It’s Time To unPlug and Plug Back In

I am sitting here at the Atlanta airport, waiting to board my flight (that has been delayed for about 2 hours), and I can’t help but notice the different types of people walking through the airport, sitting in pre-board areas or just leaning against poles. I am amazed at how busy everyone seems to be but yet also seem to oblivious to those around them. In the span of just an hour I saw…..

– Young black girl talking on her phone, with it on speaker, talking about paying her bills, making plans for the weekend and talking about her latest conquest. She was talking so loud that quite a few people were leaning closer to her just so they could follow her PG-13 conversation.

– The middle age businessman headed home from a trip, talking to a coworker as they compare flights, the number of frequent flyer miles and hotel points they have, arguing about the best hotel to use points to go to Vegas and which hotel has the loosest slots, prettiest showgirls, best buffets.

– Young mother and young child (about three years of age), obviously on her last nerve, answering all the questions from her daughter, that is just learning to talk and has tons of questions, waiting for her husband to bring them food from Chick-fil-A. I hear “Stop, don’t touch that, get your fingers out of your mouth, stand up, help mommy, let’s take a walk. ” She stands up and I see that she is pregnant, probably wondering “am I ready for this next one?”

– Fast food workers pushing trash carts talking loudly (very loud, make that extremely loud), about how much they hate their jobs and can’t wait to get out in the real world and do something. I would love to stop them and explain how they are “in” the real world, performing a much needed task otherwise we would be up to our necks in filth!

– Flight crews hurrying to their next flight or rushing to leave the airport. I can’t tell if that’s frustration or elation on their faces.

– Senior senior citizens (no, that’s not a typo, they are in their mid 80’s) about whether they packed everything they needed. This is the first time the wife has flown and she is definitely nervous and grouchy. They are arguing with each other and neither one is listening to the other.

– A group of five friends, walking abreast and taking up half the hallway, making people go around them, oblivious to others as they walk and text and laugh and text and take selfies and text and text and… you get the idea.

– Mr. Muscles in his tank top, sweat pants, tattoos and attitude. If he went through a regular doorway he would have to turn sideways. I don’t think that he could even reach back and scratch is backing he had in itch.

– Ms. I can’t be anywhere on time! Running down the concourse talking to herself saying, “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late”. Dodging people left and right, trying to keep her spinner luggage from tumbling over, rushing to the gate just as they start to close the door and begging them to let her board.

– The wannabe gangsta, pants down to his knees, cap on sideways, huge earphones around his neck, oversized t-shirt, shoelaces dragging from his tennis shoes, if he sneezed I think all his clothes would fall off and he’d be naked.

– The movie star with her long painted nails, fur coat, huge sunglasses, tight leggings, costume jewelry and oversized phone with a vocabulary limited to “like we did this, like you know, like do you know what I’m sayin, like…”

There are several things I notice that appear to be part of our reality now. Everyone has cellphones, headphones, spinners, iPads, iPods, etc. No one gets dressed up anymore to travel, some people don’t even seem to get dressed! When did leggings become everyday wear? There seems to be a competition to see who can wear the tightest ones.

When did we become so wrapped up in our own reality that we stopped being respectful to others? Is it really necessary for everyone within a 30 foot radius to hear about our lives – real or imaginary? Maybe it’s time to unplug our electronics and plug back in to people. I watched a couple of teenagers sitting back to back arguing with each other by texting back and forth!

Yep, it’s definitely time to unplug.

– ,

Communication or EI, EI, OOO

You can’t open a newspaper (yes, they still have those), turn on the TV or access your smartphone/tablet without seeing or reading about someone apologizing for a “miscommunication”. It seems as though the central theme that has been running rampant throughout our nation and the world for the last several weeks revolves around one word – Communication!

Communication, or the lack thereof, has been addressed or mentioned in every meeting I have attended lately. I think that by taking some of the words from the childhood song “Old MacDonald Had A Farm”, and making an acrostic out of the words “EI, EI, OOO”, we can see a way to keep communication in the forefront of our mind.

EI – Everyone Involved.  One of the most important aspects of communication is making sure everyone is involved. This not only means employees in different departments but the customer as well.  If we can keep everyone involved and updated, if the situation ever turns bad/sour, we stand a better chance of overcoming obstacles.

EI – Everyone Informed.  This is the second most important part of the equation. Everyone has to be kept informed with the latest information available. Internally, emails can be one of the quickest ways to get the latest update to everyone. As long as the email is concise and to the point it can also prevent miscommunication.

