My first grandchild is due to appear April 13. The parents have steadfastly refused to learn its gender, which increases the anticipation. In preparing for a family baby shower, I asked each attendee for advice they'd like to give the new family member. Kids' suggestions ranged from "You need to learn to lift your legs" to "Don't put things in your mouth."
Lots of advice came from the adult relatives. It was serious and carefully considered, mostly attempts to reduce a life's experience to a few words. "Keep your dreams. Don't let anyone take them away from you," wrote a great aunt who'd had many of hers taken away. The baby's uncle advised, "Always go one step beyond your limits."
But here is what was most striking to me: None of this advice had to do with work, financial success, having the most toys, winning over others, and all those things we spend so much of our days seeking.
You've probably heard the somewhat trite motivational exercise of imagining yourself at your funeral and thinking about what you would want those who are important to you to say. It's never about work, money (unless it is how your money was used to help another), or success in the popular sense of the word. It's about those special qualities only you can bring to those around you.
Learning to give
The poet Maya Angelou writes, "I've learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel." I want to remember that advice every minute of every day because it's so true and so important. Accepting people for who they are and want to be and helping them achieve their goals while they help you achieve yours are mighty concepts at work, play, and home.
So why are we afraid to bring our real selves to work? We leave the person at home and take the persona to the office. The persona's usually tougher, harder, less giving, and less forgiving. Let's get rid of it and instead be our best selves in each area of our lives.
And why are we so afraid to praise? Our industry has a punch list mentality. We are always looking for what is wrong or defective. Studies clearly show that praise is at least five times more effective in motivating. One speaker has called it "Vitamin P." If we believe Maya Angelou, the feeling sincere praise gives those around us will last forever.
I've surveyed employees at many companies, and lack of praise is a continuing theme. You would think praise was gold and had to be hoarded. In fact, our praise is a never-ending resource. And it's one of our most powerful influencers at home and work. Yet I could tell you about remodelers I've worked with who were starved for praise as kids and now can't give it to others.
Emotional side of life and business
Why are we afraid of what we call "touchy feely" stuff? If you want to influence those around you for the good, and if you want them to remember positively how you made them feel, recognize that there is an emotional side of life (and business). Most of us would rather be tortured than confront anger, grief, and the real emotions that sooner or later surface both at home and at work.
Give it up. Don't try to wear the suit that the world wants you to wear in your business. It's a straitjacket. Take your whole self to work, and invite those who work with you to do the same. Create an environment that not only encourages top quality and service but provides a positive atmosphere where good people can live their values and flourish. You will create a legacy that continues far beyond your life-span.
--Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc. in Fulton, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. (301) 490-5620; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.remodelersadvantage.com.