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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Priceless Handwritten Note

Lately, I've been overwhelmed by the signs pointing me to the importance of the small gesture of the handwritten note.  Here are the signs:
  • A few months ago,  my husband came home from a leadership training session conducted by Studer Group  and told me the most important take away he received was the strong encouragement by the consultants to write a least two thank you notes a week to someone he worked with and to send the note to their home.  He has started this practice, and even though it has been something strongly encouraged by the organization to do (some may say a forced thing instead of a natural thing, but they are instilling a behavior by making it a habit),  he has been pleasantly surprised when he has gotten several notes himself sent to our home. 
  • I'm working on a career facilitator certification and yesterday I got this link- The Number 1 Mistake People I Interview Are Making These Days that my instructor posted to her learning platform.   Although the writer advocates for an email thank you to follow up after an interview,  I think a handwritten note would be even better.
  • I went to a funeral today for a beloved grandmotherly figure in my life.  Both ministers talked about how she was constantly writing notes to people, in particular, writing notes in books that she would give to others.  This small gesture that she did often, in part, defined  the kind of person she was. 
  • And again, today,  this clip appeared on NBC Nightly News about a teacher who sends handwritten birthday cards to all of her former students.
Although my encounters with the importance of a simple, handwritten gesture have been frequent lately, I think the value of this gesture comes from its infrequency in today's world.  If we need to thank someone, we send a quick email, if that.  And while valuable, how much more valuable would a handwritten, mailed note be?  I know I have kept several handwritten notes to me over the years, have you?

So what does this mean for leadership?

Writing notes to others can be a powerful motivational tool because it shows people that they are important to you.  They matter.  And if we are all honest with ourselves, we all want to be seen as important, especially to those that serve as our leaders.

So, as encouragement to those striving to be leaders or those that already serve in a leadership role, take the time to write handwritten notes to people.  Here are some suggestions:
  • Buy some nice, personalized stationery.
  • Put this stationery in several places, at home, at work, in your car, etc. so it easy to write a quick note whenever you find the need to acknowledge someone for a job well done or thank someone.  
  • If you are a scheduled person, set aside 10 minutes to either start your week on Monday or end your week on Friday by writing notes to those that have impacted you during the week.
  • Whether related to a leadership role or not, if you ever interview for a job, send a note to the interviewer/hiring manager as soon as you finish the interview.  Make it the first thing you do when you return home from the interview.
  • Start by sending notes to those that are closest to you.  I find that these people are the ones I oftentimes take for granted the most or forget to thank... your spouse,  your parents, your secretary, your right-hand man or woman at the office, the employee that always pulls through we great results, your best friend, the boss that you appreciate but never tell... thank them first. 
  • If you come across a book that you like or that reminds you of someone, write a note inside the cover and send it to them. 
  • And finally, it does not have to be long.  Two or three heartfelt handwritten sentences can go a long way towards making people feel valued. And isn't that what we are striving to accomplish as leaders, making people feel valued when they are?
What other suggestions do you have for letting people know they are valued?

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Strategic Plan on 1 page?

Earlier this month I posted the Workforce Development Strategic Plan for Morgan County, Alabama.  It's a document, that quite frankly, I highly doubt many people will read.

Therefore, we've drafted a 1-pager to effectively communicate our plan.  You can check it out here

Sometimes saying too much gets nothing communicated effectively.  We hope that a visually pleasing, one page document will communicate our efforts in Workforce Development going forward.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Everyone needs an idea sounding board

I recently attended a SHRM meeting where Ben Eubanks was the speaker.  Ben writes the excellent upstartHR blog and was addressing the topic of social media in his presentation.  Ben had some innovative and useful ideas to share relating HR and social media, but what struck me the most was his comments about networking.  The slide pertaining to networking said, '"You are the average of your five closest friends." Jim Rohn'  His discussion on networking led him to share information about the HRevolution conference that he and others started to facilitate idea sharing among HR professionals.

