The power of a handwritten note.

I had the good fortune of learning a long time ago about the influence a handwritten note can have, and I can credit my Mom for teaching me this. She wasn’t a business person, she was a nurse, so she clearly had an appreciation of the impact words can have on others.

Initially when it wasn’t my choice to be writing handwritten thank you cards to people who had done something nice for me, or given me a gift, it seemed like and arduous task. One I actually tried to avoid doing. Mainly because I am dyslexic, and when I was younger, writing was not a talent I had developed. However, my notes were all sincere, and it established a wonderful and lifelong habit of sending handwritten notes.

Recently I was going through some boxes in my attic, and I came across a box which was filled with letters that I had saved. All of them were written before the internet came about. The amazing thing about these letters, was that they captured a time in my life I had not thought much about. Most of the letters were from my friends from high school and college, and they were mainly letters reminiscing about experiences we had together, updated me on what they were currently doing, or telling me they missed me, and were looking forward to seeing me again.

When I received those letters, they appeared to have arrived at the perfect time, as I was either home sick, or missing the person that sent them. Hearing from them cheered me up.

Some people might think of writing a letter or a card, especially in the professional world as being old fashioned. Perhaps it is, but since fewer people are writing them, they have a greater impact when they are received. In fact, I have saved the handful of cards I have received over the past few decades from other professionals.

One of the cards I saved was from a CEO I was working for. I was in fact shocked to have received a handwritten note from him, but it was probably one of the most impactful ones I had ever received. Why? Because I was incredibly disappointed by the way he handled a project. He knew this, and he knew he had made a mistake with the approach he initially took.

The CEO’s letter to me was an apology and thank you letter. In the letter, he told me that he should not have pulled rank on me, or have overridden one of my decisions, and he regretted that he did that. He expressed both his regret, and sincere appreciation for how I handled myself professionally, and for how exceptionally well the project I was leading turned out. Receiving this letter was actually shocking, but it provided me with an entirely new lens on this leader. A much more positive one, as I could see that he had taken the time to be reflective, had learned from the mistake he had made, and was willing to own up and take responsibility for owning his decision and actions. When I think about this situation, I don’t think verbally hearing what he had written would have had the same positive impact.  In fact, I know it would not have.

I can understand that some people might not feel confident about being able to craft a handwritten note, but let me assure you, you can write one with greater ease than you imagine. It just takes some practice, and the good news for you, is that it doesn’t have to be a long note. Consider the size of most traditional thank you cards. They are literally about four inches wide, and three inches long. That’s not a lot of writing real estate, so this can work in your favor. Even better? If you buy a traditional “thank you” greeting card, they often have something written inside, so you only have to add a sentence or two to personalize your note.

If you still are not convinced that you should be writing more handwritten notes to people, here are some other reasons to consider why you should be doing this.

  • Writing a handwritten note doesn’t take much effort, but the person receiving it will consider that you put genuine effort into doing this.
  • There isn’t any downside to saying thank you to someone, especially via a handwritten note.
  • If you are a leader, you should absolutely be regularly crafting handwritten notes. No exceptions or excuses for why you are not. As they saying goes, “lead by example.”
  • Yes, manners are still noticed. Especially when good ones are exhibited, and crafting a handwritten note ticks off the box of having good manners.
  • Being thoughtful isn’t overrated, and sending someone a handwritten note can speak volumes in your favor when you do this.
  • Sure, you can stand out on social media, but consider this. When do you think the person you are trying to influence the most received a handwritten note? Consider standing out from the crowd by finding your pen and a card to send to them.
  • Handwritten notes can cover a wide variety of topics. Consider all of the people you could write a card to, and what you could express to them from a positive perspective.
  • Keep the negative notes to yourself, as they tend to do more harm than good. However, writing them can be cathartic, but I don’t recommend sending them.
  • Consider the last time you received a handwritten note from someone. Perhaps you can return the favor and send one back to them?

So, having expressed my views about the power of handwritten notes, don’t be surprised if you get one from me one day. I’ll also be waiting to see who will take me up on my concept of leveraging the power of a handwritten note. Maybe I’ll receive one from you?

TAGS: #Leadership #Business #Success #Rolemodel #Leadbyexample #Impressions #Firstimpressions #Leader #Leaders #Positiveinfluence #CEO #Communication #Management #Marketing

Asking for help. Is there a good way to do so?

