Victimhood: How to Turn It Around and Take the Lead

Earlier this week I opened a new Facebook page and set up a new website. “What, another one?” I can hear my friends say as they read that sentence. Yep I did. But it had nothing to do with business. The page is Facebook.com/WildfireSurvivors and the site is WildfireSurvivors.com.
WildfireFlamesSmall
You see, it’s been three years since our wildfire – the one where two people died, over 14,000 acres burned and 509 homes were destroyed, including mine. And during those three years, it took time for some of us to stop thinking of ourselves as victims.

Have you been through your own personal “wildfire?” If so, then tell me if this is true for you:

Phase I: We tell our story because it’s a very big event in our lives. At first, it’s all about trying to cope with the trauma. Then, we relive the experience in some way each day because we’re trying to manage the “mop up” details – all the things that need to be done after the fact. For a while, our whole world revolves around the event. It’s the “gift” that keeps on giving. Every day there’s a new issue to deal with, another memory to face, one more decision to make, grief that shows up in varying ways.

Phase 2: You start to feel uncomfortable when people talk about it because you know others who are much worse off. You’re still slogging through the situation, but now you may feel a little guilt. You may not feel like you deserve the good things, the kind things, that are coming your way. People are bending over backwards for you, but in a way, it’s keeping you stuck in a role you’d like to be rid of.

Phase 3: You’ve learned a lot by going through this “adventure”. You’d like to put it to work in a constructive way, so others need not go through the frustration you faced. But perhaps your first attempts to be of service are awkward – it feels like it’s all about you. People may say to put it behind you and move on. You tell yourself, “I can’t let this define me.” After all, you’ve got other responsibilities to handle and you’re not the only one who’s been through something like this.

Phase 4: Then, a lightbulb goes on. Something channels that energy in a different direction and it’s now easier to see how to turn the “lemon” into proverbial lemonade. Your ideas may become a cause – a worthy endeavor others relate to and want to get behind. You’ve found a way to leverage the lessons learned into a tool people can use to make things better.

Now, it does define you – but in a whole new way. A healthier way. And you couldn’t have gotten there by going from zero to sixty all at once. The process was necessary. Only because of that process can you apply insights you earned to have an impact on those who come next.

And that’s how WildfireSurvivors.com was born!

So whatever you went through, whatever you faced, it may be time to turn it around and take the lead!

Please Make It Stop! How One Woman Spotted a Company Crisis

One day, in the middle of a call center, a very pregnant young lady (as opposed to being just a little bit pregnant) stood in the middle of the aisle that ran between dozens of cubicles and shouted at the top of her lungs: “Someone please listen to me! Something terrible is happening!” And it had nothing to do with being pregnant.

Company Crisis Solved by Laura Benjamin

THE STORY:

She was from Accounts Receivable. For days she’d been getting angry phone calls from customers saying the company had cleaned out their checking accounts. They’d placed a phone order for a few items and were charged for a whole lot more. One lady ordered 11 items and was charged for 110.

Customer Service had also gotten calls from folks who desperately begged, “Please, make it stop!” Delivery guys showed up at their doors and unloaded boxes upon boxes of product. One lady had asked that her items be delivered to her office. So there she was, holding the door open for the delivery guy, crying on the phone with boxes of product piling up all around her.

  • People who’d requested Express Delivery (like FedEx) were charged the $25 fee, multiplied by the quantity they’d never ordered.
  • Rapidly reduced inventory levels triggered purchasing, prompting automated requests to manufacturers to resupply depleted stock.
  • Shipping had to bring in extra trucks and add people to the packing line.
  • Phone reps didn’t know whether to ask for product to be returned or tell customers to keep it. 

It was totally out of control. And nobody had put the pieces together until this frustrated young lady from Accounts Receivable demanded attention.

Your current safe boundaries were once unknown frontiers —Unknown

She’d tried to sound the alarm the nice way, the quiet way, the politically correct way. And nobody listened. Nobody took her seriously.

Till she made a spectacle of herself. They everybody noticed! And they hustled to pull together a team that worked late into the night trying to figure it all out.

HOW THE CRISIS WAS SOLVED

Turns out someone had worked on the phone order system a few days earlier. He’d removed the phone order audit filter, which allowed the computer system to add a “0” or “1” to the quantity of each order placed by phone. And he forgot to switch it back on.