OOO –  Opens Opportunities to Overdeliver.  One of my favorite sayings is “Under promise and Over deliver.” If we can take the first two EI’s and execute them effectively, we will have infinite potential to provide the type of service that will exceed our customers expectations.

As I stated in the beginning, Communication with a capital “C” is the key. It’s the key that leads to a company’s booming success or ultimate demise. It takes a group effort to achieve the goals we set in customer service. Everyone has to be involved, from the person that picks up the phone and takes the first call, to the one that keeps our parking lot clean, to the cashier that checks the customer/client out, to the one that wraps the toilets to keep them looking fresh, to the closer that processes the paperwork, to the greeter that invites the customer to come back and to “have a great day”, etc – it’s a coordinated effort by a cast of thousands! (okay, maybe not thousands, or even hundreds, maybe just a few individuals – but it takes a commitment by everyone !)

 

So go ahead and sing it, “ Old (your company name) had a farm…ei, ei,ooo

Lord, I am Humbled…

I have never been a “receiver” or whatever nomenclature you want to use. My wife and I have always been “givers” or someone that always did what they could to give back to the world, without seeking recognition or rewards. That is one reason that this article is hard to write because we never wanted anyone to know about the times that we have had an opportunity to share with others because of the blessings that God has provided us. We are no different than a lot of you, I believe that most of us will bless others (anonymously) when given the opportunity.

This year has been a little different and a very humbling experience for us. We purchased a new home in February of 2017, which we expected to be the place where we would retire. It was in a private community, away from town, with a pool that had a screened-in enclosure and backed up to a wooded area. We could get up in the morning and sit on the back porch and watch deer eat and play in our back yard. We were very excited about how things were working out and how God was blessing us.

Then July came around and I lost my job. Of course in today’s economy, this is not an unusual occurrence. I have worked in several different industries, always in management and I was hopeful that I would be able to find another position fairly quickly. Unfortunately, it appears that now I am “over qualified” (which really means too old) for every job I have applied for. After numerous rejections and “we will give you a call”, my wife, after being retired from school teaching for a number of years, went back to work. We expected this would just be temporary until I could find employment. Then, at the end of August, Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area and our house was flooded. We were the last ones on the street to be evacuated, having to wade in water up to our chests to a boat that could take us to dry land.

We were able to stay in the neighborhood due to some friends opening up their home and allowing us to stay with the. Little did we know that it would be over four months before we would be able to return to our home. So, my unemployment was actually a blessing in disguise. Being unemployed allowed me to work at our home each day and save money. We didn’t have flood insurance (we did not live in a flood zone), so we has to pay for all the repairs ourselves. Fortunately, we had great friends, a fantastic church and great relatives that volunteered their time and donated money to help us through this trying time.

God blessed us more times than I can count during this difficult time. It seemed that every time we started to run low on funds and were deciding what we could repair and what we could postpone that God would send another blessing our way. We had people donate time to come and tear down and replace Sheetrock, paint walls, install cabinets, require electricity, and the list goes on and on. We had people we had never met stop and bring food for workers, or drop off materials or donate money. When it came time to replace the floors, we were trying to figure out how we could move in and wait to install them until we could save the money – then my wife received a phone call from a friend that told her not to worry about the cost, she was going to pay for the materials and installation. How do you respond to that kind of generosity?

It seemed like we had miracles on almost a daily basis, from: a co-worker of my granddaughter donating a $100 gift card to us, our church providing labor as well as several thousand dollars in funds for materials, receiving an unexpected check from a profit sharing plan from a company I had left over a year previously, receiving a check from the Houston Realtors Association, receiving funds from Ace Hardware where my wife worked, etc. God continually blessed us and still continues to do so even as I write this blog.

As I stared earlier, this has been a humbling experience and a great life lesson. God has to remind us that He will provide and that sometimes we need to get out of the way and let Him work. Coincidences? I don’t believe in them. I believe in GOO – or God Ordained Opportunities (see our new website, http://www.thegoogroup.com). But that is a topic for another blog. All I can say is thank you God for humbling me and allowing me to see and be a witness to Your Power.

Maybe It’s Time To Bully The Bully

If you’ve been in the workforce for very long then you have probably had to interact with a supervisor that is a borderline psychotic, excuse me, I meant to say that seems to derive pleasure from being a bully. They are the ones that work hard to create a hostile environment in the workplace. They will do this through intimidation, threats, insults, vulgar language, slamming doors, throwing things or by just screaming at everyone. Regardless of which one of these actions they use, they make life miserable for everyone else in the office. It’s like walking on Legos, you try to step as quietly and carefully as possible so you avoid as much pain as possible.

