When Companies Care(d)

people-care-about-results-when-the-company-demonstrates-they-care-about-their-people

My grandfather worked for Consumers Power in Michigan for over forty years, beginning in the 20’s as a lineman and ending up in management. When he passed away in 1971, that utility company did something practically unheard of today. They contacted my grandmother, who’d been a homemaker throughout their marriage, and offered her a job. She ended up working her way up to a management position and retired after fifteen years. I’m sure this action was initiated by one of the senior managers but it was the company that we felt gratitude for. To this day, whenever I think about that company, I recall it being family oriented and actually caring about their employees and their families.

In today’s results driven workplace the perception is that most companies care more about their bottom line than their employees. With phrases like “work / life balance”, “flexible scheduling” or “excellent earning potential” being touted, it as though those companies are trying to convince people what a good employer they are. Would they need to use such phrases if they actually had a track record of being a preferred employer? Often times our perception of companies that are family oriented bring to mind small or family owned businesses. However, working for small companies may mean less benefits or a smaller salary.

I believe the attitudes and actions of managers have a greater impact on the perception of employees than any formal company statement. If your direct supervisor demonstrates that they care about you, your perception of the company is a more positive one. Conversely, if your boss is a jerk, it’s tough to feel good about where you are working. In large companies, the managers who are two to three levels above an employee are the face of the company because most workers don’t have interactions with the company executives. There lies the opportunity.

If you supervise others, understand that you influence how your employees perceive the company. Sure, you have deadlines to meet and results to obtain. However, treating others with respect, kindness and genuine interest in their wellbeing will help you produce better results. Think about a time that you lost your temper or behaved badly with your team and what that result was. Could it have been better if you were better? Knowing that those we work with actually care makes a huge difference in our performance.

Only you know what kind of boss you are. You make the decision to care or not care about your team. Just realize that your actions turn into the overall perception of the company. Just like that senior manager at Consumers Power, you can make a difference in the lives of your employees and their families and impact how your company is thought of.

christiebakeman.com

Now an apology to those who were reading my blogs each week and noticed that I haven’t published anything for two months. My husband fell off a ladder while working, resulting in a hip replacement. We aren’t spring chickens anymore so getting him back to normal is going to take months. Between working full time, taking care of him and handling all other aspects of our lives, something had to give and it was my writing. Things have gotten to a new normal for us so I hope you will continue to read my work. Most importantly, I hope my writing makes you think about your own life and beliefs and how to live a happier life.  Christie

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Fulfilling A Purpose

Sometimes you don't feel the weight

Have you ever wanted to do something, but you kept putting it off?  Procrastination takes hold and life gets in the way.  Before you realize it, your dream was moved to the back burner in someone else’s kitchen.  You know that desire is still there somewhere, because it nags at the back of your mind, interjecting itself into your thoughts at unexpected times.  It calls to you, in a soft subtle voice that nobody else hears.  That idea has substance and a weight that isn’t measured in pounds but rather attention units.  Always present, yet never in the forefront of your mind because you’ve chosen to put your focus elsewhere.  Miraculously, this desire doesn’t die from neglect.  It can’t if it is truly part of you.  It grows in imperceptible ways, waiting for the right time to spring forth demanding you notice it once again.  Demanding that you take action.

This was how writing was for me.  Even though I’ve written my entire life, it was for myself.  Sometimes others would receive heartfelt letters or I’d share a short story with a friend for whom it was written, but sharing my thoughts outside an intimate group wasn’t something I did.  As I became focused on my career, my marriage and then children, there wasn’t time to write.  To be honest, I didn’t make time.  When my boys started school, the desire to write resurfaced.  I had this crazy idea to write a novel.  I wasn’t in a good place mentally however I found the writing cathartic.  That novel was never published, nor should it have been.  When I reread it years later I decided it would need a total rewrite, however that probably won’t happen, because that writing was more about me healing than sharing a story.  Besides, the weight of the desire to write wasn’t unbearable yet so I put my efforts into other people.

