Random Acts of Kindness

CBS Sunday Morning featured a story on “Secret Santa”, an anonymous businessman who gives away $100,000 in $100 bills every Christmas. The story (which has aired in previous years as well) is especially touching because it demonstrates how he lifts the spirits of people he randomly touches.

Random acts of kindness are unplanned good deeds that are extended without the expectation of anything in return. When you offer a random act of kindness, you feel good and the recipient feels good….the classic “win-win” scenario.

Most of us don’t have the means to give away as much as the aforementioned Secret Santa, but we do have the ability to give small, ordinary things. When you offer a kindness to someone, it can even help to put your own challenges into better perspective.

Overcoming Holiday Tension

At we edge towards the end of 2015, the annual recurrence of holiday tension has arrived. December brings too many deadlines, more holiday parties than you want to imagine, and greater than usual personal commitments.

The result? More stress, more tension, and more anxiety which creep into the fabric of many organizations. What to do? Consider these tips to manage through the next few weeks.

Deadline madness. Of course, some year-end deadlines are real, but others are placeholders (“we need to complete this by the end of the year”….not really). Don’t contribute to the stress by adding false deadlines.

The Entitlement Quandary

One of the more interesting challenges in today’s workplace is dealing with the issue of entitlement. It has crept in around the edges of virtually all companies, and once it arrives, it’s hard to eradicate.

This issue exists across all generations, but it seems to bubble up more often among Millennials. Many have been told how wonderful they are for so long that they can’t understand why their employers don’t believe it.

It’s easy to deal with entitlement when the employee isn’t performing; you reassign them to other jobs or you fire them. That’s relatively easy, and your downside is limited.

A Day of Gratitude

The Thanksgiving holiday is special because it’s a day where friends and family come together to eat, to out-shout each other at the dinner table, and to watch football in a semi-inert state after the big meal.

Although it’s a truly American holiday, it has the special twist of ethnic twists in the traditional turkey and mashed potatoes menu (in fact, click here for a great multi-cultural “tasting”).

I also like to think of Thanksgiving as a day of gratitude. It’s a day to reflect and give thanks for the things that mean the most to you.

A Desperate Upsell

Have you ever been irritated when a routine task turns into an effort? Last week I confirmed a hotel reservation that quickly turned into an annoying customer service experience.

I gave the reservationist my confirmation number, and before she even verified my name, she offered me a car rental or ground transportation from the airport.

I declined politely, and reiterated that I just wanted to confirm my reservation. She confirmed it, and then told me that they were offering $100 off a 4-day weekend getaway: could she connect me to the travel department to learn more?

Of course, the answer was “no thank you”. I was about to exit the call and one last attempt was made to give me $50 in cash if I talked to their travel department.

Are You Losing Sight of the Big Picture?

When you’re inundated by obligations and responsibilities that overwhelm you, what happens to your concentration level?  Things can appear right before your eyes, but you’ll overlook them because you’re in a state of spin and not seeing the big picture.

Your brain goes into overload, and you process the information that will help you get the job done in the moment. You may fail to see your work in the context of a wider lens, and this may have a negative impact on something you do later.

The state of being overwhelmed controls you instead of you controlling it. Your job is to change the dynamic so that you are in charge of your mind and your actions.

Planning When Too Much Is Unknown

Sometimes you just can’t wrap your arms around a project because the unknowns far outweigh the knowns. Short of making yourself crazy, you need to accept the situation for what it is and work around the unknowns the best you can.

Let’s say you have a project scheduled for the first quarter of 2016 with a half dozen variables that would change the planning, process, and execution. The unknowns aren’t going to become known until an precariously short time before the deadline.

Maddening, isn’t it? Well, you don’t need to despair. You can use scenario planning to sketch out the possibilities.

Begin with the end in mind. You can outline the project on one piece of paper to start, and expand in project management software or a simple spreadsheet later.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Circumstances change. Often we need to reimagine or redirect based on those changes. I’ve experienced this recently through the eyes of several clients who created new positions and hired good people to fill them.

Then change happened. The positions aren’t producing what management originally envisioned, and they’re stuck in indecision about what to do.

This hesitancy will bring them down (and the new people with them). Doing something – especially with the understanding that such a situation is a work in progress – is always better than inertia.

Look for the Unexpected

I attended a conference recently where I went in cold—other than one colleague, I didn’t know anyone. The sessions were good and I gained the new insights that I had hoped for, but much of the value came from informal conversations.

These conversations were diverse and interesting. They ranged from someone who was a successful serial internet startup guy to a harpist who created a digital marketing platform to teach the harp online to someone who recently sold a business and is figuring out his next step.

Of course, I also encountered the occasional person who seemed a little clueless, and that is to be expected. All things said, though, you can learn so much from the experiences of others as long as you’re open to listening and ask some good questions.

Here Comes a Curveball…

Sometimes life throws you a curveball, and you need to react quickly. Of course, these curveballs usually come when you’re not prepared, so having a crisis management guideline will serve you well.

Curveballs can be anything from the loss of a major client to a serious illness or loss of a family member to the news of a downsizing or restructuring. For purposes of this discussion, curveballs are unexpected, overwhelming, and require immediate action.

Stay calm. Although this is easier said than done, your cool head will move you forward more effectively than panicking. Remember, people around you follow your lead. If you freak out, it will probably create anxiety in others.