies
want, or the majority decides. Remember,
some of our forefather’s warned us about “The Tyranny of the Majority.”
I was at an interesting meeting last night
sharing the evening with about 50 bright, energetic and enthusiastic people all
of whom were interested in having others buy into their personal philosophical
and political points of view.
During the discussion there were those that
thought strongly espousing a point of view was the way to win the debate. Others
felt that changing people’s minds was impossible and trying was useless.
Some of us, myself included, talked about
the importance of using persuasion. Some of the points made by myself and
echoed by others:
First and foremost you must be
respectful and courteous to the other person.
Never say “I’m right – you are
wrong” – no matter how diplomatically you might phrase.
Listen and question more than
Questions should be phrased
pleasantly with a pleasant tone of voice. No sarcasm or suggestion that the
other person is an idiot.
One possible question: “Will
you share with me the reasons that led you to that conclusion?”
As you learn about their point
of view, you have the opening to continue to use the Socratic method of
questioning (like a therapist holding up a mirror) or you can gently suggest
adding information to what they possess, or sharing how your point of view
changes that perspective.
Don’t use big words – don’t use
vague umbrella concepts – don’t use loaded terminology – and don’t use jargon.
Little by little you might be
able to persuade them to your point of view.
Years ago I noticed that my husband (now ex
for many years) would have all the facts and figures at his disposal and would
inundate others with his vast knowledge – he won the argument – but never
changed anyone’s mind about the issues. It’s not the facts and figures, it’s
not how smart you are (or think you are) it’s about finding out their premises,
their goals, their basic values – and working from there.
This is true in political arguments. It’s
also true in workplace discussions about product or process.
In order to understand the differences in
points of view, we most often have to go back to the basics: what are the basic
premises under which they are operating and what are the goals they are trying
One story from my consulting practice:
I was shadowing
the chief engineer in a transportation company one day, during my role as his
mentor. He and I attended a meeting that was being led by an out of state
consultant. Our roles were to listen – not to take over.
The out of state
consultant was offering his conclusions as to where signal switches should be placed
along the track for a new kind of train. He thought (for example) they should
be placed at A, C L, and Q. Another consultant (from a competing company) was
saying, you are all wrong, they need to be placed at A, B D, F, and M. The two
consultants went back and forth, “I’m right you’re wrong” without ever having
reached an agreement.
As I listened I
realized that their basic premises and eventual goals were different. The out
of state consultant was suggesting switches that would enable the most speed. The
local consultant, knowing the terrain, was suggesting switches that would
create the most safety. Each was right, given their basic premises and goals.
So, when we disagree with someone as to how
they should do something, perhaps we ought to first learn what their premises
are and what they want to accomplish.
most of you know, since running for Assembly myself I’ve added to my services
so that I can also help others running for office. Much of my professional
practice has been helping people grow both individually and professionally, so
helping candidates “grow into winning” is a logical next step.
as businesses need to brand themselves, candidates need a theme – or a brand –
by which they get identified. It should be short, sweet and consistent in all
your speeches, literature, etc.
of my clients is telling people that he listens. This fits for him because he
has been active in attending community and service club meetings of all kinds
for a long time. He listens to what people say they need and want and is basing
his campaign strategy on that message.
client is focused on transparency as her theme – it fits because much of her
prior work has been holding a microscope up to examine the ethics/honesty of
other politicians. (Diogenes?)
people running for office are still using the same stale angry rhetoric loudly
stating that the other candidates are wrong and are stupid, evil, etc. I don’t
think that’s a winning strategy.
the time has come for all us to be positive in our approach. To find a theme
that fits our values and personalities – but one that others will resonate to
in a positive manner.
I meet with people while staffing our voter registration booth at all the art
& wine festivals I’m even more convinced than before that in order to be
accepted as viable we need to turn off the anger and turn on the positive
approach to solving the problems of our constituents and potential
constituents. People are fed up with hearing about conspiracy theories and
“chicken little the sky is falling down” rhetoric. They want to hear about real
things that impact their lives.
Everyone talks about empowering their staff,
but I wonder how many managers actually do so? To empower someone is to provide
them with the opportunity to take on responsibilities and to have the authority
commensurate with that responsibility.
Let me give you an example or two about
what happens when you dis-empower people.