It took a while, but the problem was solved. Protocols were created. Customers were made whole. And after a while, things returned to normal.

But nobody looked at that outspoken young lady quite the same way again.

She was a hero. She took a risk. She knew something was seriously wrong and took the bull by the horns. She put the pieces together.

And she had a healthy baby girl!

WHAT PEOPLE SAY THAT MAY SHUT US DOWN

People say lots of things that discourage us from stating concerns, frustrations, requests for action or change, including:   

  • You’re just too sensitive
  • You’re making a mountain out of a molehill
  • She’s such a troublemaker
  • He’s not a team player
  • You’re not open-minded OR you’re too open-minded
  • You’re being insensitive and might offend someone
  • She’s just too fussy
  • He’s always so negative
  • You’re not being strategic enough

And if we accept those labels and back down, it’s likely because it’s more about us than the issue at hand. We don’t want to rock the boat or appear uncooperative. Maybe we dislike conflict. We worry about our image and reputation.

Maybe more problems would be solved. Maybe we’d mentor more decisive and courageous leaders. Maybe confidence would grow and people would be willing to tackle more gnarly challenges.

Don’t let someone tell you that your issue or concerns are not important. Don’t let them shame you into becoming a mediocre player. Excellence is not always a popular place to be.

So, whatever happened to the guy who removed the audit filter? (People were placing bets.)

He kept his job. The leadership team knew that everyone makes mistakes, which often reveal vulnerabilities and creates an environment where problem solvers will shine!

Warning! Outspoken Woman Ahead

So I went and did it. I spent $30 to have a banner made, which I hung between two trees at the front of our property, on a main road, for all the world to see. Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you were willing to make a fool of yourself?

Confident Woman, Confident Leader

Yes, I could have been the person who kept my mouth shut. After all, much of my work comes from organizations that prefer people avoid picking sides in public.

But, it’s a risk I was willing to take.

Colorado Care Amendment 69

Some things are THAT important. (Colorado folks, read about A69 here. And yup, poor choice picking that number.)

FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU SPEAK UP

There are lots of pros and cons when deciding whether to speak up or play it safe. I believe I’ve pondered them all, including the following:

1. There is a time and place for everything. You’ve probably heard the saying, “There’s nothing worse than a reformed (fill in the blank.)” And I’m sure you’ve known people who are so enthusiastic about their latest cause, lifestyle or product that you hide when you see ‘em comin’. So think carefully about when, where and under what circumstances you’ll get the best reception for your message.

2. You may lose friends. It’s sad when people who have known you forever will break off a friendship over one issue, but it does happen. (Have you discussed politics on Facebook lately?) Relationships we have spent years or decades building should not be put at risk because of a difference of opinion. Nobody can agree 100 percent of the time and it takes two to tango, so try to be the person who maintains the friendship. You can have both.

3. People are fragile. They may have experienced trauma, so they feel vulnerable and fearful. They can only take so much controversy or upset in their lives at this point. This is especially true for folks who struggle with depression and anxiety. They are the best judge of how much they can handle. Respect their wishes, no matter how important your issue might seem.

4. Show them they’re not alone. It’s amazing what happens when you freely admit you’ve struggled with something – a health issue, a moral quandary, significant loss, doubts or indecision, etc. People who have experienced something similar will be SO relieved they’re not the only ones! You may give them courage by sharing your story. They will be thankful someone finally said what they’ve been thinking (or experiencing) all along.

5. Pick your battles. (You’ve heard this before.) We don’t have to weigh in on every issue. Figure out what’s worth “going to the mat” for and let someone else take the lead on other issues.

6. Become informed. There are so many GOOD sources for information available these days. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by spin doctors, and I think you know who they are. Dig deeper. Listen to folks you respect, who have a head on their shoulders. Too many people buy into the drama and disregard the backstory. Look at the bigger picture. Remember that history does tend to repeat itself.

7. Give them time. People who are naturally more skeptical or cautious may need time to digest your information. They are good poker players and won’t divulge their opinion right away, while others will light up immediately like a neon sign. Be satisfied you’ve planted a seed.

