During my nearly 20 years in information technology (IT) in the corporate world, you can bet I saw my fair share of change. New technologies (duh!), processes, methodologies, organizational configurations, and so much more. The various organizations I worked for had different cultures, leaders, missions, and values. Regardless of where I worked, one thing remained the same, however. I always had to work on my birthday.

I’ve been a staunch advocate for giving each employee their birthday off since I shockingly discovered in my first year after college that I was expected to report to work on my birthday. And you won’t believe this! Chances were very good that on the big day, no one was going to tell me “happy birthday”, get me a card, or take me out to lunch.

Indeed, the closest my birthday got to any recognition most places was for my teammates to suggest (demand!) I bring in treats that I bought or prepared myself in order for them to, you know, celebrate (eat!).

And so my birthday, just like all my co-workers’ birthdays before mine, became nothing more than another day of the week on the calendar, that at most included treats. Regardless of how many co-workers and bosses I shared my “everyone should get their birthday off” idea with (and it was a lot!).

It’s not because every company doesn’t know when it is – birthday is actually a required field for employment. Nope. It’s not a lack of data. It’s about valuing and appreciating people.

Too often, organizations get focused on results, bottom-line numbers, growth, and profit. Yes, every company needs to be at least somewhat focused on these things, or they’ll go out of business! But… the key piece that this focus leaves out is people.

Having happy people is the best way to get results, bottom-line numbers, growth, and profit.

I know some of you reading are managers, directors, even senior such-and-suches for the this-and-thats. Do your employees feel appreciated? They will tell you if you ask them (and many will appreciate the fact that you asked, even if nothing else changes). But, I’d challenge you to think about how you can incorporate more appreciation into your span of control.

Maybe it’s not the birthday off thing, but there’s definitely something. Do it and don’t waste a whole bunch of time asking for permission to make it happen. I promise, even the best appreciation idea is likely to get shut down somewhere in the land of approvals and red tape (you know what I’m talking about!).

Or maybe you’re not at a level where you can influence top-down changes, so I guess you get a pass on taking positive action this week, right? No way! It’s like you don’t know me at all! There’s always something you can do!

Here’s an example from an awesome team I was fortunate enough to be a part of for a short period of time. The company wasn’t going out of their way to initiate appreciation programs at that time and there was a definite focus are doing more with less, reducing costs, etc. But on this particular team, we made sure to spend more time in appreciation mode than other teams I’d been on.

The idea was simple. We had a list of everyone’s birthday. And the person responsible for buying a card was the person whose birthday was most recently celebrated. They’d bring that card back to the office and then route it to all of us to sign (secretly, even though we all knew that this was happening, but there’s a little more fun to be had when it feels like a covert operation!). On the big day for you, you got a card with more than a bunch of names on it. You got true well wishes and notes of encouragement from your teammates.

That was a long time ago… but I still have my card.

And so, my birthday is coming up in the next week and I am celebrating by (you guessed it!) taking a day off from work. Not in a let’s-do-the-same-amount-of-work-but-on-different-days kind of way. Actually taking off. Which means that next week, there won’t be a blog post. But I’ll be back with my ramblings 2 weeks from now, renewed from some time away. 

#PositiveAction What is one way to add more appreciation to your workplace this week? I have yet to meet a single employee who has felt OVER-appreciated at work!

Need some inspiration? Check out the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Chapman & White.




Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

You’ve no doubt heard the stories that it’s impossible to get toilet paper. It can’t be done. There’s not a square to spare anywhere! 

That’s what the news stories would have us believe. And stories like that create a scarcity mindset. One of my favorite books on the topic is Scarcity by Mullainathan and Shafir. It’s a fascinating read into the science behind why it’s so hard to break out of procrastination, poor dieting results, even the cycle of poverty.

TLDR version of the book: Scarcity comes from not having enough of something. It could be not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough food. And the lack of something we need causes our brain to work differently, to tunnel, and focus on the lack. It changes our behaviors and often exacerbates the very problem we’re trying to solve.

Those stories about no toilet paper create a sense of scarcity for us. We feel fear around not having enough… and it changes our behavior. I’ll show you what I mean.

Our family had run out of TP at the end of February, so I had restocked our supply with a family-sized pack just before the shutdown started and toilet paper became scarce on the shelves. We had enough to get by for a little while.

And yet, those news stories started to get to me. I didn’t notice at first, but eventually I spotted the scarcity mindset when I found myself wondering thoughts like, “Should we be using less TP to conserve our supply?” and “Should we be trying to minimize bathroom use altogether?”