It’s almost as if the Bully plans out the day with ways that they can make life miserable for any and every one they interact with. For them, life is all about chaos, creating tension in the workplace and generally making life suck for all their employees. You arrive to work in the morning and start counting the minutes until you can leave for lunch, take a break or clock out for the end of the day. While the Bully is thinking he is making you work harder and being more productive, in actuality you do less work and make more errors.

So what’s the answer? How do you turn things around so that you can be productive and start enjoying life again? It’s not easy and can be close to impossible, especially if the Bully is in a position to terminate your employment (even though they are the ones that need to be terminated!). There’s really only one answer, you have to bully the Bully. But not in the way you are thinking. You can’t fight fire with fire, all that will do is make the environment hotter and more unbearable. You have to bully the Bully with kindness, compassion, calmness and prayer (there’s that not Politically Correct word again).

To bully the Bully you can try several things:

  1. Don’t participate in their ravings and screaming. When they start down that road of chaos and destruction just put out your hand and stop them (politely) and say “excuse me, but this is not getting us anywhere and I cannot not sit here and listen to your abuse.   I am going to go back to my area and will come back when you’re ready to discuss this in a calm manner.” Now this will do one of three things, either get you fired, make them stop and think about what they are doing or they will call you back in a few minutes and start all over again.
  2. Share your concerns with management. If the Bully is the boss, then share your feelings with other employees. There is strength in numbers and if everyone is being treated the same way then maybe it’s time to get together as a group and address the situation.
  3. Find the person that the Bully relates to (and I assure you there is someone that they go to and “dump on”) and explain your issues to them. I am sure they are aware of the situation and maybe, just maybe, they can provide some insight into what is going on. It’s also possible that they may have suggestions on how to be more effective in dealing with the Bully.
  4. Leave. I know in this day and age with the proliferation of companies laying off workers and cutting back on expenses, this is not what you probably want to hear. But sometimes, it’s just not worth the stress, headaches and pressure of putting up with the abuse. Depending on the age of the Bully, it is highly unlikely that they will change. It’s also very likely that they know what they are doing and either get a “kick” out of being abusive, think everyone is out to “get them” so they are justified in being a Bully or they can’t help themselves. In this case, psychological help is definitely recommended.
  5. Pray. I know, this is not a politically correct word to use in the workplace but it is always the best advice that you will ever get. Positive prayer will help you to understand that sometimes life is out of your hands and being controlled by someone greater than you. Acceptance of this concept will assist you in learning how to cope and deal with issues in the worst circumstances. I did not say that prayer will take the situation away, but it will help you to survive. Sometimes God is simply saying “wait”. We have to remember that our thoughts are not His thoughts and our ways are not His ways. It is not up to us to understand, only to accept that He is in control.

So, where does the concept of “Bullying the Bully” come in? In reality, it doesn’t. You can’t stoop to their level and still feel good about yourself. You can only adjust your attitude and refuse to participate in their chaos. Life goes on and how you respond will affect others as well as yourself. So, Bully the Bully by covering him with prayer and let Someone greater than you deal with them.

Let’s Party!

Now before you grab your party hats and horns, let me explain. Think about a recent party that you attended where everyone had a great time. What made it successful? What did the host do that made the event fun and exciting? I think there are several things that make a successful party.

A central purpose. People come together for a specific purpose – to have fun, learn something new, meet new people or just enjoy each other’s company. If everyone is able to achieve their goal, then everyone leaves happy and the party is a success.

A good host. The main job of the host is to plan the party, get people involved, keep things moving and at times even be a cheerleader. They have to be a great organizer and constantly on the move. A great host floats throughout the party making sure the needs of others are met.

The right mix of people. A place that is too small or too big can ruin a party and make it miserable for everyone. No one wants to keep bumping into people or have to shout across the room to get someone’s attention. The appropriate amount of space is critical. You also have to have the right mix of male and female to keep everything flowing, unless it is a party for the same gender.

Weeding out the bad eggs. Bad party goers can sour a party very quickly. These are the people that criticize everything or they may try to be the center of attention and wind up being overpowering. This type of behaviour becomes a distraction and may cause people to want to leave early rather than tolerate the person.

Now, apply the concept to your workplace. You will quickly see that these ideas can apply to your own job. You have a central purpose – to be the best, meet the needs of others, provide a specific service, etc. all while making a profit. To your customers, you are a host and it is your job to float, mingle and meet their needs. You have to keep the right mix of people working together– sales, finance, customer service, management, IT – so that you can continue to prosper and keep the party going. Sometimes you need to weed out the bad eggs – unfortunately, your business is not for everyone so sometimes you have to change personnel around to keep the party fresh and moving. Implementing all these concepts will help you to maintain a positive balance and be successful.

