Serving Professional Relationships

20 ways to serve in 4 minutes or less

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Train station

Yesterday, a frequent reader told me that finding time to do “5 minute favors” had made a big impact on their personal (and even professional) life. They suggested that I do more posts around the concept of micro-service efforts. Though quick and easy, these efforts make a difference. And they’re perfect for those with big hearts but minimal free time.

If you were with me in January the first 10 ideas below may seem familiar but the last 10 are fresh and new.

20 ways to serve in 4 minutes or less

  1. Tell someone a joke. Laughter is good for the heart.
  2. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “Hey I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  3. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  4. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  5. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  6. Pray for someone.
  7. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  8. Teach someone something. Anything.
  9. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  10. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  11. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  12. Take time to write a supportive comment on Facebook.
  13. Hug someone.
  14. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  15. Leave change in a vending machine.
  16. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  17. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  18. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  19. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  20. If you love them. Tell them.

What are other ideas you have?

Please comment below and share freely.


How to be a real life coworker to a virtual team member

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Home Office

Imagine yourself arriving at work in the morning.

All your coworkers are also at work today, but nobody says good morning or makes morning small talk.

You go directly to your work space.

You turn on your computer and get straight to work.

You respond to emails. You answer work related calls. You work on reports or write code or do some other independent tasks for several hours.

You may run out for lunch. You stand in line with strangers while getting your food. You use that time to read email that has come in since you left your desk. You get your food and return to your office. You eat your food in the office kitchen alone.

You join a few more conference calls. After two minutes of conversation about the weather in your locations all the team members have joined the call and you jump into the purpose of the meeting. You discuss the things they need from you and the things you need from them.

You watch the clock for a reasonable time to disconnect from those you need to be accessible to. When you shut down for the day you walk out of the office without anyone saying goodbye.

Then you continue to live this same workday over and over and over again.

Welcome to the world of working from home. And it’s not for the faint of heart. Yes, working from home definitely has its perks but for many people it can be lonely. The story above is the daily emotional experience for some people that work at home. They get up. They may or may not get dressed and proceed to live this day of transactional human contact again and again.

Building strong personal relationships with virtual workers definitely serves them, but it may also serve you. Employees that are more engaged with coworkers tend to produce stronger work products and are more committed to a shared mission. If you or someone you know works with a virtual team member feel free to pass these ideas along.

Being a Real Life Coworker to a Virtual Team Member

  • Say good morning and good night even if through email. You don’t have to do this every day. Actually, I recommend you don’t do it every day. If you do, it might feel more like you’re checking up on your virtual colleague. But doing it every now and then acknowledges that you are jumping into the day together and that they are worth thinking about even when you don’t need anything.
  • Make time to talk on the phone with no agenda. Every time you speak to them you shouldn’t have a work agenda. In a real life work environment, you pass people on the way to the bathroom or hang out in their office to take a break. Every conversation with a virtual coworker should not be about accomplishing something.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate. Schedule virtual office parties. These are times when one of more people get on the phone (or video) and celebrate alone, but together. You can ship treats or make it BYOC (Bring Your Own Cake), but make sure you’re both doing the same thing (e.g. eating cake) at the same time. Then simply discuss the happy event (birthday, wedding, new baby, finished project, etc) as if you were all in a conference room together.
  • Take the time to know them. If you work with this person regularly (and especially if they work for you), make a point to know the answers to these basic but sometimes overlooked questions.
    • When is their birthday?
    • Are they married?
    • Do they have children?
    • Are their parents still living? If so, where do they reside?
    • How many siblings do they have?
    • What is their birth order?
    • Where are they from?
    • What is their favorite hobby/pastime?

What am I missing?

Every office has someone playing these roles. Which one are you?

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My sons are two years apart, but they both had the same preschool teacher. Her class was called the Brown Bears. Every week, each brown bear was assigned a different helper role in the classroom. My boys would come home at the start of the week and happily announce their new job. Eventually, they got a chance to try them all.