When you concentrate on others it can be altruistic and cowardly at the same time.  I threw myself into volunteering first.  I found that the skills I’d honed in management positions were invaluable to organizations desperate for volunteers.  Whether it was the PTA, an alcohol/drug rehab or the foster care system, my planning skills coupled with my ability to communicate, filled gaps for them.  I was helping the organizations as well as individuals.  That was the altruistic part.  The more time I gave to others, the less I had to spend on improving myself.  Ah, the cowardly part.  If I was busy focusing on others I didn’t have to deal with my own fears, my own beliefs about myself and all those thoughts that weren’t benefiting me in any way.  I could effectively ignore that part of me, the one calling me to a life purpose, if I was contributing to the wellbeing of others.

There was something inside of me that I couldn’t ignore so I compromised with myself.  Whether you knew me thirty years ago or we just met in the past year, if we talked much at all, you figured out that I really wanted to help people, to be of service to them.  I want people to do well, to be happy for themselves.  Due to changes in our family situation, we closed our company and I began working for a large company.  Since I had this purpose of helping others hanging over my head, I concentrated on developing and training those who reported to me.  I’m direct enough that I cut through some of the excuses people give for not performing their best and we developed an incredible team.  If you are wondering what the compromise was, here it is.  At the same time we were achieving unprecedented results I was taking note of what worked and what didn’t, not only for the team but for myself.  At the time, I didn’t know that these would turn into exercises I incorporated into my book, It’s Your Life..Own It!

When a desire or a dream isn’t overwhelming, it’s easy to ignore.  That’s what I did for several years.  Even though I was making some journal entries of what was working well, I didn’t think about sharing them.  My grandmother used to tell me that when God closes a door, another one opens.  Well in my case, I felt like the universe decided I wasn’t moving fast enough to the next door so a series of events occurred which put me on my current path.  It started with a fateful Saturday when it took me fifteen minutes to recognize a feeling that overwhelmed me……happiness.  Now there’s a wake up call, when you don’t immediately recognize happiness when it shows up.  That gives you a small hint at the state of my life at that point.  That incident, which I wrote about, provided the motivation for me to take a serious look at my life and decide what I was going to create for the future.

Deciding what you desire to create in your life sounds much easier than it is.  Before I could develop a clear picture for the future I had to do some mental housecleaning.  That cowardly part of me actually suggested we just keep living in our little status quo box but it was too late for that.  I had to confront my fears, my mental blocks and I had to remember how to dream again.  Once that door to possibilities was open I was flooded with ideas, concepts and plans which I had no idea how to execute.  I traveled a great deal for my job so I began writing down everything that was coming to me.  Sometimes I wrote in a notebook on my lap as I drove and other times I would use the dictation feature on my phone and record notes.  If I was on my computer when these ideas came to mind, I sent myself an email so I could get it out of my head and refer to it later.  That is how the book started.

It wasn’t until I made further changes in my life that I had the time to organize all of these random thoughts.  My attempts were thwarted by my own self doubts as new fears arose.  However fears weaken as passion grows.  The more I focused on the message and helping others, the more passionate I became and with that my fears were lessened.  Then something interesting happened.  As I completed chapters of the book I felt as if a weight was lifting off of me.  I’m sure that some will read the quote at the beginning of this blog and think about negative situations that need to be released.  The opposite is just as true.  When a purpose is carried without giving it the attention and focus it requires, it weighs on our psyche until it is allowed to flourish and find it’s place in the world.

I wrote It’s Your Life..Own It! so that others could recognize that they too have the ability to create the life they desire.  You may have dreams and desires that are weighing on you and demanding to be released.  You don’t have to know all the hows, I sure didn’t.  You do have to start, first by recognizing what makes you happy and then taking steps to move toward that.  I want to share what I’ve learned so your journey is shorter than mine.  You can visit my website ChristieBakeman.com to see other things I have to share.