8. Be transparent – it’s refreshing. Jerri Marr, forest supervisor and face of Colorado’s 2012 Waldo Canyon Wildfire communication efforts said, “The words ‘I don’t know’ will set you free” as she spoke about leading through crisis. People are hungering for someone to be straight with them – who will tell them the truth without a hidden agenda. They may not agree with you, but they sure will respect you.

In summary: I believe that when we step forward and speak up, we hope it will count for something. Someone’s life will be better off. A problem will be solved. But if not, at least you build skills that may be useful in the future. And ya never know, you may inspire someone to become more of a leader than they’d ever imagined, just because they saw you in action! 

How to Leverage Learning with Social Media, Blogs, Podcasts, Images and Video

If you teach, coach, train or offer learning in any way – for customers, co-workers, emerging leaders, volunteers, donors, board members or project teams, you have an invaluable set of tools at your disposal for little or no cost. So, don’t be a dinosaur! Leverage social media, blogs, audio podcasts, images and video to extend your learning using these tips below. (They are also the basis of a free PDF booklet I’m writing on this topic.)

Social media, content development, training tools to leverage learning

Assumptions We Make About Social Media Tools:

  • Pul-lease! We are serious business people who must focus on more important matters than playing around online
  • I don’t have time for this nonsense
  • It’s only for kids who live in their parents’ basements
  • It’s dangerous because I might say something wrong and lose my job
  • I’m a private person and don’t believe in airing dirty laundry with the world
  • I’m not a tekkie – I don’t “get” this stuff
  • No one’s taught me how to use these tools
  • It’s just a fad and will soon die out
  • What I had for lunch is nobody’s business
  • There’s no return on investment (ROI)

Benefits of Using Social Media Tools:

  • Will help you stay relevant with your learners
  • Has been embraced by ALL age groups (over 50 crowd are biggest adopters)
  • It’s another way of communicating – just like Gutenberg’s printing press
  • Makes you more marketable – job candidates are expected to have this knowledge
  • Connects you with those who won’t normally speak up in a classroom
  • Expands your “reach” beyond the organization and geographic boundaries
  • Helps you promote your training class or conference session to put “butts in seats”
  • Provides a platform to share your position
  • Reinforces traditional, formal learning methods
  • Is an effective listening and feedback tool (often, people only tell you what they think you want to hear)
  • Sends learning straight into their mobile device so they can “get it on the go”
  • Can replace or supplement more costly learning and communication methods
  • Because it’s public, it will help establish you as a subject matter expert
  • Maximizes “Personal Learning Networks” and the informal learning process
  • It’s easy to share the learning across platforms via share buttons
  • …and much more!

Social Media and Content Development Tips

There’s SO much that can be done with content creation that you may easily get overwhelmed. Help yourself stay organized and use the “grid” approach. Block by block, module by module, develop content that can be used multiple ways rather than a scatter-shot approach. You don’t have to recreate the wheel. Leverage something you’ve already created.

Create an Editorial Calendar. Plan out the learning topics you’ll feature each week, perhaps to coincide with your training calendar. Break your curriculum down into bullet points, organized by learning objectives. These bullet points can be used as video topics, tweets, Facebook posts, a starting point for articles, tip sheets, PDF booklets, etc. Research links to online articles and/or videos to reinforce/supplement your learning objectives.

Collect images that are NOT stock photos – especially avoid the highly diverse crowd in suits with arms folded. Take pictures of things that reinforce learning points and insert into blog articles, tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates. Pictures of people’s faces, babies, animals and food seem to be more popular than anything else.

Create a “community” page on Facebook. You can make it closed/private or open to anyone, then invite students to join. Post useful information daily. Invite students to share their discoveries and insights with the group and ask questions. Invite a colleague to help you manage this otherwise it will consume your life. Put some guidelines in place regarding acceptable behaviors and things that could get someone banned from the group.

Set up a blog. Purchase a domain name ($15/year via Godaddy), then download the free WordPress software available with any hosting service (about $90/year). Use this blog as “home base” where you can publish articles, tips, etc. to supplement class content. With a blog, you own that real estate, whereas with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, they could change the rules and pull the plug on you anytime. If your organization has a blog, find out if you could be a regular contributor with a learning column.

Embrace Video. It’s projected that 70% of online traffic by 2017 will be video.

