Happy Mother’s Day! 

I’d like to keep this short today as my beautiful daughters will be taking me out to lunch soon. This is a day we celebrate our mothers. (Duh) I want to also celebrate all of the fierce awesome women who’ve come before me, and will come after me that have inspired me in my life. Thank you! Thank you for fighting for women’s rights, for leading in the workplace, for taking chances, for running for office, for inventing, for writing, for having children and working, for breaking into traditional men’s work, for overcoming so many obstacles in life. Just…thank you. 

Confessions of a Hard Worker..(because I take my breaks)

I’m sure a lot of us think we are hard workers on the job.  We also tend to feel guilty about taking our breaks at work, to the point that we might eat at our desks and never leave the workplace.  So, is that a good idea?  You might think you’re showing your Superman or Supergirl powers at work, but truly, you are doing yourself, your boss, and your customers a disservice.

Here’s why not taking breaks through out the day at work is a bad idea. When you work out at the gym, or play sports, or move your whole household in one day, or work in the yard, don’t you allow yourself a break once in a while?  Why?  To recharge, of course.  Recharge your body, right? Your brain needs recharging too.

RECHARGE: verb; to make a new charge, especially to attack again. To revive or restore energy, stamina, enthusiasm.  To refresh and revitalize.

I need my energy restored throughout the day, both physically and mentally.  I’ve worked in both types of cultures, where every one takes their breaks, or no one takes breaks.  As a supervisor myself, I make sure my immediate reports take their breaks. I’ve seen it too many times when a person plays tough and refuses to take breaks or lunch, then comes back and sues the company. Worse, the work culture frowns upon breaks, so a person feels like they shouldn’t take breaks.  Yes, legality is part of it.  The real part though, is that I want my employees to come back  refreshed and revitalized. (hopefully)  Happy employees usually mean happy customers.

I do not agree with workplace cultures where the unspoken rule is not to take breaks. It encourages judgement and gossip against coworkers. In the reverse, taking breaks together when possible can build teamwork and comradeship.  Eating at your desk  encourages your boss or direct reports to interrupt.  Of course, there are sometimes certain circumstances where you might have to push back your breaks or lunch to take care of a crisis.

Not sure what to do during a break?  Here’s what I do sometimes.  Read a book. Get to know a coworker better. Play a game on my phone. Read the news. Come up with blog ideas. Stretch. Take a short walk outside.  Eat a snack to feed my body.  Meditate.  Practice mindfulness.  Check on my kids.  Check on my mom. You get the point. The important thing is to take a real timeout from work.  I can attest that when I come back from lunch, I’m ready, recharged and revitalized to face the second half of my work day!

 

 

Have You Smiled Today?

What does a smile mean to you? Have you smiled today? 

This blog was inspired by a post I saw on the social network beBee. The writer was remarking how some people who don’t smile and frown actually have facial expressions stuck that way. It reminded me of a coworker of long ago.  She was cranky, grouchy,  negative and rarely smiled. Her face was stuck in a permanent frown, even with her resting face.  The lines around her mouth were turned down like a perpetual sullen child, forever cracked into her aging skin.  I often wondered as I looked at her or listened to her, was it worth it?  Worth it to be so negative, glum, sister to Eeyore? Your face is stuck that way!

The funny thing is, she reported to me.  I say funny because I don’t have a lot of tolerance for negativity at work.  (What’s the point?  If you aren’t happy on the job, leave.  Don’t infect the rest of us.)  The other funny part is while I don’t tolerate constant negativity out in the open, I will listen to negative concerns privately.(As a supervisor, I will listen.  As an equal, I don’t like to be involved with gossip and negativity on the job)  I also appreciate that negative people can take the Devil’s advocate side, and I like to hear all sides of a solution or procedure before we implement it.

So, ironically, while I’m going on about a negative side of her, let me talk about the positive side.  She was incredibly smart, with a dry sense of humor.  We actually had a lot of interests in common, certain movies, certain type of humor, a love of books, a love of history, a love of art and a love of travel.  Seeing her positives helped me deal with the negativity.  As her supervisor, while I often addressed her grouchiness and/or negativity, I also understood that the negativity is who she was.  Like the color of her brown eyes, or her freckles, she couldn’t or didn’t want to change that part of her.  I couldn’t force her to change, but I could address it when she crossed the line with customers or coworkers.  (She had worked at the company for a long time, and no one had documented her behavior. I also inherited her. Everyone would say, oh well, that’s how “Shirley” is.  Not me.  Either she was going to get it or not.)

I documented every coaching conversation with her.  It took awhile, but eventually the conversations and write ups became a thick file.  Still, I was always patient and respectful to her. Eventually she figured out that I wasn’t giving in, and she decided to retire.