For some reason, I started thinking about their preschool class while driving to work yesterday. I can vividly remember the Brown Bear helper chart that tracked the assignments. I decided to take a crack at customizing the preschool helper roles I found online for grown-ups in the workplace. Similar to preschool, we’re instinctively drawn to serve the people we interact with everyday.

Office Helpers

Bathroom Monitor

Generally speaking, adults don’t need much monitoring in the bathroom. It also may be someone’s paid job to clean up the restrooms in regular intervals. In between cleanings the bathroom monitor takes it upon themselves to tidy up. They may also donate supplies to help out a fellow co-worker in need (feminine products, mouthwash, lotion, etc).

Bell Ringer

The bell ringer helps us maintain a healthy rhythm to our workdays. They suggest breaks, lunch times, and nudge us out the door at night.


In preschool this is the person that walks at the end of the line. I don’t see much walking in a line at work. I like to think of the Caboose in the office as the last person out for the day. They turn off the lights and large power-draining electronics like the copier. They also make sure all office doors are secure.


This is the person that checks in and makes sure people have what they need. They know how and where to get supplies. They also know a workaround to almost every issue you could encounter in the office.

Class Comforter

This person is a sounding board and soother of feelings to everyone in the office. They know how to listen and they can be trusted. Two incredible combinations.

Computer Technician

The application in the office is obvious, but I’m not really sure how this applies in preschool. This is the person at work that knows how to fix minor technical and user error issues. Their skills are always in need even in offices that have internal technical support staff.


I know what you’re thinking, “Why would someone heat spaghetti in the office microwave without covering it?”  But it happens. This is a perfect challenge for someone in the role of custodian. They don’t get angry. They simply give the office kitchen a quick wipe down. Microwave, counters…everything. No it’s not their job, but that’s what makes them a great office helper.

Door Holder

Regardless of gender, this person looks for times to hold the door open for colleagues. It’s a small gesture, but it briefly shows people they are worthy of the helper’s effort.

Drink Monitor

Let’s call this one “Coffee Monitor.” Critical job in any office. If they see the coffee getting low, they’ll make some mo’!

Environmentalist/Recycling Helper

Ever vigilant about educating and encouraging eco-friendly office practices.


They nominate themselves to look after the plants of those on vacation or traveling.


They come in ready to give everyone that special kind of “Good Morning” that sounds like they actually mean it.

Lunch Helper

This person starts talking about lunch right after everyone arrives in the morning. They know all the potential lunch options and don’t mind calling in the orders, picking up the food or meeting the delivery man. Most importantly, this person collects money and settles up the lunch related expenses.

Lunch Monitor

In the office, nobody really monitors lunch. So let’s call this one “Refrigerator Monitor” instead. This person immediately throws out anything disgusting and encourages the labeling and regular clean out of the shared office refrigerator.


This person always knows the weather forecast for tomorrow AND next week. They remind you when you need to bring things home because of a pending snow storm. They also help you plan your weather appropriate wardrobe for the rest of the week.

Preschool Only?

These are the ones I could not match up with an office service. If you have any suggestions on how to apply them at work, please school us in the comments. Thanks!

  • Center Monitor
  • Electrician (Is this really a job in preschool?)
  • Flag Holder/Pledge Leader
  • Librarian
  • Line Leader
  • Materials Monitor
  • Messenger
  • Paper Passer
  • Calendar Helper
  • Snack Helper
  • Folder Passer
  • Table Washer
  • Equipment Manager
  • Chair Stacker
  • Shoe Expert

How false humility hides your natural gifts

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A few years ago, my office held a holiday decorating contest. We each had free reign to design and decorate our individual work spaces. This contest had no prize other than bragging rights, but it somehow developed into a very competitive affair. We all selected a theme and found time in our pretty busy days to shop and decorate. I can clearly remember going out and spending WAY too much money in a craft store. I also remember standing on a chair for well over an hour draping paper and gluing stars in the middle of an otherwise productive workday.