  • So, set up a YouTube Channel now. Make sure it has YOUR name on it. Why? Because you may change jobs and some organizations will limit/prevent you uploading video to their Channel. You may put a lot of work into building it up and attracting subscribers and you certainly don’t want to have to start over again.
  • Create “playlists” of other useful, relevant videos and title them according to subject category.
  • Upload short videos (2 minutes or less) you shoot with your mobile device or camcorder. Insert your blog URL into the video description, along with what people will learn. Make the title of the video descriptive. Use YouTube to teach you how to set up the channel.
  • Uploading video to YouTube takes time: about 40 minutes for each 2 minute video depending on your internet connection speed.
  • Videos can be segments of your classroom training, interviews with students about key learning points, a Q&A format (they ask, you answer or the other way around), a demonstration, etc.

Post updates on LinkedIn vs “Pulse” articles. Unless you’re a celebrity or CEO, Pulse articles don’t seem to capture as many eyeballs as in the past. You may get more views by publishing a link to an article on your blog which features a video. Use LinkedIn to connect with students and other subject matter experts. Avoid re-posting the same old stuff (SOS) that everyone else recycles. While Forbes and Inc. articles are great, we see them shared over and over again.

Create an audio podcast. Choose a theme for your “show” and be clear on the interests/needs of your audience. Spent $100 on a good microphone with a USB connection. Sign up for a service that will “host” your audio shows and will generate a link you can embed into your blog or social media posts. Why? Audio files are big, as are videos. I use Libsyn, which costs about $5-15/month. Have a graphic designer or use Canva to create “show art.” Get details about image specifications here or on iTunes.

Summary

Focus your content on information that is useful, actionable AND entertaining. People don’t spend time on boring stuff. Your goal is to engage them so they keep coming back for more! Take a risk. Make ‘em laugh.

We have the greatest learning tools at our disposal now more than ever before. And the best thing is, you don’t have to spend a lot of money or become a technological whiz to extend and enhance your training. Take it one topic and tool at a time. I promise, you’ll soon establish a rhythm and spot new ways to apply the learning as you get used to how these tools perform.

It’ll take some time, but the payoff is huge! And if you get stuck, send me a note

Independent Thought Alarm and Principle of Legitimacy in Leadership and Governance

People aren’t complicated. Human nature is fairly predictable. And we don’t need a plethora of rules and regulations to define every possible way a person might step out of line. Typically, we can boil it all down to the basics – a few simple things most people want and deserve.

Governance and Leadership Independent Thought and Principle of Legitimacy

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27 Things I’d Like to Tell My Co-workers

I get letters! People love to share their opinions, insights and frustrations. And as long as I don’t name names, they give me permission to pass along most of their comments. Recently, I wrote about 27 things I’d like to tell my manager. Now, here’s what some of you say you’d like to tell your co-workers:

27 Things I'd Like to Tell My Co-workers

  1. Back away from the perfume bottle! This isn’t date night. Some of us are allergic and what seems “light” to you makes the rest of us gag.
  2. I’d like to help you because it seems you’re having a difficult time. But you won’t let anyone in. You don’t have to do this all by yourself, you know.
  3. We’re all in this together. It’s not a competition. I’m not out to get you or make you look bad in front of the boss.
  4. When I screw up, would you please come to me first rather than make it a topic of conversation in the break room?
  5. Kudos to the person who holds down the fort when everyone else goes out to lunch or to a conference.
  6. You might think an office flirtation is pretty exciting. But we all know you’re married. It impacts your reputation and can come back to bite you.
  7. I’m nervous about bringing up ideas in our meeting. Would someone support me vs. immediately shoot me down?
  8. Give the new boss a break. Give them time to get their bearings, learn who’s who and figure out how things work around here before we pass judgment.
  9. I want you to show up on time, do your job and quit bellyaching.
  10. At our next meeting, let’s thank someone in the room who helped us out that week.
  11. On the first day of my new job, would someone invite me to join them for lunch? It would help me feel like I fit in.
  12. How about if we all chip in to buy creamer and salad dressing rather than take it from someone else’s stash?
  13. I “loved” it when you took my picture down off the wall to make room for your latest award plaque.
  14. The microwave is a disgrace. Please cover your food when you cook it and wipe up the spills. Nobody wants to clean up after you.
  15. You have no idea how you brightened my day by poking your happy face in the door. You’re a breath of fresh air!
  16. I get that you’re a “hugger” but some of us freak out when we see you coming. Please give us some space.
  17. That time you covered for me when my kid was sick – I can’t tell you how much I appreciated it.
  18. Why is it we all get along ‘til it’s time to leave the parking lot?
  19. We need to lighten up around here. This is not national defense.
  20. Not cool to adjust your pants and parts in public.
  21. I accepted a job here because you worked here first. I’m glad I trusted your taste in employers.
  22. We don’t want to hear details about your latest operation or see pictures. Some of us have sensitive stomachs.
  23. I’ve learned more about how to handle disappointment and stress because of the way you manage yourself. You have no idea how much I admire your strength.
  24. Some of us are on the phone with customers. Please be considerate and use your “inside voice.”
  25. Momma always said, “You get more bees with honey than vinegar!”
  26. You’re one of the kindest people I know.
  27. Please pull up your pants and put on your shoes.