So, grab your party hat, confetti and noisemakers and the next time someone asks you where you work – tell them you work where the party never stops!

An Interview With Wesley Winnebago, One of “Those” Employees

What is your job title? I am the Director of Fiscal Irresponsibility, Nonfinancial Planning and Guesstimations.

How long have you been with the company?  I have been here 45 years, 10 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, 6 hours and 25 seconds.

 Tell us a little about yourselfI have been married 21 times, engaged 3 times and am now single and living with my mom in her Cadillac underneath a bridge. I went to college on a javelin catching scholarship (I can catch 8 out of 10 javelins thrown at me), graduated Suma Cum Laude from Hail Mary University with a degree in motivational speaking and went straight into the banking industry as a Maintenance Engineer. I am a world class sprinter (I once outran Mercury Morris in the 40 yard dash), hold the world record in speed macramé knitting and am currently working on my Anthropolgy Sociology degree. I love to cook and my specialty is sweet bread smothered in butter and Sriracha sauce. I invented the pet rock but sold the idea to a friend for a case of Budweiser. I have been there, done that, bought and sold the t-shirt.

 What are some of the things that you are doing to improve a customer’s experience with our company? I try to keep the parking lot clean, yellow lines painted and employee cars lined up in order by shape and color, however I am also color blind so that tends to give me trouble sometimes. Still, I do my best to make sure everyone stays happy.

What is the single biggest challenge you face in doing your job? Trying to stay focused, I was hit in the head a couple of time in college during javelin catching practice and I tend to drift off every once in awhile and forget what I was talking about. I tend to drift off every once in awhile and forget what I was talking about…what were we talking about?

What are some of your personality traits that contribute to your on-the-job success? I am lazy, ambitious, love to gossip, a great listener,  like to roam throughout the building, try to bug everyone I can as much as possible and love to pester my peers with never-ending, pointless questions. However, I do show up to work on time, every day and I never take time off. I love my job and this company.

 Tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise us. I am a figment of Ken’s imagination. The only reason my story is here is because he wants to make a point about “that employee.” I am not sure what his point is or who “that employee” is or even what he means by that.

Ok, so Wesley is not a real person, but I hope you get my point. We all have “that employee” in the workplace. He/she is the one that always has the off the wall question about the subject you just spent 22 minutes discussing, is the first one to arrive and last one to leave the party, makes sure he/she speaks (annoys) to everyone, always does just enough to get by and never enough wrong things to get fired, is an expert on everything and always has an opinion to share but is always at work on time.

Who is “that employee?” He/she is the employee that you love to hate, but you can also always count on them being at work and on time, regardless of the weather. He/she is the one that annoys the crap out of you, but is always available to lend you a hand when everyone else is running out the door. “That employee” is the one that keeps the business running. They may be a Mr. PIB (Pain intha butt) but they are your Mr. PIB and I daresay you can’t get along without them. So what do you do?

Work with them, teach them, reward them, keep smiling and remember – you’re the manager. It’s your job to turn all their idiosyncrasies into positive attributes so they can be a productive employee. So, get to work.

 

 

You Meet The Nicest People On A Metro Bus, NOT!

I am one of the lucky ones that gets to ride on the Houston Metro Bus lines on a daily basis to commute downtown to work. I use a Park and Ride facility, which means I can park and ride a Metro bus that takes advantage of the HOV lanes for a faster commute. This definitely beats having to drive downtown and fighting all the traffic in Houston where a 17 mile commute from the suburbs can take up to 1 ½ hours. But of course, riding a bus does have its disadvantages. I never know whether the bus will be packed with standing room only, if I will have the luxury of having a seat all to myself or if I will have the privilege of sharing my space with one of the other daily commuters.

It’s those days where the bus is packed that give me the most joy, or should I say laughter. Those are the days where human behavior is at its finest. Those are the days I get to meet the nicest (meaning strange, weird, bizarre, annoying) people. Those are the days that I get to sit next to….

Neat Nick – he looks for the cleanest area, takes his handkerchief out of his pocket and spreads it on the seat before sitting down. Then he sits straighter than humanly possible (almost like he has a two by four strapped to his back) without touching the back of the seat, with his hands folded in his lap, knees and feet together and looks straight ahead. I can almost read his mind. I am sure he is thinking, ”Don’t touch me, don’t breathe on me, don’t cough on me, don’t touch me.” I am tempted to sneeze in his direction just to see his reaction. He would probably run to the front of the bus screaming, “Unclean, unclean, let me off, I’m infected!”

