How do each of you begin a new year? A valued colleague of mine, Erin Schreyer, suggests that you pick a “word of the year” that sets a tone and keeps you focused. This is great advice, and if I wasn’t so long-winded (working on it…), I’d be able to do just that. Instead, I’ve chosen four:
Live what you love.
Why? Because we only get one chance at this life thing. In 2014 (and beyond), I want to stay focused on spending my time – both personally and professionally – on the things I love. I’m thinking this might sound like a desirable feat to some of you as well, so let’s dig in.
A Personal Perspective
2014 will be a year of change for me as I officially “open shop” on my organizational development consulting practice – Core. I’m excited for the opportunities this new venture will bring to my life. It’s going to help me live what I love. How?
I LOVE… enhancing employees’ workplace experience and helping organizations thrive through engaging and empowering people practices. This is my passion, hands down. I am now able to experience a greater breadth of projects and interactions outside of just one company. I’m blessed to be kicking off my 1st quarter in business with three outstanding clients – two former employers who are near and dear, and one new partner who I’m excited to learn more about.
I LOVE…my family. As an independent consultant, outside of my client obligations, my time is mine. My children need their parents to be strong, positive, and active forces in their lives. I need the flexibility to be there for them when they need me.
I LOVE…giving back to the profession that I get so much fulfillment from. I serve on the boards of Authentic Leadership Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Human Resources Association (GCHRA). I’m looking forward to dedicating more focused attention to both groups, whose missions I very much believe in.
I LOVE…spending time with students. I’m a part-time Adjunct Instructor at the University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash campus. It’s an outlet for me. I learn and grow so much from just 3 hours each week with my students who are achieving dreams through education.
I LOVE…healthy living. I value a healthy lifestyle – both physically and mentally – so that I can bring my whole self to everything listed above. This new career path will allow me to eat healthier meals at home and squeeze in my runs during random “break points” during the day…no one will know if I sit back down at my desk full of sweat! 🙂
To be able to balance all of the things I love the most, independent consulting was the right track for me to pursue. I realize, however, that venturing off on your own is not for everyone. So lately I’ve been thinking about how others, within a more traditional organization, can live what they love and how managers can help their employees get there. Below are some tips I hope you find helpful.
How can you live what you love in 2014?
Identify what you love.
You might have some self-exploration to do. Start drafting a list. What do you love and how do you want to spend your time? This might be harder than it sounds.
Talk to people about it.
Once you figure it out, share it with the world! The more you talk about it, the more you’ll encourage yourself to spend your time doing those things – even if it means enduring uncomfortable change to get there. Seek out mentors, learn from their experience and knowledge, and have them hold you accountable.
Take control of your destiny.
Sure, some things are out of your control, but the ball is largely in your hands. What do YOU (not anyone else!) need to do to be able to live what you love? Build a plan, take ownership of it, and execute.
This is where it can start to get uncomfortable because it may require that dreaded 6 letter word – CHANGE. It could mean deciding to move on from your current position or employer. It could mean asking your boss for an international assignment. It could mean going into work an hour earlier so that you can be home for family dinners.
A long-time mentor of mine once told me, “big things don’t happen with timid actions.” What bold actions do you need to take in 2014 to live what you love?
How can managers help their team members live what they love?
- Listen. Do you know what your team loves – both personally and professionally? If not, get to know them. Listen to both their verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Facilitate opportunities. Even though I’m a firm believer that you need to create your own destiny, it certainly never hurts when someone lends a helping hand. As a leader, what opportunities can you create for your team to help them live what they love? Maybe you can connect them to people or other resources they might not be aware of. Or maybe you could offer job shadowing, job rotations, or special project assignments.
- Ask what you can do to help your team achieve their goals. Let’s say one of your team members has a passion for cycling. How powerful would it be if you said to him, “Jason, I know it’s one of your goals this year to ride more (you know this because you did #1!). What can I do to help you achieve this goal?”
- Be flexible and open-minded. If you do #3, be prepared for the response. Jason might ask to arrive later in the mornings once the sun comes up so that he can ride his bike to work. He might ask if you would support his request to the facilities team to add a bike rack to the parking lot. Being flexible and open-minded to your team’s needs is a way to help them live the lives they love.
Don’t Forget About Mindsets
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.
The first sentence is very important. Not only could you strive to fill your time with the things you love; it’s equally important to develop a positive mindset to love the life you’re living…even if you’re not doing what you love all the time. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to spend 100% of our time doing things we love (I don’t care much for mopping floors – you?). If you adopt an optimistic mindset though, it’s amazing what you might find yourself loving.
I stopped at a Fairfield Inn just outside of Knoxville, TN with my family on our way down to Florida last week for summer vacation. We were in the breakfast area looking for a pitcher of water, but with no luck. I stopped a hotel associate and asked where I could find some. Her response was,
Sure, no problem – I have some in my gym right over there and have the door propped open for you.
Later that day somewhere in the Carolinas on HWY 26, I came across the following post while browsing my Facebook feed:
What do the hotel associate’s response and FB post have in common? Ownership.
Isn’t it funny how well you take care of things when they’re yours?
That hotel associate in Tennessee was running a stellar show for breakfast – coffee always hot and filled, tables wiped down, service with a smile…she owned the place…and my were her customers happy! Leadership at that establishment definitely knows a thing or two about empowerment.
My FB friend was putting a little glitz and glam into her home…spent her hard-earned resources doing it…and was excited about it. Quite a bit different than how some people treat rental property.
Do you want your employees renting or owning their responsibilities at work?
I think it’s safe to say we all want our team members to be excited about their work and to take pride in it just as in the two examples above.
Below are 4 ways to create a culture of empowerment amongst your team so that they will own their to-do list and contribute successful results to the business:
1. Involve the individuals themselves in developing the What’s and How’s.
What is your team working on and how are they going about accomplishing it? Empowerment is direction without the details. Share the vision, then work with them collaboratively to both create and execute the roadmap.
Just as the homeowner above picked out new granite and countertops, have your employees “pick out” what they want a project, sales presentation, or process to look like. Don’t just have them rent your ways of doing things.
2. Apply a “walk before you run” approach.
Not every team member is going to be comfortable with a culture of empowerment. They are all likely at different stages of their career and have had varying experiences that have shaped their levels of confidence. Recognize this and tailor your approach to empower each one appropriately.
- Toddlers – They are curious but have a lot of questions and still look back for reassurance. You’ll have to be a little more hands-on, but it will pay off in the long run.
- Adolescents – They want to be on their own and typically have the confidence, but still need resources and guidance. Mentoring employees at this stage in their career is very important. Stay connected through check points.
- Adults – You may have more senior level employees on your team who have been around the block a time or two. Keep them challenged by asking them to run with a project that is a bit out of their comfort zone or is new for the company. Harness their rich knowledge by encouraging them to serve as informal mentors to others on the team.
3. Be okay with – no, encourage – mistakes.
Tell your team to make mistakes. Promote a culture of learning alongside your culture of empowerment. The two go hand-in-hand. Use the mistakes as teachable moments to help your team grow.
4. Still be a team.
Everything is better when created in partnership with others. Although each team member will flourish when given ownership of certain tasks, you need to foster a collaborative team environment where everyone is willing and able to lend a hand. My FB friend would have never enjoyed her new granite and cabinets if it weren’t for manufacturers and contractors. Likewise, your team needs to rely on the strengths of those around them to add value to whatever it is they’re working on.
In what other ways have you developed a culture of empowerment? Please share!