Consciously Choose The Type of Day You’ll Have

You have a choice

Do you ever forget that you have a choice of how your day goes?  I have to remind myself of this every school day.  I wake up my sixteen year old a minimum of three times before she rolls out of bed.  As a person who is usually early to all appointments, this drives me crazy.  I find myself getting more aggravated each time she tells me she is up when she is still in bed.  Yet, when I step back and take a look at it, I have no reason to be aggravated.  If she wants to take only five minutes to get ready for school, what does it really matter?  In the end she gets to school so the only difference is how I feel about the situation.  These are the kinds of simple choices that we have each day that make an impact on how our day goes.

How many times have you been getting ready to leave for work, dreading the day ahead?  Maybe it has to do with a meeting you must attend, or possibly you know you have a difficult situation that has to be dealt with.  Whatever is ahead doesn’t matter.  The deciding factor of how your day goes is your attitude.  Your thoughts about any subject are the precursor to your feelings.  You get to choose what those thoughts are.

I used to have a boss who would say “it is what it is”.  That statement brought up negative feelings within me because I didn’t want to accept it.  The fact is that no situation is good or bad until we label it.  We decide whether a circumstance impacts us positively or negatively by the thoughts that we have about it.  Let’s say a key employee resigns unexpectedly.  Many managers would see this as a negative situation as they focus on the knowledge leaving the company plus the hassle of replacing the person.  However that same manager could choose to see this as an opportunity to place someone in the position with a different set of skills that would bring a new perspective to the organization.

Understanding the basis of your thoughts and how to change them to improve your results is what I wrote about in my book, It’s Your Life…..Own It!.  If you have been reacting in the same manner for years, you are operating off beliefs which may or may not be benefiting you.  Changing those beliefs is possible, and I show you how.  Order it today.  It will be the best $9 you’ll spend this week.  Order Book

Choose the type of day and week you are going to have.  Rather than reacting to what is happening around you, decide how you are going to determine your results and watch a beautiful day unfold, even if your teenager wouldn’t get out of bed.

Expand Your Skills By Teaching

Master Sharing

ChristieBakeman.com

We’ve all heard variations of the joke; those who can’t do – teach.  There may be a few individuals that applies to, however the best managers, business owners and spiritual leaders all have one thing in common; they teach others what they know.  They share their experiences, their knowledge and their educated opinions with those they come into contact with.   When we hear the word teacher, we conjure up the memories of being a student when there was a particular teacher or professor that inspired us.  They taught us to view the world and ourselves differently.  It’s only with life experience that we realize teachers have many titles; parent, neighbor, minister, friend or co-worker.  These are people we have to thank for life’s lessons.

An old friend sent me a message that contained a letter his cousin, Brenda, wrote for his parent’s retirement party.  I read the heartfelt letter written about Brenda’s first job.  Her words were about what she learned from her first boss which also happened to be my first boss.  He was the franchisee for a fast food chain and he was a teacher.  She talked about working the fry station and when it was noticed that she wasn’t weighing the fries, he showed her how to use the scale.  As I read, my first thought was cost control (years spent in management does that to you) but that wasn’t the lesson he was teaching.  Brenda was told to weight the fries because she appeared to be shorting the customer and they should be getting what they paid for.  What a great lesson for a young person to learn; provide value and live up to the customer’s expectations.

How many lessons have you learned from a boss that were so much more than a simple directive?  How many of those lessons did you go on to share with others?  Thirty years ago, I had a district manager named Darnell when I was a store manager for Best Products.  As we walked the sales floor we were discussing merchandising and how to get the customers to pay attention to displays.  Evidently some of them didn’t make much sense, so he told me to make an open fist and look through the hole like I was looking through a camera lens.  Did the picture make sense?  Was it a single theme that drew your eye to products we wanted to sell?  I know it seems a bit silly but that one lesson taught me to merchandise end caps, vignettes and floor displays which drove sales.  When I was the president of a decor company, I used this method to develop the merchandising guidelines for our stores.    I also taught hundreds of others to examine their creations through the lens of their hand. They in turned shared with others.  By Darnell sharing a small tidbit, his idea spread to thousands.

