Photo by nomenombres on Flickr
Listening with Empathy is such an important part of how we communicate in our lives. We all have the ability to control the outcome of a conversation by listening with empathy. I was at a meeting recently where I was listening intently and was trying to understand by asking questions. Through this process, I was able to determine these people were only interested in what they were getting out of my business. Problem being that I am the customer! After a series of questions I directed in ways that allowed them to consider my needs they still reverted back to what was best for them. To me this meeting could have been done in a way that comes much simpler. By them explaining my needs to me gives me the confidence to move forward. Knowing they understand is the first level of acceptance.
My company, Opus Workspace, was built on the ability to listen to the needs of our community and to listen to the worlds needs with empathy having a true understanding of some of our day to day challenges. One of the things that I enjoy most in my business partnership and friendship with Rick is “listening with empathy”. I have a heavy travel schedule coming up and Rick had sent me a link to a small airline that allowed me to get into small airports making the travel schedule less strenuous. The simple fact that he was thinking of my needs is pretty powerful.
I had an experience many years ago with a business that I owned. It was early in the morning and the night shift had just finished. As one of employees was backing her car out of the parking lot she happened to nudge the neighbours owners car enough to set the alarm off. She hit it so lightly that she didn’t even know she hit it. To her fault, her windows were frosted and should have been cleared and music was playing. She pulled away not realizing that she had set off the alarm in the other vehicle. The owner witnessed the whole incident! I was in the back, when my receptionist came to get me. She was in tears and I was immediately concerned. She explained that the neighbour had come over screaming and was very rude saying that one of the girls had backed into his car and had left the scene. He stormed away yelling that he was going to call the police. I acknowledged what he did was wrong and I assured my receptionist that I would go and speak to him immediately.
So I walked across to his building and found him to be very flustered. I began my conversation with him by apologizing for this problem and assured him that we would take care of any damage. His mood instantly changed. I asked him to accompany me to his vehicle where we could assess the damage. After a very detailed search and find mission, we couldn’t so much as a find a brush mark on his car. I asked him if we could go inside and talk privately and he agreed. Again I apologized for my employee leaving the scene and I also assured him that this person would not have left knowing she hit his car. I continued by telling him I would be calling her after this chat to confirm.
As we sat down in his office, I asked him how his business was? He replied, ” I’m pretty steady, however, I don’t know if you knew that I am selling my business!” I replied, “No I didn’t.” He continued by telling me that after 32 years in his business he had it sold to a competitor. I replied, “Wow,… good for you ….building a business, making a great living and selling it is quite an accomplishment!” He replied, “Not so fast, they backed out of the deal last night. We had everything all set my wife and I had even booked a vacation as we counted on the sale of our business for our retirement.” I replied, “I’m so sorry, I wish it were different.” He agreed and explained to me that the worst part was he didn’t have the courage to tell his wife yesterday. It was going to crush her. So we sat there for a long time discussing much of his success. He took me back to when he first started and with pride told me about some of the highlights of the past 32 years he had in business. After listening to him, I told him that he was a lucky man. I encouraged him and understood his disappointment about his sale not going through, however explained that he has built great value in his business and some one will buy it and give it the same respect that he had. During our entire discussion the incident with the car never came up. As I walked back to my office, I realized that the bump on the car was just the outlet of anger he was feeling about something completely different. My poor receptionist was the unfortunate recipient of his release of angry feelings. I explained to my receptionist what had happened and she proceeded to cry again, but only this time with empathy. She felt for him. Later that morning my neighbour returned apologizing to my receptionist with a box of donuts in hand. He also asked to speak to me, saying, “Thanks for listening,… I had a great talk with my wife and explained the situation to her and we both agreed that there was still some good that came out of this ordeal…we were still going on our much needed vacation!” He apologized again and left.
Seeking to understand the other person’s perspective can be done by asking many questions. This way you can truly understand what their needs and feelings are. Once you have identified these needs… then and only then can you comment. It has worked very well for me! Find some time today to call your mother! and by the way, he did sell his business !
Photo By a n a n d h a m
Have you ever had a friend or a colleague who was always late for everything? I have watched people look at the time and make an unscheduled stop or take another phone call, almost as if they need to be late! In the celebrity world, they always like to make the late appearance, subliminally sending a message that they have a different set of rules than the rest of us. But even celebrities need to be on time for things, like Airlines for example. The thought of a person considering their time more valuable than another’s is simply appalling to me.
The amount of energy that is wasted when someone is late is remarkable. When the tardy finally arrive they usually come with a very dramatic story of why they were late. Time is our most valuable asset, we should use it wisely.
I was reading an article recently on how to be punctual and I was amused by the advice. They offered suggestions like setting your watch ahead 15 minutes and putting clocks in every room. In my opinion these suggestions are not solving the problem, I think they are actually adding to it!
I don’t want to mislead you, everyone has a moment when they have some unforeseen event happen that is out of their control. But I can tell you that the people I’ve met in business who are constantly late are also unproductive. On the contrary, those who place value on their time are very productive and quite organized. What message are we sending people in our day when we are always late? Well, it presents us as unorganized and disrespectful. It is difficult to sustain healthy relationships when we continue to devalue someone else’s time.
A number of years ago I was involved in a highly technical presentation to a very large corporation. The pitch required a collaboration of various companies that by combining our strengths, could win the customer. My job was to build the presentation, collect the important technical aspects and design the platform we were going to use to present our product. I was very excited about this and worked very long hours making sure that our customer understood the value of what we were presenting. The “pitch guy” was Bob, who had a relationship with the agency that represented the company we were presenting to. Leading up to the big day, I had several meetings with the agency, actually taking Bob’s place, who for some reason cancelled each time.
A week prior to our big meeting (that rostered 52 executives), I invited Bob to rehearse the presentation and get to know what I had built. He had made many appointments and cancelled most, and when he did show up he gave little attention and was quick to exit. This concerned me so I suggested to Bob that I pitch the presentation, being most familiar with the details at that point. Bob insisted that he worked best in the “last minute” and that we would meet the night before to review everything. He promised he would be ready.
So there we were, the night before the big day. My assistant and I had put in heavy hours on this and were now just waiting for Bob to arrive. We sat and waited. We were supposed to meet at 6pm, but by 8pm Bob had not arrived. Out of concern I tried contacting him, hoping that he hadn’t been in an accident or had some kind of emergency. He eventually called and apologized profusely, assuring me that we could meet early the next morning to review and he would be ready to go.
With no surprise, our early morning meeting (set for 5:30am) never happened. I was packing up my laptop when Bob showed up. I insisted that he not present because the information was way too technical and he had not familiarized himself to any extent. He commented that I worry too much and that he does this kind of thing in his sleep.
We arrived for the meeting right on time, without the extra minutes we could have used to prepare. The room was filled with 52 executives and the agency who represented the company. Now we are setting up the projector in front of them with no time to test anything. I can still see Tavia, the agency’s project leader, dropping her head with both hands over her face. She was concerned, and rightfully so. We loaded everything up and we were off, Bob introduced himself and I was on the laptop controlling the slide presentation. After his introduction, we began viewing the slides. I wish I had a camera to capture the look on Bob’s face when he saw the first slide. His jaw dropped and he began to stutter. Refusing to give up, he asked me to move to the next slide. As painful as it was, I couldn’t help letting him suffer to send a message, and hoped that he never forgot the pain and discomfort he felt from not being prepared. After a few minutes of this fiasco and to save Tavia from having a heart attack, I politely interjected and asked Bob if I could speak to the group on the technical points, to which he graciously agreed. As Bob sat down to take a drink of water, I noticed his hands were shaking and he was breathing heavily. I gladly took over because I was so prepared I could not wait to dive into it. We salvaged the presentation and won the business, but after the room cleared, Tavia informed Bob that she would not work with him again and their relationship was dissolved.
Being punctual needs to be valued. If you start setting false reminders around you, the only thing you are doing is strengthening your commitment to continue to fail. Set your day with a plan and attach a value to it. Preparation is a validation of the value you have on a meeting or an event. Think about what you commit to and make sure you can fit it in if it’s worth your time.
If you want free time to relax then get on a schedule. And don’t forget to call your mother!
P.E.P- Productivity, Efficiency, Pays. How do you start your day? Everyone is different. Some of us have a routine and others have simple ways of reminding themselves of scheduled events. Other just deal with the fact that they are not that way and really have no interest in getting more productive or efficient.
I was vacationing in a little beach town in New Jersey called sea Isle. My brother, John, and his wife Stacy, have a great spot there. The town is very active and has several places to play sports, with a fantastic boardwalk that runs along the beachfront.
John and Stacy get up early for their morning run and head to the boardwalk. It’s really wide and nicely paved, not to mention the beauty of the ocean and the sound of the waves crashing as you run along. It is the perfect place to run and the spot I look forward to visiting again and again.
One day as I was speaking to John after his run and he said something that was very interesting to me. He’s noticed that between 6am and 7am you will see the same people running along the boardwalk every day. But sometimes when he and Stacy grab a coffee and go for a walk between 9 and 10am, they see people running, but they are different people each day. It is evident to me that the people who were disciplined and up early were starting their day right, and with a consistent routine.
The community in this town lost an inspiring young man to cancer in 1999. Every year the town sees over 1,500 people participate in a 10 mile run, to raise money for the lifeguards and Cancer patients. In order to run a race for ten miles, you need to train so that come race day, you can actually enjoy the run. Training every morning prior to the race gets you conditioned- but this requires planning, and no room for compromise. An important aspect of the training is to set a schedule, and to stick to it- the results will come with perseverance.
Day to day life is really no different. As I mentioned earlier, I like to call it P.E.P (Productivity and Efficiency Pays). Organize your day so that you can be productive, and your efficiency in completing tasks will follow. If you empower these two elements in your day, they will pay huge dividends.
Start you day off right with something invigorating that gives you time to think through the day ahead- so you can experience that P.E.P! And for readers who are interested, I’ll see you at the Sea Isle New Jersey run next summer.
Sea Isle City still stands strong after the hit of devistating storm of “Hurricane Sandy” Thanks to Bruce Springsteen, BonJovi, Eric Clapton the Rolling Stones and Alicia keys were amongst some of the Star raising money for the intention of restoring the Jersey shore. It is amazing what a collective mind can do. They raised 30 million dollars, great job to all involved. In times of trouble it is people that make the difference.
SEA ISLE CITY BEACH PATROL PARTNERS WITH FOR PETE’S SAKE
In September of 1999, Sea Isle City Beach patrol said goodbye to former lifeguard Peter R. Bossow, Jr. after he lost his battle with testicular cancer. Prior to his death at age thirty, Peter founded “For Pete’s Sake” Cancer Respite Foundation (formerly “Crossing the Finish Line”), an organization dedicated to providing respite vacations for adult cancer patients and their families.
Since his death, “For Pete’s Sake” has been sending families on week-long respites to donated homes along the Jersey Shore and to other vacation locations along the East Coast. These unforgettable and lasting vacations enable cancer patients and their loved ones the opportunity to strengthen, deepen, and unify their relationships.
The beach patrol encourages individuals and teams to set their own fundraising goal. The Sea Isle City Beach Patrol Lifeguards Association will donate $10.00 for every runner or team who raises $250 or more for the above stated mission of “For Pete’s Sake”.
For more information about “For Pete’s Sake” and to set up a fundraising page go to http://www.takeabreakfromcancer.org. ”For Pete’s Sake” offers personal online fundraising pages to ease the process of raising money. These pages allow you to make e-mail appeals to friends, family members, and associates. If you have questions, you may e-mail:email@example.com.
Jersey Shore home owners can also visit For Pete’s Sake website at www.takeabreakfromcancer.org to initiate the process of donating their summer home for one week.
photo by Phil Roeder
I met a fellow by the name of Gary Parks through sports. Gary is a Mental Strength Coach out in Long Island New York. Gary and I would talk quite often on a wide variety of topics, one being the performance of athletes. He had Developed a manual called the “Peak Performance Manual”, which was designed to help athletes stay on track and fight through mental barriers- a great guild not only for athletes but also very helpful in day to day life.
Gary is very detailed when it comes to definitions, so if I said my players gave me 110% he would say, “impossible”, 100% is everything they’ve got. You are setting your mind up for failure, they can only give a 100%. You’re promoting self doubt in your mind.
If you were to talk to a runner that was training for a marathon, most would tell you that they break the race down in small sections instead of looking at the end result. Doing this allows them to build on success- that’s why we call it “mile markers”. A runner may have a set on his watch that would let him know his time at 5 miles, which would allow him to stay on track or make adjustment. It would also become a great confidence builder as they hit each marker. Breaking it down also allows them to build energy.
After reaching a goal, your energy and focus will deplete. A goal is a mental “gap” that once achieved, your mind then has no reason to continue. A Marker will energize you and give you increased confidence that you are on the right path.
Being the best you can be at all of your markers will ultimately determine your outcome. Set your day up with many markers in a check list that allows you to visually see your success in a day/week/month (the more detail the more real it will be for you).
Thanks for all the great chats Gary and look forward to the next one.
“Victory comes to the most persevering”- Napoleon Bonaparte
Photo By carionoff
Over the past decade, I’ve often thought about communication within our world, and how it has exponentially picked up speed. How we can communicate in real time, from any where in the world. In essence, it makes our world smaller and smaller .
I think it is easier for our youth to embrace this, as they have become incredible at multi-tasking, where in my day we would tackle one or two things at a time. I see our youth balancing as many as 7 things at once; doing homework, listening to music, texting, communicating on Facebook, and watching TV. Undoubtably our youth are the most intelligent people in the history of mankind. In fact, they have done studies arguably stating that ages 12 to 32 are the most intelligent people to date.
We are in a time of huge transition and the world is struggling to find a level ground.
I know my parents and most from my era had 1 job until retirement, with pension.
Those days are behind us now. I think it is hard for those of us over the age of 45 who are caught in the middle of this transition. They have incredible work ethic and great pride in their jobs- in fact, even the thought of a job change threatens their pride.
Every parent, spouse, or adult for that matter, wanted to provide and live life with a purpose. We can’t replace the pride and integrity of this era and how valuable they can be in this new and fast world.
Embrace change, get organized and don’t be afraid to re-invent yourself. 100% of all new jobs are from start-up companies. Large organizations are cutting back and decreasing jobs. It’s wise to keep your head up and look for the next great start-up company that catches your interest. Do the things that you have always wanted to, the world is yours to find, just keep looking! Don’t wait to get laid off, beat’em to the punch.
Change is probably the most difficult thing to do, but if you embrace it with integrity, hard work and character, it can also be the most rewarding.
Take the first step, “every flame starts with a spark”!
Photo By _Tawcan
Prioritizing our lives and aligning our days continues to challenge us on a day-to-day basis.
12 years ago I began working with a great Co-ordinator named Sabrina. I remember thinking I was pretty special at the time because everything I needed done by her was done on time and without problems. She had a gift for getting tasks done remarkably well.
As time went on and I attended various business events and functions, I noticed Sabrina’s name being praised and noted for her standard of work excellence. It wasn’t so much a “wow factor” as it was the positive impression she left by her consistency in serving so many companies the way she did mine.
We all know the famous saying “Michael Angelo didn’t paint the Sistine Chapel in one day”, but there were times I worked with Sabrina that I really challenged the idea that maybe Sabrina could paint the Sistine Chapel in a day! I have learned so much from her and I am truly grateful.
It was Sabrina’s unwavering integrity that made up a large part of her value system. If she gave her word on something, she would go to great lengths to ensure she never went back on that word.
Success in balancing life doesn’t come easy- it takes effort, thought, it takes a solid plan. This is something Sabrina had mastered. But how’d she come to that point?
So many times people start with the things that should come last, and find themselves overwhelmed. Having a detailed written list is vital. Even more important is reviewing and analyzing the list to understand the most effective way to get something done.
To better explain my point, consider this illustration. There’s a raging river and across this river is a steep escarpment with a large staircase to get you to the top. The natural objective would be to build a bridge to get to the stairs, but so many people try shortcuts instead of building that bridge piece by piece. Rather than building a foundation that could be used time and again, people keep jumping in the water trying to hack it across- and most times they get swept away. Make a plan. Start at the beginning. Follow it through.
Researchers conducted a study years ago of 100 graduating university students, asking them a series of questions. One of the questions was whether or not the student had a plan after university. A startling 95/100 students really didn’t know what they wanted to do. Three of the students had a very specific plan in accordance with their degree and had employment lined up afterwards. The remaining two students had a detailed written plan, outlining where they would start within a company, how they were going to move up the corporate latter, and included many markers along the way, ending with their ultimate goal.
Twenty years later, the 3 students that had a plan made twice the income of the surviving 95 other students, and the 2 students that had a detailed written plan made more income than all 98 students combined!
This is the power of a detailed plan and putting first things first.
My great thanks to Sabrina, on behalf of all those who’ve had the privilege to work with you. We will talk soon.
The problem with change is uncertainty.
Have you ever had a day where everything went perfectly? You try to duplicate it the next day but it just doesn’t work and you can’t figure out why! I think we have all been there and have felt frustrated. One of the first steps of understanding is to realize that you can’t control unforeseen circumstances that are around you.
I saw a great clip on Oprah where she was interviewing a girl that had anorexia. A movie actress was trying to convince this girl to change- convincing her to feed her mind and the rest will take care of itself and to make her mind powerful enough to make the right decisions. The frail girl looked at her and said, “how do I do that?”, while she held her head and cried. She could not conceive step by step how to accomplish what she needed to do. Oprah credits that as a powerful moment in her own life, because she was able to see, in huge emotion, how important that “step by step” direction is.
Setting boundaries for yourself is the first step to having a plan that works- making sure you feed your body with actions that give you energy, rather than actions that take energy away (ie. withdraws).
Setting boundaries requires you to draw the line. Most people cross the boundary line because there was never one drawn in the beginning. Set up staples in your day- the things that are most important to be accomplished. Write these things down, put them into Opus Workspace, and remember that the more detail you record, the more real it becomes, and the more worth it will have to you.