I was consulting to an American
telecommunications company when they were purchased by a French company. Prior
to the purchase, managers and directors had responsibility and the authority to
make decisions. They had respect and visibility. For example, if a manager (or
even someone not in management) had a good idea, it was that person who
presented the idea to the appropriate audience, including the CEO. Responsibility
and authority were pushed down to the lowest logical level and employees were
given opportunity to shine and to grow their skills. Promotions were based on
the assessment of performance.
Well, the French company worked
differently. All decisions were made at the highest level (across the pond) and
if you had a good idea, your job was to make your boss look better, and he made
his boss look better, and eventually only the senior vice-presidents had public
visibility and acclaim.
Another way you dis-empower people is to
micro-manage them and step between them and the others with whom they are
working. It happened to me recently. I am an ex-officio member of a board of
directors and had assumed responsibility for finding a commercial realtor and
starting the process of looking for new space for the organization. Having
worked with a fine commercial realtor before, I mentioned that I would contact
him and set up a preliminary appointment.
A member of the board said he wanted to
join me and I said sure. Instead, he called my realtor, introduced himself as
“in charge” and undercut my professional relationship with the man. In
addition, he showed up at the meeting and took over, even going so far as to
mention that he had information not available to me – and that he and I were
only 80% in agreement (I have no idea where we were either in agreement or in
disagreement.) In effect, he pushed me aside.
When I called him on it – he did it again.
He wonders why the fun has gone out of the project for me.
Now, when you empower people, they get
energized, motivated, and stretch their abilities to prove to you that your
confidence in them was justified.
Volunteering is Value-Added To Your Life, Business and Health
In this busy and stressful era it is all too
easy to hunker down and pay attention to nothing but our daily tasks. It is a
choice many of us make all too often. We work and work and work without a
change of pace. We need activities that make us feel good, that allow us to
meet other people and if we are employers or managers, to give our employees a
sense of pride in us, our company and themselves.
We join associations, some of which have
paid professional staff and so we participate as audiences to the speakers. Unfortunately,
too many of us treat our smaller non-profits in the same manner. BUT, these
organizations run on volunteer work exclusively and really need us to step
forward and serve.
In the past Americans had been noted for
their volunteerism. Now, we expect the government or some magical “them” – “the
other” to do the work necessary for us to enjoy the benefits of the
associations to which we belong.
I’m reminded of a quote I used in my Board
of Director’s Training Book[ii] which bears repeating
‘These Americans are the most peculiar people
in the world. You’ll not believe it when I tell you how they behave. In a local
community in their country a citizen may conceive of some need which is not
being met. What does he do? He goes across the street and discusses it with his
neighbor. Then what happens? A committee comes into being and then the
committee begins to function on behalf of the need. You won’t believe this, but
it’s true, all of this is done without reference to any bureaucrat. All of this
is done by private citizens on their own initiative!
Americans of all ages, conditions, and all dispositions consistently
form associations to give entertainment, to found seminaries, to build inns, to
construct churches, to diffuse books, to send out missionaries.
The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of
function performed by private citizens.' Alex
It is sad that in recent years we volunteer
less and expect the paid professionals (or government employees) to do it all
for us. This change has caused a loss of community involvement, a reduced sense
of belonging and inhibited social contact.
Volunteering adds value to your life. Not
only do you add value to your community, your nation, your pet causes, your
industry and yourself – you enhance your professional reputation, your
networks, your skills and in the business world, what employees think of you
and the company in which you work.
What is value – added? Clearly, it is
getting more than you bargained for; more than the basics of the product and
service, more than just waking up in the morning, going to work, coming home
and watching TV. In life, and in professional development, giving additional
value is the significant difference between those who find happiness and
succeed and those who don’t.
One of the most valuable lessons you can
learn is to build in time to volunteer your services to organizations important
to you. By volunteering, you afford yourself the ability to tackle new
problems, meet new people, test your new skills, and network with others who
get to see you in action. It is a growth experience, a networking opportunity
and of course a way to feel good about yourself.
It is also one of the most important
vehicles by which America continues to be a free nation. When we voluntarily
take care of our communities and those in need, the government doesn’t need to
step in and intervene.
