There is a lot of sadness and tragedy lately in the news. Thereâs always sadness and tragedy if you look for it, but lately itâs felt much too close. As a mother, I find it particularly difficult to process these kinds of events when children are involved. And I notice that as others try to process âwhat they can doâ, their thoughts get caught up in the bigness of the issue. They get stuck in this kind of paralyzed pattern of thoughts that go something like âI donâtâ know how to help. What difference could I make? I donât know where to begin.â
Iâd like to propose that we get our thoughts focused on the fact that we can do something. That itâs the small gestures of kindness and generosity we are all capable of that create the kinds of communities we want our kids to grow up in. We are all individuals living in communities. Every individual act of kindness creates more good feelings and acts of kindness. Small gestures count.
About three years ago I heard about a mother who was transitioning from a womenâs shelter to an apartment with her four children (two of which were newborn twins). I heard of this motherâs story quite by accident. I was selling some used baby toys on Kijiji. This womenâs friend e-mailed in response to an infant bouncy chair I was selling. She wondered if I would drop it off because she didnât have a car. Dropping it off wasnât convenient. There were ten other e-mail responses from people who could pick it up. But I decided to go with my instinct and personally deliver the chair.
When I arrived at the apartment building, I was really taken aback. It was only twenty minutes from my own home but it might as well have been in a different country. It was really run down. Trying to hide my dismay, I asked the friend who met me at the entrance if I could bring back some extra toys and items that my children no longer used. Her response was elation. And then her next words kind of hit me in the heart. She said the children hadnât played with toys since they moved from the shelter they had been staying at just a couple of weeks before. She said when the mother fled her home, they left everything behind.
As I shared this story with other moms I knew, my dining room quickly filled with donations of diapers, hand-me-downs, blankets, and clothes for the family. It was close to Christmas and my childrenâs daycare bought a large bag full of new toys for each of the four children which I dropped off Christmas Eve. My sisterâs employer donated nearly $300 in grocery store gift cards, It was truly an overwhelming experience of how sharing a story of hardship channels so much good. Iâm happy to say that just a year later the woman found a job in a different part of the province. And her employer allows the kids free childcare so she can have them close by. To me, this is an example of what happens when people come forward with small acts of kindness â it adds up to a community response.
I recently joined an organization, 100 Women Who Care Halifax, who has this theory figured out. 100 Women Who Care Halifax was founded by Jennifer Salib Huber and Colette Robicheau with the goal of supporting local charities through 100 local women. The group comes together four times a year, votes on a shortlist of three randomly drawn charities, each member writes a cheque for $100 and hands the winning charity $10,000 at the end of the evening. And we did it! We had our first meeting in March 2013 and selected Bryony House as the recipient of the first donation. The other two finalists were The Brunswick Street Mission and Breakfast for Learning.
Giving money to these types of organizations so they can use the money where itâs most needed is one a way to build stronger communities. But the opportunities are everywhere. Charities like Bryony House now use social media to post requests for items they need. Schools always need help, even if itâs just spending an hour at lunch time. Stopping to talk to an elderly neighbor for a few minutes could just make their day.
We donât have to get caught up in the bigness of things. Start by thinking small. You may be surprised at what one small act of kindness can achieve
I get beeped at a lot. Usually when Iâm attempting to make a left turn. The kind where thereâs no arrow and Iâm hoping a car doesnât fly out of nowhere and sideswipe me as I brave the open space.Â So I tend to be cautious and wait a couple of extra seconds. Other cars donât like this.
On one recent occasion where a driver expressed his dismay, it got kind of awkward.Â He followed me through the turn and then ended up pulling into the same parking lot. Turns out he was going to the same recreation facility. I was taking my daughter to dance class. And he had his daughter with him. Now, my husband warns me constantly not to confront people who beep at me. But this time the situation just kind of presented itself. As we walked nearly in unison to the front door I couldnât help it.
âDid you beep at me?â I asked. (it didnât come out all cool like that. I was miffed but pretend -smiling).
âYes, I did,â he replied bravely.Â âYou should have made the turn.â
âI was being cautious,â I said.
âYou missed your window. â
âI prefer to focus on safety,â I replied. âEspecially when my daughter is with me.âÂ I threw in the last part thinking he would apologize. Instead, he took the opportunity to point out that clearly I shouldnât be driving if Iâm nervous in traffic and blah, blah, blah âŚ (I covered my daughterâs ears).Â Turns out my husband is right on this one. Never confront someone who is beeping at you. Itâs a clue theyâve got a bit of built up road rage ready to boil over.
So, hereâs the sad truth â and this is not one Iâve easily shared in the past. Twenty-five years ago this month, I was in a very bad car accident. Our high school girlâs basketball team was driving back from an away game.Â The snow snuck up on us and the roads had quickly become treacherous. The car I was in slid sideways into an oncoming truck. It hit us on the right hand-side, the side where I was sitting. My two friends in the back beside me had injuries but were alive.Â I had a broken leg and concussion (which Iâm grateful for because it made me forget everything). But tragically and horribly, our dear friend Belle, as well as her Dad, who were in the front died instantly.
