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(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

Yesterday while running around in circles on the track at my local recreation center (Baby, it’s cold outside!), I finished listening to the audio book mentioned in my most recent post. Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Most From Your People by Edward M. Hallowell, MD, continues to spark my thinking. And, yes, though I still don’t have my “own” people to manage, the truth is we all have our own people. Hallowell had a book to write about motivating people, but when he met the shoe-shiner he calls Dr. Shine, that’s when he figured out how he really wanted to direct the book.

Dr. Shine told Hallowell he worked for him—just as he works for anyone whose shoes he is shining. Here’s a man who believes in trying to find the spark in everyone he serves in that job. Not sure if he knows anything about yoga, but that sounds a whole lot like the phrase that ends most yoga classes: Namaste or I bow to the divine in you. In yoga classes, this is a reciprocal phrase spoken between teachers and students. But do most people whose shoes are being shined think to reach out to the people, such as Dr. Shine, who are serving them? Do they see the spark in him or tell him they do?

Come to think of it, do I do that? No, I don’t get my shoes shined, but there are many people in my world—personal and otherwise—who help me along my way.

Sure, I thank my servers and try to respond to their well wishes with a hearty “you too”, but do I actually express my gratitude to the people who “serve” me more frequently—my exercise instructors, my physical therapist, my minister, my choir director, and other people working with me from a specific role in my life. And beyond that, do I let my loved ones know what I especially appreciate about who they are and what they do for me?

No, I don’t. I am quietly grateful for all these people, but rarely show anything more than polite appreciation, if that.

My mother was a great encourager to those who gave to her. In her last years she kept busy baking dinner rolls for the pharmacy or the doctor’s office staffs to show her gratitude. She really did let people know she appreciated what they did, even if they were just performing their paid jobs. Plus, she would give compliments to the young people she knew at her church, pointing out their strengths and applauding their learning and growth.

Nonetheless, for me she kept her approval more silent. I always knew she appreciated me, but I mostly heard that when she sang out my praises to other people in my hearing. In those last years she would tell people, “She takes care of me.” Of course I did—she was my mother—but it was still really nice to hear that she valued what I did for her.

Thinking about Dr. Shine made me realize just how stingy I am with words of praise for those who are frequently in my life.

I tell my husband I love him, but forget to let him know how much I appreciate the meals he makes for me and the income he earns to provide for our family. I tell others how much he does for me, but remain silent more often than not to him. It would be easy for him to think I don’t notice that his efforts, as well as his belief in me, are a big part of why I have the time and strength to do what I do.

The same is true for my kids. They don’t expect false words of praise from me, but would it be so hard for me to share with them what really impresses me about them?

So yesterday, inspired by Dr. Shine, I told my son, “You know, I think it’s great that you look for what is good in each person and you often keep looking.” He’s no Pollyanna, which is what makes that even more impressive—he has this mission to bring hope into this world even while being pragmatic about the high odds that the world and people will still disappoint.

My daughter has had so many health challenges to face and she gets so weary. However, through all that, she works hard at school and in jobs. So many people in her shoes would not even try, but she is compelled to do her best, even when that comes with a big personal cost. And still, she feels kindness matters, even when she doesn’t experience it in great doses.

My yoga teacher? She changed my life and outlook and helps me through difficulties—physical and otherwise. My physical therapist moves me back to wellness. My minister reaches my soul and strengthens my faith, even when I want to turn away. My choir director challenges me to learn in new ways and in so doing reminds me of what I already know and that I might yet discover more. Those are just some of the people who improve my journey and who I never give more than a quiet “thank you”, if that.

You don’t have to be a manager to make a difference in people’s lives and that’s what Dr. Shine already knows. Treat people as people who were each created with a unique spark and thank them for how that spark helps you. That’s the real meaning of all those Namastes and Peace be with yous and Also with yous that we mouth back and forth to one another.

Namaste—I bow to the divine in you—and may I yet learn to tell all my people that.

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

We’ve all had that rotten service encounter with the disinterested or rude employee. Oh, I’m sure some of them are just tired of dealing with disinterested or rude customers/clients/patients. But that’s not always the whole story. Often, when service encounters go wrong, management policies have something to do with them. Does the company make it easy for the service representative to do his or her job? And does the company reward employees for providing good service or are they rewarded (or punished) based on markers that show little value for good service?

Even before I was an obnoxious MBA who studied such things, I really believed that companies that treated employees well achieved better business success under most conditions. What’s good for people tends to be good for organizations. As a high school and college student worker, I lucked out, working for people who also seemed to believe what I believed. Then I got out into the real world.

There I encountered people who seemed to work from the belief that employees don’t really want to work and that they should just do their jobs well because they are paid to do them. Talk about beating down a person’s desire to do a good job. The thing is just as there are some employees who always want to get away with the least amount of work, there are also employees who will work their hardest to do a good job no matter how badly you treat them.

But what about the rest of the people? Well, I believe those are the people companies have the power to engage or disengage. When I worked for those who managed by the “people are no damn good” school of philosophy, I watched many intelligent, hard-working, creative people become employees who just didn’t care—or worse, who became blatantly counterproductive. For lack of decent treatment from management, they became detriments to profit.

Maybe because of my various working situations, I still believe what I believed before I entered the real world and before I studied such things in class. Treating people well lifts up most—not just people but organizational structures. I may have been working for myself—a quasi-living-in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world situation—but I have been part of committees, boards, and groups, plus experienced how schools, churches, medical institutions, and businesses interact with me and mine. You can have your “dog eat dog” philosophies and I’ll take my “do unto others” philosophy—which I’ll argue to my dying day is not only good for society, but also for the bottom line.

I seek out nonfiction sources and authors that help me—and help the world, whether that’s reading about scientific, psychological, personal, societal, or management concerns. You can often find me listening to these types of books while I exercise or perform chores.

The current book in (on?) my phone is Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best From Your People by Edward M. Hallowell, MD. I know I really don’t have any “people” from whom to get the most, but if I did, I’d want to use brain science for doing so—especially since the science seems to support my core beliefs after all. Hallowell and I go way back—when our family was just starting on our understanding of the ADD journey, I read and listened to what he (and co-author John Ratey) had to say about the science of ADD and various strategies for working with and excelling with the condition.

Turns out he’s spent many years talking to many people—with ADD and without—who feel burned out from doing their jobs. Much of what he was applying to help people get re-engaged in their work helped him to see what employers could gain by providing environments where employees naturally shone. He believes, as I do, that most people will come through in organizations where people are able to do their jobs well and where they are rewarded for being the thinking, creative people they are.

Hallowell starts his book with a story about a shoe-shiner working at Logan International Airport in Boston. This guy, who is essentially doing nothing more than cleaning the muck from people’s shoes, makes a point to see the light in each person who wears those shoes. He works hard at shining more than shoes by connecting to each of those shoe-wearers as individuals. As he says, “For me, it’s all about the shine I put on the person.”

Imagine how this world would shine if those whose shoes were being cleaned saw the light in everyone who shined their shoes. Retiring the “people are no damn good” school of management is more than the right thing to do—it’s also a practical way to grow businesses, organizations, and institutions, as well as our society.

Ooh, shiny.

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