Got any others you’d like to add to the list? Send me a note. I promise to keep it anonymous!

13 Email Pet Peeves That Drive People Crazy

Last week I facilitated two days of customer service training for a manufacturing firm. One of the topics we covered was email pet peeves. Here are just a few that drive people crazy. Any of these strike a chord with you?

email tips and pet peeves

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6 Ways to Take Charge of Your Life

A couple weeks ago I smelled something funky in my car. I live in the woods, so I thought maybe a mouse had crawled up in there and died. I put up with it figuring it couldn’t last too long. But four days later when I took the car out again, the smell was horrendous! This time I went in search of the cause, looking under the seats, in the glove compartment and finally in the trunk. And what to my wondering eyes did appear? Nope, it wasn’t eight tiny reindeer. It was five bags of garbage and some used kitty litter. Whoops. I had planned to take that to the dumpster.

5 Ways to Take Charge of Your Life

So I ask you, what are you carrying around that’s making your life unpleasant? Do you want things to get better? Want to take charge?

  1. Stop wishing that X would be different. Instead, decide what you can do today to wring the most good you can out of it. I don’t know of one person who isn’t grappling with circumstances that weren’t of their choosing. “This isn’t how I imagined my life would be” might have crossed your mind once or twice. Believe me, no one is exempt. Yes, you’re stuck for the time being, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find joy somewhere in there. Ask yourself, “If not for X what would I have missed out on?”
  2. Set a “horror floor” of how low you’ll go until you decide “enough is enough.” Too often we allow scope creep to transform our life into something we’d never have chosen. Boundaries get stretched. You agree to overlook it just this once. (But NEXT time, whoa baby, watch out!) So put some standards in place. And if you relax them in a moment of weakness, know that tomorrow you can give it another go. Just because you slipped off the horse once doesn’t mean it has to become a permanent state.
  3. Ask for what you want. It’s not being selfish to go after something that’s important to you. Too often, we feel we have to be satisfied with the leftovers. Of course, that means we have to take the time to figure out what we DO want. We have to be able to articulate it. And we have to think enough of ourselves to believe we deserve it. That’s what assertiveness looks like.
  4. Learn something new. It’ll engage your mind, increase confidence and maybe make you more marketable. It’ll open your world up to new opportunities. This year I learned how to shoot and edit video for client projects. At first I felt like a dummy. I couldn’t even figure out how to get the video file out of the camcorder and onto my Mac. (Oh, a card reader? Huh. How ‘bout that.) Here’s the key: it’s something you can do without permission from anyone else. It puts you in charge. You get to choose.
  5. Re-arrange the furniture. Do it at home or in your office. You will feel IN CONTROL! It’s a great way to start handling things. Feel what it’s like to make a positive change in your environment. Of course you’ll want to leave the light on at night for a while so you don’t stumble into anything in the dark. But then again, you might bump into something you haven’t noticed in a while. 
  6. Define what success looks like. But remember, you don’t have to go from zero to 100 in 60 seconds to be an achiever. There are a lot of points along the scale that would qualify. Is someone listening to you who never did before? Can you wake up at least one morning each week without fear or dread? Have you earned even 10% more than you did last year? Are you now able to call a spade a spade? Forward movement counts. And again, you get to decide where the bar is set.

Have you already tackled something on that list? How did it work out for you?