So now that my story is in black and white it seems pretty obvious why I hesitate when turning left. The crazy thing is that it was only in the past couple of months as I was relaying to my husband of yet another example of a rude driver beeping at me, that something in my brain clicked. That this fear of being side swiped actually has an origin. That the âbeepersâ were only pointing out something I wasnât yet ready to see.
We are shaped by our successes and we are shaped by our sorrows. Itâs easier to focus on our successes, but there are lessons in both.Â Sometimes we get the same feedback at work over and over, but we still blame those who are delivering the message. Other times weâre the ones making the judgements and perhaps could use a bit more compassion. Either way, thereâs never a better time then now to start to bring more awareness to how life can move more smoothly for you.
Pay attention to what youâre complaining about. You might be missing a sign.
In the meantime, if you see me at left turn, stop beeping at me â Iâm working on it!
With September feeling to many like the start of a new year it’s a great time to re-visit Step One in my book, NAIL IT! and do the contrast to clarity exercise.Â It will help you focus on what you really want in the coming months. Here’s a review of my book, Simple steps to a good job make for a self-help book that works that I finally have a pdf to post. Thanks to reviewer extraordinaire Kaye Parker.
For pdf click here MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW
Progress Magazineâs âBest Places to Work Issueâ August 2011
By Karen Kelloway
I highly suspect that Lu is suffering from career burnout, but he isnât your typical employee. Still, twice a day Lu performs at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Earlier this year under the hot Florida sun, my son and I joined the audience that watched him emerge from his shaded spot among the water lilies to take his position in front of a trainer for his noontime feeding.
âLu used to be a movie star,â the trainer said through the microphone hooked around her ear. She threw a quartered cantaloupe in the air as Lu made a colossal effort to catch it in his large mouth. âBut Lu didnât follow directions well. He was considered stubborn, so he retired early from the movies and has lived here ever since.â
The trainer continued to shell out quartered and halved melons from her bucket as she waited patiently for Lu to open wide. âLu of course doesnât need us to cut up his fruit like this,â she added. âHe can easily eat a watermelon whole. We just cut them up to make the show more entertaining.â At that point I swear I saw Lu roll his eyes.
Why am I using a 6,000 pound hippo to illustrate my point? Because it does show what happens when a âstarâ employee gets caught up in the trap of being coaxed into taking on more and more work just because theyâre good at it. Then weeks or even days later, theyâve moved from feeling energized to drained.
When I was researching my book, Nail It! Six Steps to Transform Your Career, I came across this quote by Peter Drucker that seemed to address this career conundrum: âA personâs strengths and the way that person performs rarely conflict; the two are complementary. But there is sometimes a conflict between a personâs values and his or her strengths. What one does wellâeven very well and successfullyâmay not fit with oneâs value system.â
Think about that: just because youâre good at something doesnât mean it aligns with what you value. I find this a fascinating and relevant take on career burnout. You can see how we get into a hamster wheel of relentless forward motion and yet donât feel satisfied with the output. We owe it to ourselves to get aligned.
Recently, I was delighted to hear Chris Power, the CEO of Capital Health, talk about this topic at the Human Resource Association of Nova Scotiaâs 2011 conference. Power referenced the leadership program her organization has undertaken and the impact itâs having on integrating employeesâ passions into their daily roles and responsibilities.
One example I particularly liked was of a mailroom clerk who loves to paint. Power spoke to the employee about how she could integrate painting into her daily responsibilities. When the employee realized that painting didnât fit into her mailroom duties, she started spending some of her lunch breaks painting with veterans in a long-term care facility. This volunteer activity heightened her enthusiasm for her regular work, and she showed up more motivated. Power is a CEO who gets the importance of aligning employeeâs personal values with the organization.
What do you value? Whatâs most important to you? Are your values being honored and respected at work? This isnât always easy to decipher. One of my clients, a busy executive with a young family, was having a hard time articulating how her core value of âfamilyâ could be present in her career. The feeling that she was choosing work over family frustrated her; it was beginning to diminish her career enjoyment.
While working through this issue, she realized that she had to be more specific in letting others know how to support her. When she was on deadline and feeling productive at work, she needed her familyâs support so she could work the extra time to meet the deadline. On the flip side, she had to take control of her schedule so if she wanted to take her son to the library on a Friday afternoon, she had her colleaguesâ support. She named what she needed so she could make value-based decisions.
We all have the responsibility to check in and see if weâre living our values. Some call it a gut feeling; others call it intuition. If itâs not happening, it keeps you up at night. It creates tension in your stomach when youâve agreed to something you wish you hadnât. Itâs when you experience something at work that doesnât align with your values. Itâs your âinternal alignment detector.â Weâre much more content in our career if we pay attention to it.Â Itâs something to think about the next time you feel yourself biting off more than you want to chew.