Yesterday I was having a serious conversation with a person I know. Someone in fact I have known for decades. I could tell by the sound of their voice that someone was wrong, or perhaps that they were struggling with something that didn’t come up initially during our conversation. Sure enough, my instincts were correct, and I asked a few more questions, and the person revealed what was going on.  In fact, there was too much going on, and they were so overwhelmed, they didn’t know what to do. Or, how to ask for help. 

This person’s situation was quite extreme, and from an outside perspective, you would have thought they could have easily been seeking help. They were not. Instead, they were suffering alone, and ironically, were helping everyone else around them. 

Perhaps because this person finds it to be so easy to help others, that they have either neglected being able to help themselves, or they have fallen into a common conundrum. The conundrum is failing to provide self-care. This can often happen, and is sometimes done unconsciously. One of the reasons this occurs is that although it may sound counter intuitive, for some people, it is sometimes easier for them to care for others than it is to care for themselves. 

Another person I know who was admittedly challenged with self-care, would say that he would struggle with being able to metaphorically “put the oxygen mask on first”. Being able to take care of yourself first, appears to be a “no-brainer”, but it isn’t always for everyone. This scenario can be further complicated due to the situation the person finds themselves in (e.g., work, or personal). Although if someone is challenged with being able to ask for help from others, it typically is something which impacts all aspects of their life. 

When I started thinking about whether we are taught how to ask for help, I thought back to a time in my life when I was learning to be a lifeguard. As I was going through my training, there was a great deal of focus on how to simultaneously help the person you were rescuing, while also making sure you would be safe too. This seems obvious, but when you are in a situation when you are rescuing someone, sometimes they or the surrounding circumstances can make it much more difficult to rescue them. 

Having the right tools to help someone is critical. A large part of being able to do so, is knowing what questions to ask the person, with the goal of getting them to open up and share with you what is going on. However, let’s turn the scenario around, and put ourselves in the “shoes” of the person who is in need of help. Everyone has been in this situation, and admittedly, some are better at being able to ask for help than others. The people who have cracked the code on being able to ask for help, are in a much stronger position than others. This is despite the thinking for some people that it is a sign of weakness when you ask for help. I’m not sure where this thinking came from, but it does not serve anyone well to think this way. Especially those who are in leadership positions. 

Both personally and in the workforce if someone doesn’t and should be asking for help, and the situation they are in which needs attention, tends to decline further. Ignoring a situation because someone doesn’t want to ask for help generally does not end well, and I can guarantee most of us have given this option a try before. 

Yes, it can take courage for some people to ask for help. However, asking for help shouldn’t be tied to pride or emotions which conjure negative associations (e.g., appearing weak, exposing something you don’t know how to do, being embarrassed, you don’t deserve the help). Although I realize for many people these are common reasons they do not ask for help, asking for help can get much easier to do, and it applies to all situations. Practice.

Below are some suggestions you can consider if you are the type of person who does not like asking for help. 

·      Asking for help takes practice. So, if you need or think you will be in a situation where you will need help at some point, don’t let your situation get to the point of putting you in an extreme situation before you ask for support. 

·      Think about the factors contributing to why you are uncomfortable with asking for support. Are they rational or reasonable? 

·      Why do you think you have to be able to do everything yourself? No one person is an expert at everything, and no one is perfect. 

·      Is there something you can do to help the person you might need help from? Perhaps you will be more comfortable asking them for their support if you are able to help them in some way?

·      Have you considered that people want to help you or others? Most people find it highly gratifying to help someone. 

·      Will your situation improve if you were to ask for help? 

·      Do you want your situation to improve? It can if you ask for help. 

There isn’t one perfect way to ask for help, and when you need help, I hope you will get to a point of being able to comfortably and confidently ask for it. Remember, people by nature like to help others. Keep this in mind when you are reluctant to ask someone for the help you need. 

TAGS: #Leadership #Business #Workplace #Professional #Personal #Help #HowToAskForHelp 

Everyone is a specialist. Where are the generalists?

Overview:

When I began my business career, I started out in marketing. At that time, I was tasked with doing basic marketing activities, and I gradually began to take on more advanced marketing assignments and responsibilities. About a decade into my career, I took on a leadership role and was responsible for a team of marketers. At that time, I was still able to be both a marketing practitioner, while leading the team.

