Human Spirit: Handle with Care

When my wife and I were raising our young children, we used to speak in terms of “not breaking their spirit.”  We corrected them and even punished them when necessary – but always attempted to do so in love.

The same idea, I believe, applies in the workplace. If you are in a position of leadership, you have great responsibility to guide, mentor, and at times correct, without breaking the spirit of your employees.  Correction should be done in private, praise in public, and encouragement should be the norm not the exception.

The most valuable asset you have in your office is your employees.  They hold within them, unique God-given human potential that could catapult your organization to unimaginable heights.  This potential is yours to nurture and develop as their leader – handle with care.


No Tweaks – Massive Action!

We met. We met again. We even met again and this time developed a plan.

Why then, has nothing changed? Because we tweak, we tinker, we make some minor adjustments and expect huge results in our life or in our company.

Let’s face it, change is difficult, darn difficult. We are all creatures of habit and creatures of tendencies, and to change those habits and tendencies means we have to, not just get out of our comfort zone, we have to jolt ourselves out of our familiar world.

Those serious about an “improved” path in their life, kicking the habit (whatever the habit is), or changing a corporate culture, cannot afford to nibble on the edges of change – it’s all out commitment – it’s massive action and no turning back.

Shady Deal

After experiencing a product defect with a (not cheap) pair of sunglasses and being requested to complete a form and send the product back to them (at my expense) – I sent them the following:

My Actual Email: The finish on my T-F790 glasses is coming off and leaving black marks on my face. I understand I am supposed to fill out a form, ship them to you (my expense) and pay for you to ship a new pair back – really?

I am taking time out of my day to tell you about a quality issue you are experiencing with one of your products – isn’t this a favor to you? Won’t this help you (if you correct the problem) have a higher quality product and in turn happy clients, better profits, etc…

I’m happy to send you a picture of the problem, but you might want to reconsider your policy of putting your clients through such a hassle, when all we want is to help you and continue to advertise your product every time we wear your glasses.

Their Actual Response: (Space left blank intentionally)

When we talk about how exceptional our product or service is we have at least three opportunities to prove it.

The first is the client experience with the product or service (i.e., they make a purchase). The second is the performance of the product or service (i.e., is it as good as advertised?). The third is when we have an opportunity to back up our product or service (i.e., are we willing to really back up our promise?).

This company failed on all counts.


Getting dressed in the dark doesn’t work well for me – what looks like a sartorially smart shirt, tie, pants, sport coat, and socks, turns out to be (in the light of day) a mismatched outfit just shy of the polished finish for which I was aiming.

Making business decisions in the dark is not a good practice either – the light of day may reveal less than flattering results on your decisions.

How much light is there in your office? How well can your employees see your vision?  Can you clearly describe your vision?  When the light of day is cast upon your decisions, will they illuminate a wise leader with vision or one that kept everyone in the dark?

“Where there is no vision, people will perish…” (The 29th Proverb)


How About a Nice Shiny Apple?

One of the markets we work with in my “real job” in environmental consulting is agriculture. I also write about environmental issues affecting agriculture and have done research in grad school on ag-environmental issues.

One thing that is very apparent to me about today’s consumers (I’m one of them) is we have lost an appreciation for what it takes to get food from the farm to the plate. I often cringe when I hear ignorant and misinformed criticisms of agriculture. To see my soapbox treatise on this issue see my company blog.

We assume the apples will be fresh, crisp, and without blemish, the meat will be marbled to our taste, the milk fresh and wholesome, and the beans will be on sale to fit our budget. We are divorced from the process that brought “it” there. We don’t appreciate the effort that it takes to create abundant, safe, and nourishing food. We have lost the appreciation for the hard work, science, and dare I say; we have lost our sense of awe.

How about in the workplace, do we assume that the accountant will balance the books and transfer the money into our account on payday? Do we assume the support staff will do what is necessary to allow that project to off without a hitch? What about the work that is in the door? Have we forgotten what diligent efforts are put forth by sales and marketing folks to get that work in the door and on the books?

My point is…it’s good to take time and appreciate the work of your fellow employees as well as those who bring goods and services to the market. And before we jump to judgment about someone else’s work or feel we should offer someone our sage advice on how they should do their job, we would do well to remember what we knew in childhood, we are not a “know it all.”

Pucker up Piggy

We’ve had a lot of complaints about customer service, so we are changing your department name from the order department to the customer service department.

Do we have new duties and responsibilities? Do we have new initiatives and objectives? Will we now be empowered to solve customer problems and complaints?

No. We’re just changing the name – it sounds more “servicy.”

When there are problems with an organization, when you are losing customers and profits are shrinking, you need a new plan not a new placard.  Of course, this means the senior leadership team needs to spend some time looking in the mirror and doing something about the reflection, and that just doesn’t make anyone feel good.

So we’ll put lipstick on a pig and hope no one notices, at least for awhile.

Deal with the brutal reality and make real progress, or ignore it and deal with an even more brutal reality later.


Time – be careful how you spend it

The average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day

Read any of the classic novels? No, but I can discuss who did what to whom on the reality shows.

Volunteer to help the less fortunate and those in need in my community and church? No, my life is pretty busy just keeping up with the news reports and political developments.

How about that degree that would help your career? Well, not exactly, but I can join in just about any conversation about sitcoms at the water cooler.

Laugh, play games, and spend time with family? Pretty weak here, but there are so many sports games to keep up with…

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” -Carl Sandburg