When we examine our own motivations for doing whatever we do, at the base is usually wanting to make a difference.  Oh, that gets lost as we focus on spreadsheets and profit margins, employee challenges and market share.  Yet, somewhere in the back of our minds we know that there was a point in our lives when we were idealistic and believed we could make a difference.  I’m here to tell you that no matter what your current job or position, you can make a difference, by teaching others what you know.

There’s a wonderful result for you, when you share what you know by teaching others.  You become better.  Your skill evolves.  Your self-confidence grows.  I was talking to my son who is a dance instructor.  When he began this job a year ago he didn’t know how to dance, however he was athletic and personable so he followed his dream and applied for a job with Arthur Murray.  On Saturday he told me that he is teaching the majority of the time now and has found that his skills are improving faster by teaching than just practicing.  When I watched a video and compared it to some from just a couple months ago, I could see marked improvement.  That got me thinking about what made me good at my job and I realized that I grew and improved faster when I had the responsibility of training others.  When we teach, we must anticipate questions, we must find solutions that will allow our student to succeed.  Teaching, by it’s very nature, makes us stretch and expand our own self imposed boundaries.

The opposite of this is unfortunately found across corporate America.  Those individuals who feel threatened in their position, who believe that if they teach others what they know they will lose out, and they watch as their co-workers flounder.  They rejoice in keeping knowledge to themselves, their warped way of thinking operating off the belief that they are safer by keeping others in the dark.  Wow, that sounds like our political system.  Anyway, it is the people who refuse to teach who are the losers for they miss out on all the benefits that teaching provides.

True leaders, no matter what their field of expertise, understand that teaching others must be at the top of the priority list.  Assisting others in their journey requires the giving of oneself.  The giving of your time, your knowledge and your life experience to those who desire to learn sends ripples out into the universe.  Who knows, like Darnell, you may provide a tidbit that ends up reaching thousands.  So what is it you are going to teach today?

Teaching is one of the skills that true leaders make a habit.  To develop all of your leadership skills to your full potential, check out my Leadership Online Class .  Many blessings to you.

 

 

Productive Day Dreaming

there is force in the universe   Mahatma Gandhi

christiebakeman.com

Admit it!  When you see those humongous lottery amounts, you buy a ticket and dream.  You think about what you would do with that money.  Maybe your first thoughts are to do the responsible thing and pay off all your debt.  Then you come to the fun stuff; a second home, your dream car, travel to exotic locations or maybe you want to pile all that money in the middle of the living room floor and roll around in it.  It’s fun to think about the possibilities, to fantasize what your life would be like if you were the winner.  You probably continue day dreaming up to the point of the winning numbers being announced, at which point you decide it was a ludicrous waste of time.

Waste of time?  Let’s rethink that.  Day dreaming can be an extremely useful tool and according to research can increase your productivity.  When you have a constant focus on being efficient, your mind isn’t allowed to wander.  It is these mental road trips where your creative planning occurs.  When your imagination is engaged your mind magically pulls together concepts in a way that is different than when you are focused on a task.  Disengaging from your surroundings, even briefly, provides your mind a vacation.  With the constant flow of information that technology has brought us, vacations for our minds are just as needed as those for our bodies.

For most of my management career I spent a great deal of time driving.  That gets boring, fast!  On long stretches of highway between populated areas I had a habit of day dreaming. Actually, I would oscillate between day dreaming and focused attention.  I may be thinking about some random personal dream and while I was doing that a solution to a work challenge would pop into my head.  I’d examine that from multiple angles and once I felt it had reached the best solution, I’d go back to my day dreaming.  Depending on the length of the trip, I would repeat this process multiple times.

I find that my time spent day dreaming occurs most often in any moving vehicle.  Car, train or plane, it doesn’t matter.  For some reason moving through time and space opens up my mind to the possibilities.  I would think about a situation and day dream about how to solve it if I could do exactly what I wanted…..no limits.  Maybe you wouldn’t call this day dreaming.  It could just be my imagine run wild.  Either way I used it for years to bring the right candidate unto my radar or identify how to really reach another person.  When I experience writers block or I need to solve an emotional crisis, I go for a drive.  I’ll admit I might dream up some crazy shit but within it is usually a workable solution.