I talked back in December about the value of a mentor.   One of things that I mentioned in this blog was to find someone to talk about ideas. Not people, or things, or tasks, but ideas.  I realized that now that my professional mentor has passed away, I have been missing my idea sounding board.  I need to be refueled with some great idea generating, and I need to find a core group or person to have this idea recharge.

Sometimes we are so caught up in our business and personal to-do lists that our communication with others is so task-based and surface level, whether it be at work or home.  Our five closest friends, or the people that we interact with the most, seem to thrive on just transactional information and talk.

We don't make ourselves any smarter when we sit around and talk about, well nothing truly important, to be honest.  I'm a firm believer in surrounding myself with people that are smarter than I am, and I have a ton of people around me who are a lot smarter than I, but if I don't take the time to engage in conversations that discuss ideas and learning, I don't benefit from their genius.

So, even though Ben said jokingly in his presentation that maybe we all need to find five better friends that we can be the average of, maybe we need to try to talk to our five friends about things that make us more than just work cogs or gossips.  Maybe we don't need to change our friends, just our conversations.

Either way, here are some ideas for facilitating "idea" conversations:

1.  Find a mentor and schedule a standing time to talk with him/her at least once a month about things going on with your work and their work, the business world around you, and any ideas you have. If your company doesn't have a mentoring program, see if you can start one.
2. Follow ideas and thoughts online.  Read blogs and write one.
3. Attend professional development opportunities whether it be by joining your local professional association, logging on to a webinar, or attending a conference.  Don't stop there, start a conference, like Ben and his HR friends did.
4. Read a book. Write one.
5. Start an idea sharing board at work.  There are several online tools/programs that are useful for this such as Sharepoint.
5. Most importantly,  take time to actually talk to those that you interact with the most at work and do it in person. If you encounter a problem at work, talk it through with a colleague.  If you notice a team member working on a new project, ask them about it. If you come up with an idea to make your work simplier, talk through it with a peer.
I know I have advocated for many virtual idea sharing mechanisms, but get out from behind your computer, and talk to people about ideas.  It's the best place to start.

What and who invigorates you with great ideas?

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Performance Management Model

A Performance Management Model

Money Ball, 'It's a metaphor....'

I'm not a movie watcher, my husband is.  He asked me last weekend if I would watch Money Ball with him. So of course, I asked him what it was about. He said baseball.  As soon I was about to say "No thanks," he said, "Brad Pitt is in it,"  (he knows me all too well) so I obliged and watched it with him.

What he said was a movie about baseball struck me more as movie about motivation and leadership.  I won't ruin the story line for you if you haven't watched it, but here are some of the ideas I took away from the movie, besides the image of Brad Pitt.  Maybe you can pick up on where I'm coming from if you have watched it or plan to.

1. Get the right people on the bus and in the right seats on the bus, as Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great.   Maybe a worn out catcher does need to be tried at first base. You need him on your team because he gets the results you need on offense, find the solution for him that also fits your defensive needs.   Also, realize that your bus may not be the same as the New York Yankees' ride and that's okay.

2. Tell people their role.  David Justice needed to be told his role was to step and be a leader.

3.  The people who don't get the  mission of what you are trying to accomplish need to go.  Case in point, the player that was dancing on the table in the locker room after a loss had to be traded.

4. Take a risk on the nerdy guy with a new idea or way of doing things. It may win you 20 games straight.

5. Some people just have no idea how good they are.  A constant focus on their shortcomings by themselves and others leads them to miss when they have knocked it out of the park.  Tell people when they have hit a home run, or even a single or double.  They are more likely to hit them more often when you do.

6. It isn't all about the money.  Sometimes it is about your little girl singing.

What have you learned about leadership and motivations from Money Ball or any of your other favorite movies?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Strategic Planning

As I mentioned in my first 2012 post, I have been working on a  Workforce Development Strategic Plan for Morgan County.

You can find the completed document here:

2012 Morgan County Workforce Development Strategic Plan

We will be drafting a one page summary of the plan which I will post this month as well.