When you voluntarily help educate our
children through after school activities, you provide them with an opportunity
to expand their horizons. When we voluntarily support our religious
institutions no one group can dictate which religion is the “proper” one for
our country. When we volunteer our services to the political party of our
choice, we help to strengthen its ability to represent our beliefs in
When we volunteer our services to our
professional organizations we help them flourish, we help in the growth of our
profession, and support the continued growth of those in our chosen field. If
we don’t volunteer in organizations that reply on volunteerism, we run the risk
of having that organization fold. They need us as we need them.
Volunteering in our professional
organizations is one of the most important ways we have to guarantee our career
enhancement as well as the overall enhancement of the excellence of our
And, if you want to view it from a totally
self-centered point of view – what better way do you know to make yourself
visible to your peers than by volunteering in your professional organization?
By volunteering you get known for the
quality of your talents. By volunteering you get to be seen in a way that is
richer than thousands of dollars of advertising. By volunteering you rub elbows
with people you’d never get to meet otherwise, including people who might
become very valuable to you professionally.
For all these reasons, giving yourself in a
value-added manner to your community, your pet causes and your professional
associations gives back to you a hundred fold, as well as it helps to strengthen
the organizations to which you belong and preserve the freedom of this country.
Portions of this article have been taken and modified from an article written
by Dr. Diamond which appeared in the SVEC (Silicon Valley Engineering Council)
newsletter, January 1997.
Training Your Board of Directors: A
Manual for the CEOs, Board Members, Administrators and Executives of
Corporations, Associations, Non-Profit and Religious Organizations. Diamond, ArLyne, Ph.D., 2005, Productive
What is your self-worth dependent on? Do
you measure it by the money you are earning? If so, you may be feeling that you
are worth a lot less than you were a few years ago. But, it probably isn’t you
– the world’s economy seems to be faltering and everyone (well, almost
everyone) is earning less than they had before.
I have friends who were retired and
comfortable who lost so much in this recession that they now can no longer
travel and have to budget their retirement funds very carefully. Others have
gone back to work, taking jobs that have far less status or intellectual
requirements than those they had before retirement.
If you, like so many men and women over 50
have been downsized and you have been forced to accept a position at far less
money and prestige than you are accustomed to having, it might be affecting how
you view your worth. If you lost your job completely, or have seen your savings
and investments lose value, you might be tempted to think less of yourself.
But, that’s not really what self-esteem is
all about. Your self-worth, your sense of yourself should be determined by who
you are – what kind of person you are – not how much you are earning or the
title they gave you at work.
Self-esteem has two components according to
Nathaniel Branden, (The Psychology of Self-Esteem). The first is your basic
lovability. Although the basic sense of lovability starts from the manner in
which your parents acted towards you when you were just a baby, as an adult you
can certainly enhance it by the manner in which you interact with others. Are
you a good person? Do you care about people and do they care about you? Can you
look yourself in the mirror and say that you like the person you are?
The second component of self-esteem has to
do with your ability to function effectively in the world. Look at all you’ve
accomplished up ’till now. You’ve made it. You’ve been successful. You’ve
climbed your mountains and achieved much of what you set out to achieve in
life. Mountains can be of all sizes and shapes. Whether you’ve achieved success
as a locksmith or as an athlete doesn’t matter. What matters is that you feel
good about what you’ve done.
So, now you are over 50 and feel as though
you’ve been rejected and discarded. I’m here to tell you it’s not because of
you – not because of what you have or have not done. We are living in a crazy
world where only youth and the latest fad seem to matter. Don’t let it get to
Generally speaking, what do we bring to the
workplace? Maturity, wisdom, time management, the ability to get others
motivated and productive, organizing and planning the projects and programs.
Most of us have learned not to take offense where none was intended and to be
the mediators and conciliators when others are in conflict. Certainly we have
the ability to give guidance based on our many years of experience. We are
sensible and seasoned. What we offer is perspective and “adult
So stand tall, look yourself in the mirror,
and remind yourself that you are worth a great deal.
As a consultant to management, I help people get the best out of themselves and others. As a coach, I help people get promoted, make new professional choices, enhance their image, communication, etc. As an educator, public speaker and writeer, I provide clear, helpful, practical and usable information. CEOs use me to train them, their boards, executive teams and other important staff members.
Visit www:DiamondAssociates.net, and google ArLyne Diamond