Now, I’m the furthest thing from a doctor (I get faint at the sight of needles!), but I’m pretty sure that if I asked one, they would tell me that avoiding going to the bathroom is not the recommended course of action to maintain a healthy body.

The scarcity mindset had me focused on lack and was starting to get me thinking about changing my behavior! What’s the counter to scarcity? An abundance mindset.

Abundance doesn’t focus on what you lack; it focuses on what you have. It shifts your attention away from the negative and to the positive.

For finding more toilet paper, there are options. Yes, we could check several stores and eventually, I’m sure we’d find some (we did, in case you were worried!). But I also know that if we had called or texted any number of people, a roll or two would have shown up on our doorstep in short order. Heck, there’s even a pizza place near me running a carry-out special right now that includes a free roll of TP with a large pizza!

When I focus on the abundant options, it changes my attitude and my behavior.

Let’s think about scarcity in the business world. There are lots of examples of company policies that create a culture of scarcity. Things like you can’t get promoted until you’ve been in the role for 3 years or maybe you have to have degree X to make it to level Y or how about only a small percentage of people can get a decent sized raise and oh by the way the criteria for achieving said raise is so impossible that no one knows anyone who’s ever gotten it.

Those policies, grounded in scarcity and fear don’t bring out the best in people. They are actually highly demotivating to the majority of workers.

Exceptional companies recognize this. The culture focus shifts from scarcity to abundance. Promoting people who do great work. Recognizing a degree isn’t a guarantee of the quality of work you do. Growing and cultivating leaders at all levels, knowing you can never have enough great people. Finding ways to share the wealth, but more importantly motivating people beyond money with purpose and challenge.

Scarcity cultures bring out bad behaviors in people because people believe the stories that there isn’t enough for everyone. Have you ever worked somewhere with a bunch of competitive, back-stabbing jerks all angling to get ahead? Yup. Me too. It’s no fun and good people will spot the scarcity and move on to more abundant pastures quickly.

#PositiveAction How can you challenge a scarcity belief today? Is there an abundance story that you can start telling to yourself and your team instead?

P.S. What an exciting time we live in where toilet paper and bathroom usage are totally appropriate topics to discuss in the context of work and career! Thanks for reading to the end. 




Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

We don’t need to pretend we’re OK when we’re not OK. And right now especially, it’s OK to be not be OK! Most people are struggling. The more honest you are about your struggles, the more comfortable your team will be talking about theirs. Now is not the time for a stiff upper lip; it’s time for empathy and kindness and understanding. In fact, Gallup studied major crises across decades and found that universally, people are looking to their leaders for trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

Being a good leader* can get lost in the shuffle of busy-ness during good times, but it becomes essential during times of challenge and crisis (*Note: I’m using the term leader in the broadest sense – we are all called upon to lead in certain situations, whether with family, a group of friends, or formally at work). Maybe, like many people, you’re stuck in fear and struggling to get to hope. Fear can absolutely stop us in our tracks, but we need to remember a key element.

Fear arises whenever we face something new.

The new can be something exciting that we’ve worked toward for a long time, like getting that degree. It can be something scary that was forced upon us, like social distancing. But fear arises when we face anything new. 

We’ve all heard the adage that you can’t force a square peg in a round hole. And in a world where you’re striving to work authentically, you can’t force yourself to be who you’re not. So what do you do if compassion isn’t your thing, since that’s one thing people universally need in times like these?

Find someone you know who has it as a strength. Ask them to coach you on it in the short term so you can improve. You don’t have to become an expert in compassion; you just need a willingness to show up, ask good questions, and be there for people.

As for me, my efficiency strength is much stronger than empathy. There’s a time and a place for efficiency, but now isn’t necessarily it. At least not without a strong dose of empathy. So I’m asking others and leveraging resources like articles, podcasts, and more to make sure that I’m starting with empathy in my work. Doing less slowly, but doing it with good intent is more important for me right now.

If your strengths naturally guide you toward creating trust, compassion, stability, and hope, awesome! Do that because people need it. And if they don’t, do what you can. Don’t force it. But do keep in mind what we all need during this, and any, crisis.

#PositiveAction How can you create a little bit more trust, compassion, stability, or hope in your corner of the world today?




Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Spring is a time of change and a time of growth. Are you ready to create lasting change at work or in life? Then you won’t want to miss our Change Conqueror virtual workshop in April 15! 