The thing that I liked the most about my career as a marketer in the first half of my profession, was that I would have classified myself as a generalist. What I mean by this, is that I was able to participate in all of the aspects of the marketing field. I loved the variety and challenges that each of the areas of this part of business presented to me, especially the creative and strategic aspects.

Fast forward to the mid 2000’s and I started to notice a trend occurring in my profession. What I began to see happen was the evolution of those who wore a marketing “hat” start to veer into becoming specialists in this profession. This occurred around the time when social media marketing began to become more complex, and required a dedicated and hyper focused attention on the aspects of digital marketing. When this shift in marketing began to emerge, I knew this was leaning towards the demise of marketing generalists. At least for most medium to large businesses.

Being a marketing generalist was probably the most fun and creatively expressive time in my career, as I was able to flex and leverage all of my acquired marketing skills on a daily basis. When it became clear that the skills required to excel and be defined as an expert in social media was inevitable, this was around the time I began to wonder what would happen to other marketers who would classify themselves as generalists?

Did the marketing generalists began to fade out into obscurity and slowly begin to “exit stage left” in the marketing profession? Perhaps, but as a comparison, I think what happened was that marketing generalists with 15 plus years of experience began to either shift to work for smaller companies where they could continue to leverage all of their skills, or could be compared to general practitioner doctors. What I mean by this is that you go in to consult with the marketing generalist or general practitioner, and they refer to you as a specialist.

Is the specialist model a good one? Perhaps, and the jury may still be out on this, but I believe with both marketing and the medical worlds becoming increasingly more complex, there is likely a strong demand for the need to have people become specialists. The question is, do people presently even have the option to learn the aspects of becoming a generalist in any industry? What if you are the type of person who enjoys the challenge of having to know enough about each of the different areas of your profession, and are not interested or challenged enough by having to specialize in an area? Is there still a possibility for people entering the workforce to stay on what I will refer to as a “generalists track”?

In my opinion, when someone is either compelled, or perhaps not given a choice about whether they want to become a specialist, I have concerns about this model going forward. The reason for this is because as someone who has been both a generalist and specialist, I can appreciate the fact I have seen both sides of this model. However, I would also say that being a generalist can be a more difficult path for most people, as it requires you to be skilled in a number of different areas, and at a proficiency level which you wouldn’t be questioned about your abilities.

Achieving a “generalist” status in any profession is going to be quite challenging, but it is possible. Although I will offer that you will have to seek out more opportunities to gain the variety of experiences to acquire your generalist skills.

If you are looking for some suggestions on how to take the path of becoming a generalist, here are some ways you can consider doing this.

  • You will need to keep an open mind about where you will be starting this journey. It might be that you will need to consider living in a different part of the country where there are more opportunities for you to leverage.
  • I recommend you make it clear that you are not seeking to specialize in a particular role, but that you would like to gain as much broad experience as is possible in the role you will be doing.
  • It’s likely you will need to ask for additional opportunities to expand your options of the experience you will be gaining, and you may experience some resistance in being able to do activities you only have junior level skills to do.
  • Consider shadowing someone if they are not willing to give you hands on opportunities to try something new. Eventually they might give you a chance to “try” what you want to experience.
  • Smaller companies will typically offer you more of a variety of experiences, especially in marketing, so be sure to factor this into your experience planning. The larger companies will tend to hire mainly specialists at the entry to mid-level positions.
  • Although this might be more challenging to attempt, I would suggest you consider test driving a few different industries to gain your experience in. Doing this will allow you to see which industries might be more willing to provide you with opportunities to gain your generalist skills.
  • Channel your inner researcher skills and embark upon speaking to as many people as you can to help you to determine alternative methods to gain your generalist experience in other creative ways.
  • Don’t rule out volunteering at an organization where they would be thrilled to have you provide them with help, and perhaps allow you to stretch your existing skills, or learn new ones that you can benefit from gaining.

My intention for sharing information about this topic with you was to open your mind to the possibility of exploring what is now more of an alternative career track (e.g., generalist), when in the past, this was more of the norm. I believe there is still a need for people who have generalist skills, and that not everyone has to be a specialist going forward, and I applaud either direction you think is the right one for you.

TAGS: #Career #Experience #Marketing #Business #Teams #HumanResources #CareerDevelopment #Expertise #Specialist #HumanDevelopment #PersonalDevelopment #CareerOptions #SocialMedia #SocialMediaMarketing #Generalists #Specialists #CareerSpecialists #MarketingSpecialists #BusinessSpecialists #HumanResources #HRProfessional #CareerAdvice #MarketingCareerAdvice #BusinessCareerAdvice

How to actually get along with others.