Day dreaming is also a great way to plan for the future and really connect with your long term goals.  Let’s assume that you want to purchase a boat.  In your day dreams you see yourself driving the boat.  You imagine the wind blowing across your skin and the howling noise in your ears.  You feel the upward motion as you cross over a wave and you marvel at your adeptness in guiding this incredible piece of craftsmanship through the water.  In your day dream, you are unconcerned with how you paid for the boat, you are just enjoying the ownership of it, albeit in the future.

In my world, this process is called visualization.  When I talk with a client about future goals we are focusing on the desired result.  Getting someone to really own a goal and totally imagine achieving it, is similar to day dreaming.  All too often when concentrating on a goal the client wants to delve into all of the hows but when you are submerged in a day dream, the hows (or all the details that will prevent you from reaching said goal) are not part of the equation.  When we are using our imagination, anything is possible.

If you’ve read about the law of attraction, you have probably heard that belief is a key component to attracting what you desire.  There lies the challenge.  Reasonable, intelligent person that you are, you know what’s real and what isn’t.  You don’t own the boat!  You want the boat.  You can imagine having the boat.  But you know, you don’t own the boat.  That’s where day dreaming or visualization comes in.  The imagery that accompanies your day dreams is what helps you to believe you own the boat.  If you continue to “own” the boat, eventually your mind will understand that it is a foregone conclusion.  Once that happens, the universe starts moving the pieces together to bring your boat into existence.

The next time you start feeling guilty about day dreaming, stop!  Recognize the benefits to both your mental health and your future.  If you’d like to learn more about creating the future you desire, check out my book, It’s Your Life….Own It! available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or my book

 

How Supportive Are You? Really?

a man who moves a mountain

Have you ever told someone about an idea or a dream you have and realized later that what you thought was support, was really them telling you in a nice way – don’t do it!?

I was having a conversation with a client when the supportiveness of family came up.  She has written a couple of songs which have been performed at family gatherings.  There was plenty of praise about how good they were.  When she shared that she wanted to use the songs as a basis of developing some other products, her aunt began with praise for the songs then spouted off all of the reasons the other products wouldn’t work.  She discussed the development, the money it would cost and finally, what she perceived as the lack of a market for such things.  The aunt is someone my client loves and trusts so she became discouraged about her dream.  She asked me why someone who loves her would respond that way.

The people who love us don’t want to see us fail.  In some warped way, parents, friends and family who discourage us from following our dreams believe they are protecting us.  It could be from heartache, financial ruin or it could be as simple as they don’t want our feelings to be hurt.  This isn’t done with ill intent.  They believe shielding us from the negativity that could possibly come our way is showing us love.  Yet this is accomplished using the same negativity they are hoping to prevent us from experiencing.  Twisted.

The same thing happens in the workplace.  You come up with an idea that could save the company money or increase marketshare.  When you tell your co-worker about it, you hear things like; we tried that and it didn’t work, the board would never go for that or hey, keep that one to yourself.  The motivation behind these discouraging remarks have far more to do with the person saying them, than you or your idea.  You’ll have to decide if they are trying to help you out by saving you time or if they simply are worried about you moving ahead of them in the office food chain.

Since we never really know what someone else is thinking, I’d like you to examine your own thoughts.  When someone shares an idea or dream with you, how do you respond?  Are you encouraging them to follow their heart or are you creating roadblocks?  If you tried to dissuade the other person, what was your motivation?  Were you trying to protect them or were your motives of a selfish nature?

Recent statistics show that 80% of people in the US are dissatisfied with their jobs and are open to new opportunities.  You might read that and agree that you are one of those people.  Forget about yourself for a moment.  If you supervise as few as three individuals, the majority of your team is thinking about leaving their current employment.  If that transpired, how would that impact you?  That creates a bit of stress, doesn’t it?  So the question should be what can I do to make my team feel more valued, thus happier in their job?  This takes us back to my original question; how supportive are you?  Do you encourage your team to share their ideas?  Do you know them well enough to understand their dreams for the future?  Only you know the answer but it should give you something to ponder.