In this era of eating at home more, it got me thinking about labels. They are on all our canned goods and help us identify what’s inside the can. Black beans here. Corn there. Have you ever opened a can without a label? It can be very disappointing to get canned vegetables when you were hoping for spaghetti o’s!

Labels also are used to get us to want things. Marketers know we’re drawn to fancy labels, bright colors, and interesting names. Sometimes, nothing changes about a product except the label and it’s enough to entice us to buy that product. New and improved! 33% more! All natural!

But we don’t just give labels to products. Have you thought about the labels we give to people? Or the labels people give to us? When we’re living into our personal brand and showing up at work the way we want to be perceived, it can be positive labels. When we’re under stress, overworked, and experiencing anxiety, we might not show up as our best selves and that makes it more likely that someone else will label us negatively.

Do you know someone who is enthusiastic? When you’re excited about what they’re excited about, it’s easy to label them enthusiastic. But… when we’re tired or not interested in their topic, we start to label them as too much, over the top, just so extra. Their enthusiastic behavior doesn’t change, only our perception of it does. One label is positive, the other is negative.

Perseverance is a trait we tend to celebrate in athletic events, but far less so in a business context. Today’s workplace wants adaptable workers, those that can adjust and change quickly as new information is learned. I think we need a balance of perseverance and adaptability, but when adaptability is valued more, we have a tendency to label perseverance negatively: slow, unable to change, stubborn even. 

Has anyone ever been rude to you at work? Yup, me too. Easy to label anyone that is rude as having no manners, a jerk, or worse! But maybe they are under a lot of stress or having a bad day.

We don’t limit our labeling to products and people… we do this for situations too. Think about your environment if you’re lucky enough to be at home during a global pandemic. Are you labeling your situation as much needed family time? Or forced to cancel plans? Quiet downtime or isolation and loneliness?

The more we tell ourselves a negative label, the more we’re going to feel negative toward that person or thing. 

Right now, being in confined spaces whether by ourselves or with others has the potential to bring out our negative labeling more (boring, noisy, undisciplined) and we need to work extra hard to show people compassion and use positive labels (a chance to learn something new, energetic, interested in many topics). It’ll create more harmony in your relationships and make all those things that have been annoying you far less annoying!

The more we tell someone they’re a screw up, the more likely they are to screw up. The more we call someone lazy, the less likely they are to do. The negative labels have a way of bringing out the worst in people, where the positive labels help people live into their strengths. It’s as true for our children as it is for our co-workers. If you’ve got someone that you’ve been labeling in a negative light, maybe it’s time to put a “New and Improved” sticker on your mindset and change to a more positive label! Try it for your current circumstances and see how they transform too!

#PositiveAction What label can you change from negative to positive to transform your experience today?




Image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay

We talked about combating our fear of the unknown with familiarity. We looked at how changing our expectations and getting creative can help us survive and thrive. Here’s another way to use the familiar as we settle into the “new normal”.

Neil Postman reminds us, “Old things, like clothing or cars, act as living museums that help us to remember. Old things give a sense of continuity and history, which is of great value in today’s culture.”

An old thing at my house that has renewed life right now is my collection of books containing Calvin and Hobbes comics by Bill Watterson. My kids have discovered them on our bookshelf and have been spending hours reading together (including right now, giving me the time and space to write!). Unfamiliar? Start here with the first book or stock up for the next month at home and get the whole set

Whenever they start reading one, here’s how it goes. It’s quiet for a little while. Then I hear their giggles or full-blown laughter letting me know they’ve found yet another comic strip they enjoy.

I have lots of memories of reading those same books as a child and young adult, with similar effect. Back in those days, we would need to physically go to the bookstore at the mall to get a copy of the latest book. Then, we’d take turns in my family each reading the book from start to finish.

The rule was that you couldn’t ruin the punchline for anyone that hadn’t read the book yet. So we’d wait anxiously until my brother, both my parents, and I had finished so we could talk about our favorites and laugh together at the hijinks that Calvin and Hobbes always managed to create. We spent lots of time re-reading and repeating the best ones to each other!

Now, the pages of the books are yellowed. Some of the covers are bent. All show signs of wear and much use. But they have a legacy of joy that hasn’t faded at all in 30 years.

#PositiveAction Dig up a relic from your past to celebrate and ponder the ideas and artifacts that connect us across time and space.

And speaking of history… Is your work history not what you wish it was? Are you ready to make a change at work or in life? Then you’ll definitely want to check out our Change Conqueror virtual workshop. For a limited time (the only time this year, in fact!), you can reserve your spot at a discounted rate! 



Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay