I remember at a very young age the constant urging of my parents to always say “thank you” in response to any kindness or friendly words shared in my direction. For many years, I saw this advice from my parents as simply good manners and what people were supposed to do. In my mid-teen years, I was mature enough to observe the heartfelt sincerity my parents always showed when they said “thank you” to others, offered prayers of thanks or expressed appreciation for the simple blessings in their lives…and how different it was from my perfunctory use of the words. They really meant it and I began to understand that their use of “thank you” transcended mere courtesy and it clearly meant something much more meaningful and powerful to them. What I observed my parents practicing so well was the beginning of my deeper understanding of the word gratitude.
Over my 25+ years in business, I have had the good fortune to serve on a number of non-profit boards and am grateful for the enriching experiences, people I have met and worthy causes I have served. One of the benefits I’ve gleaned from years of community service are lessons about how to effectively serve on a non-profit board. This post seeks to summarize these lessons into an easy-to-follow road map that will hopefully enrich your board service experience and help add value to the organizations you serve.
As they ascend the corporate ladder, many leaders do a curious thing … they stop networking. This can have a significant long-term negative impact on a career. I have observed this phenomenon over much of my professional life, most recently in conversations with a number of senior business leaders who have unexpectedly found themselves in career transition. Many spend the first few months of the job search rebuilding networks they failed to maintain while employed. However, the need for leaders to maintain effective, dynamic networks goes well beyond a possible date with destiny in the ranks of the unemployed.
There is no shame in losing your job – it will likely happen to many of us at some point in our careers. Look at it as an exciting opportunity to take stock of your life and a rare chance to be more intentional about the next move in your career. In my current role as an executive coach for senior leaders, through my past role as a partner with a respected national executive search firm, and previously in my role as head of recruiting for a billion-dollar restaurant company, I have had the opportunity to interview thousands of job seekers around the country. These conversations have helped me develop an actionable list of best practices for those seeking new roles, which I hope you find useful.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who is an executive with a mid-sized software company growing rapidly through acquisition. We discussed the various challenges his leadership team is facing and the approaches they were taking to solve them. His company is struggling to assimilate the cultures of the acquired firms, reduce expenses and create synergies from the combined companies. He admitted they had a solid plan to address the financial side of the issues, but they felt overwhelmed by the more complex people side of the equation. In my experience, many senior leaders like my friend and his peers typically develop a “business response” to their “business problem”, which, on paper, seems logical. Where these plans sometimes fall short is in how leaders miscalculate the unintended consequences for their employees resulting from the decisions that have been made and how these decisions are communicated to the organization.
A few weeks ago I received a thank you note from someone who attended one of my corporate workshops on how to maximize business relationships. The person was thoughtful in sending the note, but I especially appreciated the specific reference to the best practices that resonated with her and how she planned to apply them in her life. The note of gratitude and the lessons it contained have stuck with me and been the catalyst for some deeper thinking about the importance of random acts of praise, kindness and gratitude or “RAPKG” for short.
You are in a staff meeting listening to a work colleague drone on about his success on a recent project, but you know he is actually behind and over budget. What do you do? One of your direct reports has a few self-limiting behaviors that are impeding her career growth and negatively affecting the team, but you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Performance reviews are coming up and you need to rate her work. How will you handle the situation? A colleague lacks self-awareness about the negative reputation he has earned in the company. He doesn’t work for you, but you want to help him get back on track. How will you approach him? One of your company’s senior executives consistently asks for feedback, but you doubt his sincerity. A business problem arises that you know will reflect poorly on decisions made by this leader. Will you have the courage to speak up?
The act of asking for candid feedback is often one of the scariest things we do as professionals, but it does not have to be this way. The feedback we receive from colleagues and clients can help us adjust our approach, fix major issues before they get out of control or stay the course. Feedback can and should be considered a gift, not something to avoid.
I am blessed to be the father of a wonderful teenage son named Alex, who has high functioning autism. Our family has countless stories and experiences describing how Alex has touched our lives and made us better people, but that is not the subject of this post. The words you are about to read are meant to pay homage to the incredible kindness of people who have come into my son’s life this year, the gifts they have given him and the lessons I have drawn from these experiences.
I recall a few years ago when my father came to our house for a visit, which he typically does two or three times a year. He loves to see his grandsons and we talk to him every week by phone, but because of his health it is sometimes difficult for him to travel from his Florida home to Atlanta. I have occasionally written about my dad over the years and the wise counsel and good example I have always received from him. This particular weekend visit was different because of a powerful lesson he helped me teach my then 13 year-old son.
On the Saturday afternoon of my dad’s visit, my son and I were throwing the football outside while my father was taking a short nap in his room. I can always tell when one of my boys has something on his mind so I probed and asked him if there was anything he wanted to share. He responded with, “Dad, remember when we talked about what it means to be successful a few weeks ago? Is Papa successful?”