When judging time came, each person in the office received one vote for the grand honor of “Best Decorations.” No one could vote for themselves. Now I knew I worked with some pretty talented people, but these decorations were OVER THE TOP creative and well done. I walked around seriously wondering how I’d ever be able to pick my winner.

Then I saw it.

At the very end of a long hallway was an office space decked out in red, white and green with dancing elves. But not just any elves. These elves had individual pictures of everyone in the office pasted on them. It was brilliant.

The Office Elfs won the contest in a landslide. Why? Because most people like to see pictures of themselves. Whether we like our appearance or not, we’re drawn to look at what is physically unique about us. Our eyes. Our smile. And though I consider myself a humble person, I really enjoyed seeing the picture of my elf.

Humility is not at odds with us

Here’s how I view the practice of humility. Humility is the act of lowering our ego to cultivate compassion for and provide service to others. What humility is NOT is a reason to reduce your view of your capabilities. It is NOT an excuse to hide what is great about you.

  • Are you a writer? Are you a good writer? Share your writing. It can inspire, heal, entertain and inform.
  • Are you smart? Don’t dumb down your conversation to not intimidate people. You can stimulate new ideas and bring clarity to complex topics.
  • Do you have a hobby you know absolutely everything about? Make that known. Teach others and help create the feeling of community that comes from shared interests.

False humility goes directly against my definition of true humility. Hiding talents takes them away from the world you’re meant to be serving. You have your gifts for a reason and that reason is to use them to serve others. Don’t be shy. We need you.

Is there a gift you’ve been holding back from the world?

10 Questions to Ask a Stranger Instead of “What do you do?”

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I’ve always found career choices interesting. It is part of why I got into the business of recruiting. I probably enjoy talking about what people do for a living more than most. But even I’m tired of being asked, “What do you do?” This question isn’t serving us anymore. It is making it harder for us to make genuine connections. In fairness to the asker, I know it is just an easy way to start a conversation. What I do with most of my waking hours is a fair place to start getting to know me.

The answer to “What do you do? “ is almost always informative, but rarely authentic.

This is probably because we all get asked the question so often that we respond with scripted talking points. We could tell someone what we do while failing asleep or jumping from a plane. I’m more interested in what people choose to say when they aren’t giving rehearsed answers. So here are 10 questions to ask the next time you find yourself chatting up a stranger. They aren’t too personal, but you will likely make a more genuine connection.

  1. What do you love doing?
  2. If you hit the lottery, what would your life be like?
  3. What keeps you living in this area?
  4. Have you ever experienced a miracle?
  5. Who is your favorite person in your office?
  6. Where’s your favorite place?
  7. If you could heal one problem in the world, what would it be?
  8. When was the last time you sang out loud?
  9. What is your driving like?
  10. How do you serve?

What’s the best question a stranger ever asked you?

Team comes first in March. Find your service inspiration bracket-style.

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College Basketball

As a fan, I may get too passionate about my sports teams. There are unconfirmed stories out there about tearful losses. As a mother, I try not to push sports too hard on my sons. They don’t need to be super stars. I just need them to learn what it means to be part of a team. So much of life’s success gets determined by our ability to be a good teammate.

Team Human

Team Friendship

Team Marriage

Team Family

Team Work

Team Community

Team World


Being a part of a team teaches you to focus on the world outside of your own needs. Being a part of a team teaches you to give more than you take.

The month of March is a fantastic time to enjoy college basketball. (And I plan to partake of my fair share). March is also a great time to serve all the teams listed above.

Below you will find a link to the Simply Service “Service Madness” bracket. There are 64 acts of service ready to face off against each other. See which ones you’re most inspired to do this month. May the best service win!

Service Madness Bracket


CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD: SimplyServiceMarchBracket

What lessons have sports taught you about service?

How one small change could make you a lot less tired. But you might be too tired to try it.

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Tired cat

Picture yourself in my kitchen two nights ago. My husband and I just got home from work. I came into the kitchen a little later than him. I’d just hung up my coat and was starting to think about dinner. Here’s the exchange that followed.

