This IS My Job

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I used to get frustrated about how much time got wasted in my workplace.  People would interrupt me when I was working to chat about the weekend, or things going on in their lives.  I welcomed the odd storm day that forced me to work from home, as I could get so much accomplished when I was able to work without all those distractions.

But if you really want to talk about efficiency, email has been an amazing time saver.  I’m part of a diminishing group of people who used to work before there was such a thing as email.  Looking back, it’s mind boggling to think of how much longer it took us to do business when you actually had to catch someone on the phone to talk.  I can fire off a dozen emails in the time it used to take me to make one phone call.  And when things had to be done by phone, you couldn’t just get straight down to business either – that would seem rude.  So you had to do the small talk, chit-chat thing before moving on to your real reason for the call.  What a massive waste of time!

Except that it wasn’t.

I’ve seen good ideas wither on the vine because people could not work together to make them happen.  I’ve seen how simple tasks can become incredibly complex because people are playing games, or don’t want to put in any effort for someone they feel doesn’t respect them.   

I appreciate now that everything about work is really about people.  Without relationships, very little happens efficiently.  Differences of opinion do not turn into battles or become personal attacks when opposing sides know and respect each other.  Good ideas can turn into great ones when people go the extra mile with their contributions to a project. 

So I’ve changed my tune.  Spending time building relationships does not interfere with my work.  It is my work.  Although I still appreciate the time saving that things like email have brought, I’m also aware that I need to attend to the people I work with – not just our tasks.  After all, belonging is a basic human need, and without it, things go off kilter. 

I heard a great line recently that I think sums this idea up very well:  We need to loiter with intent.  We need to hang out with people, get to know them, build relationships.  Sure – it can be a break from work, but remember – it’s not a waste of time. 

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Cultivating Belonging

This past week, I lucked out and had a wonderful opportunity to hear a very inspirational speaker.  Blake “Fly” Fleischacker began by asking the crowd how many people know someone in their workplace who feels unappreciated.  Every hand rose.  He pointed out that we think that we don’t have time to show our appreciation for people because we have important work to do.  After all, for many of us, if we don’t take care of business the consequences can be severe.  People can get hurt.

But aren’t those people who feel unappreciated getting hurt too?  How long would it really take to address this?

And this goes beyond the workplace.  Can you think of someone in your personal life that would benefit from hearing that they are important to you?

Blake handed out thank you cards, and gave us about 3 minutes to write a thank you note to the first person that we thought of.  He then reminded us that we all carry phones that allow us to text a “thank you” in mere seconds.  So we did that too.  Post a “thank you” on social media, and not only does a person get acknowledgement from you, but the world gets a chance to “like” it or comment as well – multiplying the sense of connection you have given to someone.  You can use #thankulive to join this movement!  And did you know that those phones can also actually be used to make phone calls to people as well?!  He had someone come up on stage and make a “thank you” call to someone, putting their phone on speaker and holding it next to the mic so we could all hear.  It was incredibly powerful.

By the end of the session, everyone’s phones were buzzing with messages back from those that we had texted earlier in the session.  Many people’s days were made because a group of us took about 15 seconds to connect with another person.

Why don’t you do the same right this very minute?

Take a Moment to Give Thanks

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I spent an awesome day in training this week with a pretty special staff. They seem like a very strong team, and incredibly supportive of one another. They had an infectious energy.  (There WAS spontaneous dancing and singing involved!!) It made me wonder – how does a team like this develop? How do you create such a sense of belonging with a group of people?

At the end of the day, I got a peak into at least one thing that helps. The principal stood up at the end of the day and called forward their administrative assistant. With it being administrative assistant’s day this week, many of us took a few moments to say “thank you” to those individuals who are so often the glue that keeps everything together in an organization. But this principal didn’t just present a gift and say thank you. In front of the whole group, she talked about how important this person is. She recognized that this is the first voice on the phone and the first face that is seen by anyone coming to their school, and how that sets the tone for every interaction that follows. She described a phone call she overheard this week, where the AA demonstrated kindness and patience in a difficult conversation. She stressed how important she was to their school. She was very deliberate and specific about what she appreciates about her. There were tears, hugs, and a standing ovation that followed. It gave me goosebumps.

How powerful it is to realize that people actually notice those things that you take the time to do well, and acknowledge that no matter how small it might seem, that your efforts make a big difference. It was obvious how much dedication this AA feels to this school, who so obviously values her contribution.

Whether it be a classroom climate that you are trying to build, or collegial relationships, or even the bonds within your family – wouldn’t a great start be to take a moment to show each person that you notice them, appreciate them, and see the difference they make in the world?