Given the enormous division we have been seeing in our countries ability to get along with others recently, I felt compelled to write about this. Getting along with others is not a light subject to address, yet it is one that truly resonates with me.

There are a number of things I am passionate about. One of them is the importance of granting a minimum level of respect to everyone I encounter. In other words, starting from a neutral place with everyone I meet, without judging them prior to interacting with them.

Based on my profession, I meet and have worked with thousands of people. Each time I meet someone I look at it as an opportunity. An opportunity to get to know an interesting person. To learn something from them, and to better understand how they view the world. From my perspective, meeting and getting to know others is similar to opening or being given a gift.

How is it that people become so jaded and reluctant to embrace being able to get along with others? Unfortunately, they are negatively influenced by others in their life to shape how they think from an early age. As someone matures, the circle of people they interact with will further shape and influence how they think. Yes, we all have the ability to be independent thinkers, but it takes more effort to do this. Yet, it is completely worth putting in the work to think this way.

Of course, our life circumstances can also impact the way we perceive and get along with others in our lives. Sprinkle in the concept of one’s mindset, and this too can play a negative or positive role in which way people think about and how they get along with others.

Now factor in the concept of effort, as this too also needs to be considered. For instance whether it is a minimum or maximum amount of effort applied, in terms of attempting to interact well, and get along with half the people we encounter. If the amount of effort is low, chances are that people will struggle with getting along with others. I’m applying the term effort, as an umbrella term for numerous other words. Unfortunately, prejudice is the first one that comes to my mind. However, my opinion about prejudice is that it is based on being highly misinformed, and stubbornly reluctant to accept and honor and equally value other people.

For the sake of being on the same page with our thinking, indulge me in winding back our lives to when we were able to get along with just about everyone. Everyone will likely wind back to a different age, but most will generally be sub five years old. At that time in our lives we were not burdened with investing negative energy into thinking about other people. Imagine if you could roll back to that point in time?

Starting from a place of treating everyone equally, and as if they are one of your friends, is a noble thought. Is it realistic? Perhaps not, but consider what our world would be like if as adults we put more effort and modeled for younger generations how to get along with others?

Personally, I am on a daily quest to model this type of behavior. In fact, I am honored when I am able to meet a new person. Especially when they initially appear to represent an outward perspective, and may appear quite different from me (e.g., they grew up in a different country, speak a different language, are older, younger, etc.).

One of the greatest compliments related to this topic, and that I have received from another person, was that they completely misjudged me based on my appearance. In other words, they were applying their own prejudice to me prior to interacting with me. They also told me that they learned something from this experience. What they shared with me was that they were going to from that point on, do their part to be more open and less judgmental. In other words, they were going to attempt to not thrust their prejudiced thinking on others going forward.

In case you were wondering if there are concepts you can apply to get along better with others, there are. Here are some suggestions to do this.

  • Consider reading, listening to a podcast or watching a video about mindset. More specifically look up the word “open mindedness”.
  • Factor in how you feel when you meet and or interact with someone new. What are some of the first thoughts that cross your mind about this person? Are they negative or positive thoughts?
  • What if you trusted everyone new that you met. Or, perhaps were neutral in your thinking about them when you first met them. How would your interaction with this person change?
  • What value do you place on having more people in your life that are different than you?
  • Think about the characteristics of the people you consider to be your friends. Are you proud of their characteristics? Or, are there aspects of their characteristics which you simply accept, but are not happy about?
  • How would you currently rate your ability to get along well with others? Are you able to objectively rate yourself?
  • Have you ever avoided meeting someone for reasons you would not be comfortable with sharing with others why you feel this way? Think about why you feel this way. Is it reasonable or logical to think this way? 
  • What level of effort do you put into getting along with others? Perhaps you don’t put enough effort in to make it work out to get along well.
  • Are you always pointing the blame on someone else for why you can’t get along? Have you considered maybe you and the way you interact with others is the reason you are challenged with getting along with others.

To do my part, I’ll be focused on being a role model to demonstrate how to get along well with others. I hope many of you will do the same, as we all know our world will be a much better place if we could all simply just get along well with one another.