Movie Mike – as soon as he sits down, he pulls out his smartphone and earbuds and starts watching the movie/TV show/sports channel that he missed last night. His uncontrollable laughter, screams of exhilaration or sighs of disbelief are heard by all because he has forgotten that he is sharing the bus with 40 other people. It’s not until he screams “Yes” and turns to me with a raised hand and a shout of “High five”, that he remembers he is on the bus and not alone.

Triple T (Two Ton Tiny) – 5’4” inches tall and 350 pounds of everything but muscle. He takes up his seat and ¾’s of  mine, sitting with his legs spread as far apart as possible so that there is no way that he can prevent from touching (squashing) me. Personal space? There ain’t no such thing when I am sitting next to Triple T.  Unfortunately, I was sitting on the inside seat so now I’m the size of a pancake and plastered up against the window. My only hope is that he gets off the bus before my stop, otherwise I could be here for the long haul. Of course, that is if I can peel myself off the side of the bus after he gets up.

Gabby – she stands in line waiting for the bus and talking on her cellphone, she gets on the bus talking on her cellphone, she sits on the bus talking on her cellphone, she gets off the bus talking on her cellphone – get the picture? Not only is she on the phone the entire time, she is going into explicit details about the meeting she had today with her boss (the Aggie reject), the date she has scheduled for this weekend (and I just have to make time to get a wax, you know, one of “those” waxes because you never know what might happen), the problems her “ex” is giving her because of all his issues, the great pasta dish she had for lunch (even though it gave her tummy aches), yada, yada, yada. By the time she gets off the bus, everyone on board knows her whole life story because she tends to speak LOUDLY in a high pitched, whiny voice. She actually received a standing ovation as she exited the bus, I guess I was not the only one tired of listening to the drama queen.

Mr. Spreadsheet – he is the businessman that grabs his laptop out of his bag and starts pounding away on the keys the whole trip. It doesn’t matter that he just spent 10 hours in the office, he still has another 3 hours of work that he has to do. His laptop has a 17 inch screen so the whole time he is typing away, he is also trying to prevent me from looking at the screen, as if I have any interest in doing so. He is also a professional juggler, trying to balance his backpack, laptop, cellphone and memo pad on his lap at the same time.  My only thought is that he needs to “get a life.”

The “I dare you to make me move” rider – he is one of my favorites. As soon as he boards the bus, he finds an aisle seat towards the front and then places his backpack/briefcase on the seat next to him. If I come up and ask to sit in the seat where his backpack is resting, he ignores me completely. If I persist, he gives me the evil eye then turns around and looks to see if there are any other seats available on the bus. If there are additional seats, he once again tries to stare holes through me and then slowly gets up, removes his backpack and leaves barely enough room for me to squeeze by into the seat. Then he stares at me the rest of the trip, muttering under his breath. Why is he my favorite? If I see him on the bus, I will make a point of antagonizing him by asking him to move his backpack so I can sit on the seat next to him. Does that make me an evil person?

The Gamer – even though he keeps to himself for the most part, playing Candy Crush or various other games on his smart phone, he never uses earphones or turns down the volume. I have the privilege of getting to listen to all the bells and whistles of his game as he moves from one level to the next. Heaven forbid that he play an auto racing game, because then he shakes the whole seat as he twists and turns his phone making those quick course changes.  And more often than not, he is also making vroom, vroom noises while he plays.

Shopaholic – she gets on the bus carrying six shopping bags of “specials” she bought during her lunch break and just had to have. It takes her 10 minutes to situate everything (including asking me to be a “dear” and hold a couple of the bags) and then another 15 minutes to get off the bus because she keeps dropping everything. The biggest problem is that tomorrow she will have the same six bags because half of the clothes didn’t fit so now she has to return them.

Nervous Nellie – why is she so nervous? Who knows? All I know is that during the entire trip, her leg is bouncing up and down at a speed of Mach 1. By the time I get to my stop I feel like I have been on a trampoline for the whole trip. Too bad I didn’t bring the ingredients for a milkshake because it would have been mixed to just the right consistency with all the bouncing going on.

Psycho – he is the one that I have to watch out for. He watches everyone get on and off the bus, never blinking, breathing very slowly, licking his lips at times and then slowly grinning that evil smile. I never know what he is thinking or dreaming, all I know is that he gives me the creeps. Is he harmless, probably? But then again, you never know.

Me – who am I?  I’m the guy that sits quietly, reading my book, trying to zone out and relax a little on the ride home, looking forward to getting home and spending time with my wife. Oh yeah, and looking for things to write about!