If you are at work, having planned your day out productively, and your boss asks you to do something else spur of the moment, simply pull up your schedule and ask your boss which of the tasks he/she would like you to replace with the new task. Usually they go on to someone else.
That’s a way of drawing the line and eliminating much of the stress in your day. The first step starts with a written day plan. You will be surprised at how much control you have in your day. Time is valuable, don’t just protect it, fight for it!
Steven Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Business People” states, “If you want more down time to do the things you enjoy, schedule it”.
Photo by Antoon Kuper
It seems sometimes that no matter how good things are, when you least expect it, something goes wrong. It’s Murphy’s law: what can go wrong will go wrong. Although we don’t have much control over unforeseen events, how we handle them can either build or break us.
This leads me to a bit of background on the famous song “Maxwell and the Silver Hammer”, sung by Paul McCartney.
I was listening to the radio while driving my car recently and the disc jockey began telling the story of why the song “Maxwell and the Silver Hammer” was written. Paul McCartney and his wife decided early in their marriage that they would make light of difficult situations. When Murphy’s law struck, they would say “there’s Maxwell and the Silver Hammer again”. It put them in a place were they could embrace change (“roll with the punches”, if you will) right from the start, and in a non-stressful way. Paul wrote the famous song having been inspired by life’s many ups and downs.
I listened to the song and could easily relate to it. I even chuckled at the lyrics while I reflected on some of my “Murphy’s moments”. I think the “Maxwell and the Silver Hammer” approach would have been a better way to handle many of my experiences.
Since listening to the song in light of it’s meaning, I have embraced McCartney’s theory. It’s now kind of funny when something goes “sideways” for me. The song’s beat is now embedded in my head, and one of the first things I do is crack a smile and say “there’s Maxwell and the Silver Hammer again”. The song’s message and quirky beat has reminded me that things will go wrong sometimes, but that I can embrace the difficulty and deal with it head on, and with a clear head.
So the next time something unexpectedly happens to you, say to yourself “there’s Maxwell and the Silver Hammer again”. It really does work. And remind yourself that whatever the problem is, you will get through it. Tomorrow will come. The sun will rise again.
Make sure you listen to the song!
Photo by Gary Craig
Attending workshops and seminars can be great. They can inspire, excite and energize us, and after attending one we often leave feeling like we can conquer the world. But because many times they lack action-based teaching, we can wake up the next morning feeling confused and irritated- not really knowing how the information can fit into our lives. It sort of reminds me of a caffeine crash after drinking too many Red Bulls.
Now don’t get me wrong, speakers like Anthony Robins have a lot of knowledge to offer, and their hands-on workshops have helped and guided many through life challenges, but we need to learn how to absorb and use the information we are given.
To look at the power of influence, let’s take a Bartender for example. After years of working in a bar, many times the bartender themselves admit to having an alcohol problem. A rehab centre could be very helpful in separating them from their addiction. Professionals would be available to encourage good habits while breaking the bad ones. For the bartender, being around the positive influence would make their sobriety more achievable. Most would agree though, that if the bartender returned to his/her position at the bar, they would resume their old habits and fall back into alcoholism. This is the power of influence again. Being around the old environment encourages the old ways.
The power of influence in our day-to-day lives is no different than the influential power over the person that fights an addiction. We are all fighting some sort of an addiction, whether it be procrastination, punctuality, spending money, stress- the list could continue a mile long.
There is an old saying that says “stay away from all the ugly people in your life.” This refers to all the people in your life that bring you down. Another noteworthy phrase is “show me your friend and I will show you your future.” Creating a positive surrounding is entirely up to you. Your body has great natural defences and when things don’t feel good, chances are your body is probably right.
Make a check list of what is important to you. Then, rank all the people that influence your life and see where they fit into your future. You have the ability to choose your power of influence. If the people in your life share your value system and have similar goals, you will find your life far more productive.
Get rid of all the people that drag you down, connect with people that are inspiring to you and the energy will be amazing. At Opus, we have great sources of influence and the power this brings speaks for itself. But this didn’t happen over night. I searched for the very best people we could find, and when something wasn’t right, we waited until it was. We weren’t simply looking for someone to fill a position, but for someone who would also inspire the people around them. We have an incredible team, but we have also set standards that will not be compromised. Opus chooses self- motivated, creative, caring and talented people. Our power of influence is a very positive one, and it seeps into every aspect of our company.
You have a choice and you know what is right. Be brave enough to make that choice. Small steps create energy but big leaps create self doubt. Make your choices in stride and make them count toward your future.
Have an Opus Day… don’t forget to call your mother.