Tags: #Howtogetalongwithothers #Gettingalong #Leadership #Relationships #Business #Management #Prejudice #teambuilding #leadershipmindset #engagement #success #Teams

What’s your one thing you are known for?

If someone else were to name the one thing you are known for being good at doing, or perhaps want to be known for, would they be able to do so? How critical is it that you would want them to be able to get this right? 

Humans are complex, and it can be difficult to truly understand and appreciate one another on multiple levels. When it comes to the topic of talent, and being good at a particular thing, it is always interesting to consider how someone evolved to the talent level they have attained. Research supports that to master something, an individual needs to spend around ten thousand hours to reach the level of being exceptional, or considered to be an expert at something.

When you think about how many people actually get to the level of putting in the ten thousand hours to achieve mastery of whatever it is they are known for being good at, what does it take for this person to have this level of focus? Or, the command of discipline required to sustain those many hours of pursuing what they are doing? Does being passionate about something play a role in fueling the person to achieve the highest level of mastery?

Upon considering the people I have come across in my life who have reached the pinnacle of either their career, or the mastery of something they are known for that is not associated with their profession, I have found they all have one thing in common. What is this one thing they have in common? Surprisingly it’s a relatively simple concept.

All of these people will tell you that they love what they are doing. Matter of factly, they will also tell you that the time they are putting into, or have put into pursuing what they are doing or have achieved may in fact have seemed effortless to them. Not always, but many people who have reached a mastery level will also tell you that there were times when it was difficult doing what they were doing. Perhaps even times when they wanted to end their pursuit of mastery. However, all of them would agree that it was worth whatever they had to go through, sacrifice and endure.

This week I had the honor of speaking to a Gold Medal winning Olympian. I asked her what her journey was like to get to the level she attained. Her response was interesting. It was interesting because she only slightly references her own personal involvement in attaining her mastery. In other words, she talked about all of the people in her life, including her parents, coaches, friends and teammates that allowed her to achieve what she did.

This Olympian also mentioned that it was her sense of appreciation for being able to strive to be the best at what she was doing that was one of the contributing elements to her success. It was also the comraderie and support from her teammates along her journey that also contributed to making the difference in remaining focused on her talent contribution towards helping the team with the goal of winning an Olympic gold medal.  I asked her what impact winning an Olympic Gold medal had on her life?  She told me that it provided her with lifelong friends that she literally after many years, is still in daily contact with. Beyond this, they have supported one another via both numerous highs and lows in each other’s lives. However, she also told me that the best part of this type of friendship, is how they would literally consider one another to be family members, and support each other no matter what the circumstances were.

If you are on your way to mastering something you want to be known for either personally or professionally, below are some suggestions to consider to help you to continue on your path. Especially on days that might be slightly more difficult to do so.

  • Pause for a moment. During this pause, consider and make sure you are in fact focusing on something that you either are naturally gifted at doing, or have enough passion for to pursue achieving, regardless of how difficult it will be to do so.
  • Not everyone is intended to achieve a mastery level of something, but if you are inclined to be one of these people, make sure you have people in your life that will be able to emotionally support you on this journey.
  • Socially prune out the people in your life who are not supportive of your quest.
  • Always keep your end goal in mind, or written down and in a place you can reference.
  • Visualize both how it will feel, and what you expect your situation will be like once you master your “thing” you are striving to become an expert in.
  • Focus on the impact your mastery achievement will potentially and positively impact not only you, but others (e.g., you could be a role model for someone).
  • There may be days, even weeks when you might not be able to pursue taking your talent to the next level. Yes, this might feel like a set-back, but keep time in perspective, and understand you are metaphorically running a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Look for inspiration from others, nature, music, or whatever it takes to keep your motivation level where it needs to be in pursuit of your mastery.

Eventually, if someone wants to achieve something, and they have an innate and burning desire to do so, they will get to the place of being known for what they are doing and good at. Going on this journey will be a long one, but if you have the right mindset, and desire to get there, nothing can really prevent you from getting there. Even if the definition of your mastery level is altered at some point along the way, ultimately you are the one who is defining what success of your talent means, and what you are great at either personally or professionally. Perhaps both.

TAGS: #Success #Achievement #Mastery #Olympics #OlympicGoldMedal #Positivity #Mindset #Business #Teams #Teammates #Business #Teamwork #Friendship #PursuitOfSuccess #Goals #AchievingAGoal #Leadership #Mindset #Motivation