Him: “Were things really crazy getting the kids out this morning?”

Me: “No, not really? School had a 2 hour delay because of the weather. I had extra time.”

Him: “Oh, because you left the cereal out on the counter.”

Me: “Oh ok. Sorry.” (Meanwhile I’m wondering where he’s going with this conversation.)

Him: “…And then I saw that you put the milk away in the pantry.”

Me: “Wow. I really didn’t sleep well last night.”

Sleep matters. For most of us, it matters a lot. The only thing that makes being sleepy better is getting more sleep. I want to make that clear because this post will not help you with being sleepy. It can ONLY help you with being tired. Being tired is a completely different animal than sleepy. Tired is more about energy and motivation. Sleepy is about a physical need to restore your systems. But it can be hard to distinguish them from each other. The chart below has some examples that might help you tell them apart.



“I wonder if anyone would notice if I got 15 minutes of sleep here at my desk.” “I don’t really feel like taking a nap, but I do feel like laying in my bed.”
“I keep trying to get online, but the light from the screen is giving me a headache.” “Wow, have I been on this site for two hours? I can’t get anything done today.”
“Where did I put my keys? Not again!” “Since I’ve gotten up and gotten my keys, I should probably head to the grocery store. But man, I really don’t feel like it!”
“God, please give me the strength to feed these kids tonight.” “Why can’t these kids feed themselves yet?”

So are you sleepy or are you tired? If you’re sleepy, stop reading and at least rest your eyes. If you’re tired, read on.


  1. Chances are good that you will be getting up tomorrow. Life is short, but more than likely it will be pretty long. It’s probable that you will get up tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. Point being – You are going to have a lot of waking hours to pass time in.
  2. You will be putting in work. If you have any obligations such as family, friends, and/or a job you will be performing work during a large part of your waking hours. Point being – Doing things that need to get done is going to be a required part of your day every day.

Can we agree on these two things? Sounds simple.

Getting up and putting in work will likely happen every day of our lives. We are going to do it regardless of how we feel about it. But what if putting in work partially feed us with energy instead of merely draining it? That’s basically what “inspired action” is. Inspired action is also a type of work but it’s work that feeds us emotionally. That’s different from plain-old “action” which is work we have to do because we’re awake and we have responsibilities. In many small ways, we can shift our thinking toward viewing work as inspired action. Most if not all of that shift has to do with intentionally trying to serve others. This can be done in small ways while doing your daily routine. Inspired action leaves you more connected and energized. Since we’re going to be awake and putting in work anyway, it just feels better to be serving others.

And it makes us A LOT less tired.


Don’t believe me? Try it for three days. I don’t mean taking time off from your job to do more community service. I’m talking about serving as part of your normal day. Easy examples are letting someone in front of you in traffic, correcting a small problem for someone on your job, or getting a meal on the table for dinner. Consciously and intentionally think of everything you do as service and then see how you feel.

Are you tired enough to try it?

Who else wants to have an honest conversation about money?

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About a week ago, we had an opportunity to talk with college-bound teenagers about money. We had their full attention once they saw the charts of average starting salaries for different fields of study. Clearly graduates from some fields (mostly in the hard sciences and technical disciplines) made much more money than others. Some fields required additional graduate degrees and that meant a potential for larger student loan debt.

We still encouraged the students to follow their talents and passions. We talked to them about how passion would play out in the long run which was loosely defined as 10-15 years into their career. It’s passion that drives people to work harder, smarter and network better. Then those passionate people get promoted, make more money and far outpace their peers financially. Passion is still an important factor for long term financial success.

Honest Conversations About Money

So why even give them the starting salary data if we still think they should consider any field they like? The point was to have an honest conversation about money. It was to help them make an informed decision about which field to pursue. It’s a complex decision. We also discussed the social and emotional impact of making more or less money than their peers at any stage of life. We acknowledged that some jobs would always pay less than others even if they’re successful at them. This talk was to help them make decisions about their life and the role money will play in it. Deciding how important each factor is to them is something they will have to do on their own.

