Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

You have no cause for anything but gratitude and joy. ~ Buddha

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States, one of my favorite holidays. I really enjoy the spirit of the holiday. No gifts are necessary, just cooking and eating delicious food. It’s a day to enjoy some relaxing time with friends and family, and to appreciate all your blessings.

There seems to be a lot of fear out there in the world right now. Fear that we aren't getting our fair share and that opportunities are slim. Certainly among my own friends and family, many of us have been laid off, are underemployed, or still unemployed. So it's even more important to realize how much we do have, and to enjoy and appreciate it all.

Here are a few of the work-related things I am grateful for:

I am thankful for my clients, for without you I have no income and no purpose. (And not much to write about.)

I am thankful for my blog readers. I know you are out there, even if you are really, really quiet. Without you, I have no one to write to. And I like to write.

I am thankful for my writing coach. She is supporting my efforts to write a book. So, faithful (or not-so-faithful) blog readers, I will be posting less often as most of my writing time will go toward my book.

I am thankful for my colleagues. Yes, I work solo out of my home, but I have a network of colleagues through my membership in professional associations, past employers, friends, and LinkedIn. You spark my ideas, support my plans, give me feedback and provide camaraderie. And sometimes, you provide me with some business!

I am thankful for my past employers, for you gave me tons of experience (both good and bad) which helps me in my current work and also gives me fodder for writing. Some of you also paid me handsomely which is very helpful when times are hard because I have that cushion that I built from back when I had a steady corporate job.

I am thankful for my equipment and software! What would I do without my computers, printers, scanner, copier, and telephone? Thank you to the inventors, engineers, project managers who created them, and to my boyfriend for providing (most of) them and keeping them up to date!

For your Thanksgiving enjoyment, here are a few of the gratitude quotations I've collected:

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all. ~ William Faulkner

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy--they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~ Marcel Proust

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful. ~ Buddha

Whenever we are appreciative, we are filled with a sense of well-being and swept up by the feeling of joy. ~ M.J. Ryan

To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude. ~ Albert Schweitzer

Happy Thanksgiving!

The annual presidential turkey-pardoning, a strange American Thanksgiving ritual.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is Your Workplace a Learning Environment?

Leadership and learning are indispensible of one another.” - John F. Kennedy

As a leadership coach and workplace learning professional, of course I heartily agree with President Kennedy’s quote. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t love learning and helping others’ learn. In fact one of my top four personal values is learning/teaching. I put them together as one value because they reinforce each other and to me, are just two sides of the same coin.

John Maxwell says in his book Leadership Gold, “If you want to lead you must learn. If you want to continue to lead, you must continue to learn.” He states that in his experience people fall into one of three categories:

The Challenge Zone: “I attempt to do what I haven’t done before."
The Comfort Zone: “I do what I already know I can do.”
The Coasting Zone: “I don’t even do what I’ve done before.”

As babies, we all start out in the challenge zone. But there comes a time in our lives when we no longer have to continue to try new things. That’s when people subconsciously decide which zone they will live in. Those who choose to remain in the comfort or coasting zones miss out on discovering and sharing things with others. They lose a part of themselves which they never truly get to know.

Smart leaders hire those who enjoy the challenge zone because they know those are the kind of people who help a company excel.  To keep these valuable employees working at their best, leaders must foster a learning and growth environment where employees feel comfortable offering new ideas, discussing new concepts and challenging each other. Interactions in such a culture spark the company’s growth as well as the individual's. Dynamic work environments like those often buck the status quo, and successfully so. One current example is which has, to Wall Street's chagrin, eschewed short-term profits for long-term success.  (Read more about that here.)

As a leader, you understand the value of continuous learning and the benefits it provides you, your employees and your organization. How do you ensure that your working environment is fostering growth and learning for your employees?

Maxwell says you can identify a growth environment because the following ten things are in place:

1. Others are ahead of you.
2. You are continually challenged.
3. Your focus is forward.
4. The atmosphere is affirming.
5. You are often out of your comfort zone.
6. You wake up excited.
7. Failure is not your enemy.
8. Others are growing.
9. People desire change.
10. Growth is modeled and expected.

How does your organization rate? If you can confidently say you foster those characteristics in your office, then you probably have a top-notch team and others who are lining up at your door to work there.

Out of their comfort zone and being challenged!