What’s the big deal about smiling? 

  1.  I know I feel better when I smile and really mean it.
  2. My customers brighten up.
  3. I hope I cheered up my customer if they need it.
  4. I know customers can tell when I smile while talking on the phone, so I do it all the time. 
  5. I smile at strangers, a hard thing for me to do.  (I don’t want to be seen as a crazy creeper!) But I love the human connection when they smile back.
  6. I get compliments all the time about my smile. Who doesn’t love a compliment?
  7. It’s healthy for your brain and emotions.
  8. It’s an act of kindness.

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”  Mother Teresa

PS-the picture is me and my youngest daughter, smiling because we are so happy to be at a baseball game!

Favorite Leadership Quotes, Part 1

There are so many great leadership examples out there, it’s hard to pick even a few! I narrowed it down to three newer voices in leadership, and three old school voices.  

  1. Robin Sharma
  2. Dan Rockwell
  3. Sheryl Sandberg
  4. Peter Drucker 
  5. John Maxwell
  6. Jim Collins

Robin Sharma is kind of the new guy on the block for me.  Robin is a Canadian author and leadership speaker, formerly a litigation lawyer.  One of the things that attracts me to his quotes is a zen type of feel to some of the quotes.  

  • “Words can inspire, and words can destroy.  Choose yours well. ” 
  • “Your ‘I can’ is more important than your IQ.”  
  • “Dedicate yourself to expressing your best.” 

Dan Rockwell, LeadershipFreak, is one of my all time favorites.  He’s to the point, his blogs posts are short and informative, and he’s on top of current issues in the workplace.  Dan has had over 35 years of experience as a public speaker, leader, and teacher.  I’ve been following him for about 6 years now. 

  • “Authentic leadership is heart deep, not skin deep.” 
  • “Great leaders always lift others.” 
  • “The courage to keep growing is the difference between success and failure.” 

Sheryl Sandberg is obviously one of the top voices at Facebook, and in my opinion, a great female leader to emulate. I’m not sure that she even likes the spotlight, but she recognizes that she is a leader who can help teach other female leaders.  

  • “Leadership is not bullying and leadership is not aggression. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good.  That you can make the world a better place.” 
  • “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

These are a few of my favorite work and leadership quotes.  Do you have any favorite quotes? I would love to hear them! 

Human Connections are Important!

Something happened to me this week that made me start thinking about human connections and our careers.  Social media is great for connecting, networking, educating, and marketing, but wow, nothing beats the human connection.

Let me tell you some back story.  I’ve been in the book business since 1996 and of course, have met many people.  Coworkers, bosses, customers and vendors, just to name a few.  It’s the vendor aspect that I want to talk about.  I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of people in my position don’t always respect vendors.  They are sales people, to be sure, but that’s their job. I’ve always treated them with respect, not as a nuisance.  Truth be told, most are a delightful way to break up the day.  Not to mention, learning about new products is always interesting.  That respect tends to pay off in all kinds of ways.

So, a few days ago I got a phone call from a former co-worker who told me that a vendor we both knew left me some books at my old office.  My feelings: surprise, curiosity and warmth.  I’ve known the vendor, (we’ll call him Tim) for a long time, probably since 2004.  He represents all types of genres in books.  Tim is quiet, smart and very knowledgeable about books.  We’ve always had a good working relationship.  Him selling, me buying for the business. He knew what would sell at our store, and between the two of us, we had a relationship of give and take.  One of the best things about Tim was that he remembered the subjects that I personally liked.  Once in a while, he brought me free samples and galleys.  (book talk for a preview of a book that has not been edited, nor has the right cover, and is not for sale).

Tim didn’t know that I had left my last job, yet still, he asked my coworker to contact me.  To his honorable credit, my coworker did! I stopped by the old office.  Imagine my surprise that Tim had remembered that I love Dr. Who, and left me a book set of Dr. Who books!  To say I was excited and touched is an understatement.  Now, I’m not saying make a human connection to get free stuff.  I’m saying, make those connections to make work more interesting.  Make those connections to help each other succeed.  Make those connections because maybe you will need a job someday and that vendor can vouch for you. You can bet, in my current job as a book buyer, that I’ll be thinking of Tim now and wondering how I can sell the products that he represents.

 

Start Before You’re Ready

“Start before you’re ready.” 

I saw this short but thought-provoking quote this week on Instagram.  It stopped me in my tracks.  There’s so many things that I can apply this to.  One, thinking about retirement someday.  If I last 5 more years working a 9-5 job, I’ll be surprised.  It’s not that I don’t like working, I love it! It’s not that I’m not physically capable either.  But I’ll be damned if I wait until I’m 65 or 69 to retire.  So, I’m making plans early to be able to retire before the usual age.  I still plan to work, but on my time and my choice and my passion. That’s where number 2 comes in.