Questions for Reflection
Connections â that was the theme of this years conference for the Human Resource Association of Nova Scotia.
I did a workshop based on my career book, NAIL IT! Six Steps to Transform Your Career.
I had a great group of about 40 HR professionals interested in getting some tips to take back to their workplace. We spent the majority of our time talking about how to Name and Reframe what we want in our ideal work experience and then integrating our personal values into the kinds of projects and responsibilities we take on in our daily tasks. When something is off in our career, most of us tend to start down the road of focusing on all the things that arenât working. So use that information and Reframe the negative into what your ideal would look like if you had it your way.
I love how one workshop participant described this tendency to start focusing on whatâs not going well. She said when things are working, we donât usually stop and think about why they are working, we just enjoy the work. But when things arenât going well, we tend to stop and ask why and focus on that.
Leadership coaching focuses on both and supports individuals in moving their experiences (good and bad) into meaningful productive work that benefits both themselves and the organization.
How can we connect with what is important to us so that we can get more of that in our career? Whether you are transforming your career or are transitioning to something completely different. The process is the same. It starts with Naming what you want. Thatâs the first step in my book . Try It!
My daughter, Gabrielle, recently turned three. Like every other parent, I wanted her birthday to be perfect. Just before I carried over the cake I thought I should get a photo of it â you know, for her album. As I looked through the lens, tipping the plate up with my free hand to get a better angle, the cake slipped right off the plateâŚright onto me. Smoosh. And if that wasnât bad enough, in my effort to save the cake I dropped the cameraâŚ.which landed in the icing. As the kiddie choir started belting out âHappy Birthdayâ, I hurriedly pieced the cake back together, wiped enough frosting off the lens to get a passable photo of my daughter blowing out her #3 candle, and smiled as my daughter delighted in icing-filled bites of delicious cake. Phew.
As hard as it is for perfection-seeking beings (eg. most of you reading this) to accept â a seven out of ten sometimes is perfection. Itâs all about accepting whatâs important in the moment.
In my book, Nail It! Six Steps to Transform Your Career, I talk about living in the moment and enjoying the success youâve created as a way of creating greater success and fulfillment. Hereâs an excerpt from the last chapter âLet Your Vision Catch Up to You.â
âWe often think we have to do everything at once. What if we chose instead to focus on the handful of things we can do well, right now, at this stage of our lives? Whatâs most important to you right now? What activitiesâboth at home and at workâare fueling you and giving you the most enjoyment? How can you do more of that?
This is what it means to live in the now. Having a personal vision or story to guide you helps you make the best daily and weekly decisions as to where to focus next. A personal vision really comes down to what success looks like for you and what you want to achieve in your life.âÂ (Nail It! p. 134)
My 2011 wish for you is that you define what success is for yourself and stop to enjoy the cake along the way. For me, Iâm going to stick to what I do well â baking the cake. From now on, Iâll let someone else take the pictures.
âKaren Kelloway offers clear and useful strategies in helping you approach your work life with dignity and consciousness. She has coached high level clients, and you can take in her wisdom, motivation and strategy right here. You have the talent, dream, and instincts to make anything possible. Begin your journey today!â â Â Tama J. Kieves, bestselling author of This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love (How One Harvard Lawyer Left It All to Have It All!)
Oh how Iâve resisted the Blog. For years people have been suggesting â quite strongly in some cases â that I simply must blog. All the gurus are doing it, they argue. How can you possibly create a following if youâre not providing fresh content, they say. I hear you. AndâŚIâm still thinking about it. Because I still have this niggly feeling that the people I coach and the people in my workshops and the people who read my books already have a full schedule and then some. They have a hard enough time keeping up with their e-mails. How are they going to find time to read a Blog? Â If theyâre going to invest their precious time to surf the net itâs to plan a desperate escape to some tropical island â or at least thatâs what I do.
âŚWhat I do love, though, is providing information, coaching and support that helps people create more success and enjoyment in their careers. And if I think about a Blog as a way of supporting that goal, then I can better embrace the idea of using this new medium. Our actions have to align with our values if weâre going to feel good about our work. Â In my book, Nail It! Six Steps to Transform Your Career, I talk a lot about how to figure out what you value, whatâs most important to you and then translate that into your ideal career. So letâs start there. What are your top three values, what do they mean to you and how are they showing up for you in your current career? You can read Step Two: Acknowledge It for some further thinking and support on values.
Iâve also learned along the way to listen to that niggly feeling â sometimes called intuition â that is telling me peopleâs time is precious. So, hereâs my plan. Because I value meaningful connections, Iâm committing to connecting through this Blog. Because I value your time, I’ll keep my posts minimal. Â Iâm open to building a community of followers who are open to becoming wildly successful and fulfilled in their careers. So Iâve left room for comments where you can share your own experiences of how you are using Nail It! and the coaching ideas within my book. We can all learn from each other, in a way that works for us. We can all create work that we love and a life we enjoy. So letâs get started.