Even as adults we are often left uninformed about the social and emotional factors surrounding money. When I was single, it was hard to make decisions and place priorities on my money. Should I save more for a rainy day or take a trip with my family? When I got married again it became even more clear that I needed to learn and communicate my financial needs better. I say “needs” and not “wants” because how much we derive pleasure, connection and/or security from money is core to who we are. These factors aren’t simple preferences that can be ignored. This is something you may already know if you’ve ever managed money with someone that doesn’t share your financial values.

Luckily, there are resources to help us get informed about our financial preferences and have more honest conversations about money with each other. The link below will take you to an online tool that will “find your money mind” and uncover your personal biases about money’s value. A friend suggested this site to me and I wanted to pass it on.

Three Types of “Money Minds”

  • Happiness: The Pleasure Seeker
  • Committed: The Giver
  • Fear: The Protector

Once you take the quiz for yourself you can also take it with someone you manage money with. This will give you insight into your collective priorities and styles. You will also get communication tips to have better and more honest conversations about your needs.

So what does this have to do with service? Everything. Money has a huge impact on our relationships and resources. Our relationships and resources will have everything to do with how and who we serve.

Who else wants to have an honest conversation about money?

10 ways to serve in 5 minutes or less

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DecThis is our dog. His name is Deacon Dillon Earl. Most of the time, we call him Deac for short.

A few days ago, I was talking to an online friend (that I don’t know well in real life). He was dealing with suddenly becoming internet famous and not knowing how to adjust to it. I have absolutely no experience in being famous so I could only offer my real life experience of adjusting to divorce and remarriage. Throughout the conversation I kept referencing things my husband and I had recently discussed. He asked, “Do you two typically have such deep conversations?” And this is where Deac comes in.

Let me tell you a little more about Deac. He sleeps a ton, but when he’s awake he has a lot to say. He is sarcastic and witty. He is short tempered and fiercely loyal. He has an ongoing vendetta with my super sweet mother that happens to not be “a dog person”. He thinks he outranks the kids and they should constantly “freshen up his water”. And he has apparently lived a life full of celebrity interactions and coincidental brushes with current events. We talk about Deac and what Deac told us often. By often, I mean every day. By every day, I mean several times a day. It’s funny. We like it.

And it allows us to not take life so seriously.


Service can seem like a serious topic. It gets people thinking about the big things in life – love, legacy, and purpose. But it doesn’t have to be so serious and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Below are 10 easy ways to serve in 5 minutes or less. So you can start serving right now.

10 ways to serve in 5 minutes or less

  1. Tell someone a joke. Laughter is good for the heart.
  2. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “Hey I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes”.
  3. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  4. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  5. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  6. Pray for someone.
  7. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  8. Teach someone something. Anything.
  9. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. I admire how much patience you have with me).
  10. Give someone you love your undivided attention.

This is just a start.

What other ideas do you have?

Why I’m happy to review your resume. Just ask me.

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I recently received an unsolicited message through LinkedIn. The person sending it wasn’t a friend nor a professional contact. We have two people that are mutual connections, but I don’t know those people very well. The message was asking me to set up a time to review his resume and help him make it better. So why was he sending this message to someone he didn’t know? The short answer is because I happen to work for one of the top international recruiting companies. When Microsoft or Johnson & Johnson hire a new CEO, my company may be the one that recruited them in. I also used to work for one of our peers. He reached out to me because viewing the resumes of executives is something I do frequently. He wanted my help.

I used to hate it when people asked me to help improve their resumes. Friends asked often and it became a burden to find time to work on them all. It’s funny how the gifts that come easiest to us are often the hardest to share. I can’t promise that I can spend hours on each resume, but I will review yours if you ask me to. I’m good at reviewing resumes and I can probably help you. And that’s what we are here for. We’re here to help each other.

What are you good at?

Have you been able to share that talent?