I have been a leader/manager/supervisor/boss for many years now.  I have a lot of genuine experiences and advice that I want to share.  So, I’m starting Robin’s Nest now.  I’m not sure yet what it will turn into, but it will be some sort of consulting/career coaching type of business.  I’m not looking to get rich, just pay a few bills or pay for  traveling.  I want to help people-help them succeed, help them be positive, help them wade through the mad world we call work.  I’ve always enjoyed mentoring employees.  I always encouraged people who worked for me to do what they love, and to always move to higher goals in the workplace.

I had two epiphanies recently.  One was after a successful interview that I was sitting in on, and realized how much I loved the process, and how much experience I’ve had at it. (I estimate that I’ve interviewed over 2500 people in my career)  The second one was another experience on the job that I had.  One of the best ever.  I was working as a vendor at a show, selling books.  My youngest daughter came to help me.  First time we’ve ever worked together in a professional capacity and the first time she’s been old enough to finally appreciate what I do.  (Among many things at work, I am also a bookseller)  I guess I have some customer service talent and the gift of gab, because at one point, my daughter, the young woman I want to inspire most, said to me, “Mom, you are in your element. I’m totally stunned.”  That statement, needless to say, meant the world to me.  It gave me the motivation to finally do what I want to do.  I’m not ready yet.  But I’m starting, getting things into place, building a brand, looking at options, researching etc. Some day, Robin’s Nest will be my little niche in the world.

 

Branding yourself…

Today, I was checking LinkedIn, just looking around at different business articles and business leaders that I admire.  This is not a bash LinkedIn article.  I love LinkedIn.  I feel like I get to learn for free from different avenues, teachers, and good leaders in business and life.  I came across an article by the Wall Street Journal about certain companies’ taking issue with President Trump’s immigration ban. I didn’t read the full article, but what I did read was mostly business related, such as how do certain companies get their employees home, or how some were saying they did not support the ban because it goes against their mission.  (This is not an article about my opinion on the ban.)  I was actually curious about the comments.

Now, when I go on LinkedIn, I expect professional business comments.  It feels like a workplace atmosphere to me.  I go there strictly for business reasons.  I only want to see business opinions or comments, depending on the topic.  If a topic is not quite in line with business, I still expect professionalism. (Call me naive. That is the branding that LinkedIn is known for)  So, I was really surprised at some of the comments.  On what is supposed to be a business-like platform, some people could not hold back their nasty comments.  If I want to see that, I can go on Facebook or Twitter.  That’s where I talk about my political leanings and opinions.  (I still try to be respectful though)  On my business page on FB and Twitter, I do not mention politics at all.  Strictly business!

What is it about online communication that makes people feel that they can say what they want?  I know it’s the anonymity thing, but LinkedIn is not that anonymous!  I kept wondering if these guys were looking for clients or a job.  Dear reader, words hurt!  Words expose you.  Words brand you.  I hope these guys weren’t looking for a job or clients, because they just branded themselves publicly.

 

 

Going all in…

I don’t know about you guys, but when I want to learn about something, I go all in.  I want to know everything about the subject.  Books, videos, research, whatever it takes. Case in point…when I bought a pool table, I wanted to learn everything about pool.(The pool table was beautiful.  Shiny black table and bright ocean blue felt)  I already knew how to hold the stick, hit a ball, bank a shot, etc., the beginner stuff.  I wanted to learn the more advanced stuff. Time to research!  (and obsession occurs until I master it)  Since I have been a bookseller for over 20 years, books are what I turn to first. (my favorite learning tool)  Five books and a few websites later, I was doing well enough to impress my little nephews.

My whole point to that little story is my complete conviction that a lot of workplace culture is toxic, rigid and old-fashioned.  Is your workplace safe enough to express ideas, whether good ones or bad?  Do you feel safe to suggest an idea that no one agrees with but will listen respectfully, then explain why they don’t like it?  Again, respectfully?  Can you put yourself out there?  I believe that when your workplace culture is safe, respectful and open to any idea, this creates innovation, connections and cohesive teamwork.  That’s why I’m going all in…to promote positive cultures, ideas, thoughts, careers, even job searches.  It starts with a voice, and it starts with leadership.  I have a voice, and I’ve been a leader for a long time.

So, more research has started.  Research about websites, WordPress, FB pages, marketing, content, SEO’s, and analytics.  Studying what works, what doesn’t work.  Studying great places to work, and how they enhance their culture.  We may not all work at Google or Facebook or Zappos, but our leaders, managers, and CEO’s have an obligation to create a safe place to work at.  Peace and Courage.