Month: March 2014

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?

14 awesome people you may have forgotten to thank

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Thank You

Service and gratitude are like a happy marriage. Each can exist on their own, but combined they make each other grow and thrive. If you’re trying to live a life of service you will find yourself drawn to gratitude too. One can’t help but cultivate the other.

The 14 people below are just ideas of people you may owe a thank you to. See someone you know? Reach out to them and share how they impacted your life (assuming that is still possible). But either way, take a moment to feel the gratitude because it will grow your desire to serve.

14 Awesome People

  1. The person who showed you what a good leader looks like.
  2. The person who taught you how to teach others.
  3. The person who listened when you couldn’t hold it in any longer.
  4. The person who taught you that laughter has the power to heal.
  5. The person who forgave you when you didn’t deserve it.
  6. The person who always had time for you.
  7. The person who gave you that compliment you’ll never forget.
  8. The person who believed in you when you couldn’t believe in yourself.
  9. The person who made it harder for you when you hadn’t learned your lesson.
  10. The person who waited when you needed time to mature.
  11. The person who had a good reason to judge you, but didn’t.
  12. The person who played a small role in your major life decision.
  13. The person who served you when you definitely weren’t serving them.
  14. The person who prayed for you.

Have any of these people served you?

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

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Clips

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.

Caboose

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.

Caretaker

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.

Custodian

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.

Gardener

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

Hospitality/Greeter

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.

Meteorologist

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

10 questions to ask yourself before winter ends

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Ice Skates

I often tell people that winter is my favorite season, but this year even I’m ready for spring. As beautiful as the snow has been, having so many storms has been disruptive. It has thrown off my ability to accurately anticipate what the next days or weeks will bring. It’s highlighted to me that as much as I try to control my life – I’m not in charge.

When winter comes

The most common use of the word “winter” describes the season marked by cold weather and bare trees. During Mother Nature’s winter season, we are forced to retreat inside and many things stop growing. The characteristics of the winter season can show up in other parts of our lives. We experience winters in our careers, in our relationships, in our health, and in our hearts. Often our focus on serving the world around us has to shift to hibernating and healing. It can be especially hard for people focused on service to go through times of winter. We are used to serving others and have to allow ourselves to be cared for.

The last full day of this winter season is tomorrow, March 19th. If you’re coming to the end of any kind of winter, here are 10 questions to ask yourself before ushering in spring.

  1. What stopped growing this winter?
  2. Do I want to see all, some, or none of it grow back?
  3. What do I want to plant next?
  4. How much energy do I have to care for a new blossom?
  5. Which habits helped me through this winter?
  6. Which habits made this season more difficult for me?
  7. Was my home a place I wanted to retreat to?
  8. Who kept me warm during my coldest days?
  9. What will I do to prepare for the next winter?
  10. How has this winter better equipped me to serve?

What would you add to this list?

How false humility hides your natural gifts

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ornament

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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Cocktail

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?

How to say “I’m sorry.”

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I'm Sorry

I’m giving up chicken for Lent. Which may not seem like a big deal, but it’s only been a day and I’m already feeling signs of withdrawal. I knew this would happen. I picked chicken specifically because I knew it would be hard to give up. I knew it would stay on my mind. And I knew it would frequently remind me of the discipline required by faith.

If you are a regular reader, you may have seen the post about Gary Chapman’s Love Languages. If not, you can find my Love Language post here. But let’s move on to apologies.

Top reasons to learn how to apologize

  1. If you’ve ever loved anyone, there have been times you’ve hurt them.
  2. If you ever plan to love anyone, there will be times when you hurt them.

In any relationship, learning how to apologize is as critical a skill as learning to show you care. The reason to learn someone’s apology language is to build discipline around how you seek their forgiveness. It helps you customize your words to the ones they value most. You probably default to the Apology Language that you prefer to receive. This is not always the one your friend, spouse, or child most wants to hear from you.

The Five Apology Languages

  • Expressing Regret: “I’m sorry. I should not have done that.”
  • Accepting Responsibility: “I’m sorry. This is all my fault.”
  • Making Restitution: “I’m sorry. I will make it up to you.”
  • Genuinely Repenting: “I’m sorry. This will not happen again.”
  • Requesting Forgiveness: “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Which one sounds best to you? Not sure? Click here to take Gary Chapman’s Apology Language quiz. Be sure to share your results and have those close to you take the quiz as well.

We are teaching about personal relationships this weekend to the teens in our leadership group. Apology Languages will undoubtedly come up.  Forgiveness is a complex topic and the teenagers always leave me with a new perspective. That’s why this post is destined for a Part II, because sometimes an apology isn’t enough.

Does giving an apology count as service?