Relationship Challenges? Check Your Expectations!

Let It Go Iyanla Vanzant

christiebakeman.com

All of us have expectations regarding every relationship in our lives and most of the time we don’t give them a whole lot of thought.  They are based on our belief system and strange as it seems, we often assume that others have the same expectations.  It isn’t until  some sort of challenge arises, that we realize someone else has different expectations than we do regarding the same subject.  The feelings of disappointment, betrayal or being hurt arise in a person, not because of an action or situation but rather that their expectations are not being met.  Realizing this won’t make them feel any better but it will provide a starting point to create greater understanding from which a compromise can evolve.

This subject hit me squarely in the face recently.  Someone that I used to work with invited me to lunch.  This invitation arrived via my business email and my husband made me aware of it because he saw it first.  For you to understand the dynamics of the situation there are a few things you should be aware of.  I’d had lunch with this man multiple times when we worked for the same company.  For the past year I’ve worked from home so lunch dates are few and far between.  I’m a very social person and love one on one conversations with people I consider friends.

I replied to the email and suggested a day.  Although my husband of three years wasn’t happy about me getting the email, I saw no issue with it.  And there lies the problem.  From my perspective this is nothing more than catching up with an old friend.  My husband’s thoughts on the subject were entirely different.  He was furious when he saw I’d replied to the email without discussing it with him.  He felt it was inappropriate for a married woman, to have lunch with another man.  The fact that he doesn’t know this old friend may have added fuel to the fire which increased when I justified my position.  My point of view included things like, we are happy together, this man is a friend who I’ve had lunch with before and I should be able to spend time with friends.  Not only was my husband upset about me not discussing it ahead of time but he was hurt that I would want to spend time with another man.

The ironic part of this scenario is the fact that I wrote a great deal about expectations in my book, It’s Your Life….Own It!.  Evidently I should have reread my own work.  Although there were several things we discussed prior to getting married, including my independent nature, we didn’t discuss specifically how to handle invitations.  His expectations come from what he believes is proper for a married couple.  My expectations were about maintaining connections to friends.  Obviously we were singing from two different hymn books.

To add irony on top of irony, days before this, I was having a conversation with our daughter about how men and women view relationships outside the family unit differently.  Many men forego developing strong friendships outside their family life.  Other than work, those men focus on their spouse and children.  I’m not saying men don’t have friends but often times the relationships they have are somehow connected to family outings.  Women, on the other hand, tend to maintain friendships that have nothing to do with their family.  “Girl time” is a way to stay connected to the outside world and it is to be cherished.

The clash between my husband and I was born out of different expectations for our relationships that don’t involve each other.  The readers of this may think my husband was totally justified for his feelings or they may feel my actions didn’t warrant any conflict.  I imagine those lines will be drawn primarily along gender but in the end that doesn’t matter.  I was wrong not to take my partners feelings into consideration prior to acting.  He is entitled to expect his feelings to mean more to me than a casual friend.

Having different expectations applies to all our relationships, not just my previous example.  How often have you had a conflict at work that boiled down to different expectations?  Maybe you expected your boss to back up your position with a client and when that didn’t happen, you were upset.  That could have been based on information that you weren’t privy to.  All of us have certain expectations in the workplace that we take for granted.  One year I led my division in a number of metrics, outperforming my peers based on quantitative data.  I expected that my employee review would reflect at least a very good rating.  My boss and I had conflicts about management style so I wasn’t anticipating an outstanding rating but certainly above average was reasonable.  Imagine my surprise when I was rated as needing improvement.  Talk about having different expectations!

I write this to encourage you to take a step back when any conflict occurs in your life.  Is it possible that the core issue is different expectations?  Only you can decide.

If you’d like to learn more by reading my book, check out my author website