Thankful Reflection (#99)

As we head into the last few weeks of the year, it’s a good time to reflect, celebrate and make connections. Two weeks ago, the Acceleration Partners team did just this. We gathered our employees from around the world for our sixth annual AP Summit, our most impactful one to date.

I thought I would share a few themes that I took away from our week together that have both personal and professional applications this holiday season.

Connecting in Person: These days, we have a lot of ways to communicate with each other. And while video calls are a big upgrade over voice alone, in-person face time matters. People connect differently in person. They tend to open up and share more vulnerably. For example, one of the highlights of the week was our employee TED talks. Team members spoke on topics that were important to them and shared ideas they felt would add value to others.

With this in mind, let’s make the time this holiday season to cultivate our most important personal and professional relationships. Let’s spend quality time together, face-to-face, talking about things that matter; not on our phones.

Demonstrate Gratitude: Throughout the entire week of our AP Summit, there was a lot of gratitude given, formally and informally. Everyone likes to be appreciated, but I think we often underestimate the impact showing gratitude to others has on our own outlook. When we take the time to recognize and appreciate others, it often feels better to see the impact it has on someone than to receive it ourselves.

Celebrate Humbly: Historically, empires fall from within. There’s no faster way to ensure your demise than by believing you are great and have nowhere to improve. Sure, it’s important to reflect on what went well and celebrate successes – both individual and as a team. But, especially at the end of the year, it’s also important to keep a level head and acknowledge that future success is never guaranteed.

In my opening AP Summit presentation, I shared what I believe to be one of the best speeches of 2017, delivered by Dino Babers, head football coach at Syracuse University. Just after his team defeated the number one-ranked team in the country in a major upset, Dino displayed some key leadership themes, which members of our organization took notice of.  He:

  • Did not take credit
  • Was humble
  • Showed respect for the competition
  • Was emotional and vulnerable
  • Reminded his team to take care of each and get back to work the next day

Before you rush to the store for a Black Friday shopping spree, take a few minutes to watch Dino’s Barber’s powerful speech. This is what great leadership looks like.

Quote of the Week

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”

Frank Clark

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Beautiful Day (#75)

Recently, I noticed that my personal trainer, Mike Sirani, had a tattoo of the phrase “Beautiful Day” on the inside of his right bicep. Not figuring him for a U2 fan, I asked him about it. He explained that this phrase appeared often throughout his grandfather’s journals, which he wrote in for over 20 years. It was only after he passed away that his family discovered the journals; mementos that have since become both a gift and treasure to them.

During his adult life, Mike’s grandfather, Paul Martino, was in charge of all building and grounds maintenance at Sterling Winthrop Research Institute in Rensselaer, NY.  He was very proud of his job and was a good provider for his family. He also had great appreciation for the little things in life…trees, flowers, change in seasons, gardens.

At age 59, Paul was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma. After chemo and a bone marrow transplant, he was cancer free for about 1 1/2 years. Sadly, it returned and at the young age of 62, Paul passed away. During his chemo, it was discovered that other Sterling employees succumbed to the same type of cancer, likely a result of their work environment which involved both asbestos removal and exposure to radioactive rooms.

“Beautiful Day” stood out to Mike in reading the journals because, even when his grandfather wrote that he was “so tired,” or that the temperature was below zero, or that it rained all day, or that he didn’t feel well … he would often still write “Beautiful Day.”

Paul’s continued optimism in the face of adversity has left his mark on future generations of his family. It’s affected how they’ve chosen to live their lives and approach situations, even adverse ones. Making this type of impact beyond our lifetime is something many never accomplish, despite having great means and opportunity.

What’s important to remember is that it’s never too early to begin thinking about your own legacy and how you will make an impact beyond your lifetime. For inspiration, read this incredibly eulogy.

From personal experience, I and many others owe a debt of gratitude to Brian Brault. Brian has cemented his own legacy by helping inspire a future generation of entrepreneurs to contemplate and create theirs. For example, in an Entrepreneurial Leadership class this year, Brian started off his session with the question “How do you want to be remembered in 100 years?”

Answering this can be a very difficult exercise. It forces you to honestly examine your life, how you want to be remembered, and the values that you want to see carried on in future generations. In this process, many people realize that they are not living in a way that reflects the legacy they want to leave and that they need to make major changes.

So, what do you want people to say about you in 100 years?

Quote of the Week

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”

Shannon L. Alder

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Burning Bridges (#73)

We often dream about the day when we can finally tell that boss, co-worker, customer, or friend how we really feel about them. It’s our drop the mic moment; a dramatic exit followed by feelings of euphoria. We may even fantasize about torching that bridge, all for a few minutes of high dopamine retribution.

While such actions may make us feel better, that gain is often temporary. Burning a bridge, even the most deserving, is almost never in our best interest long term. It’s not only bad karma, but you also never know where or how those actions may come back haunt you. For example, a brother, sister, or friend of the person you told off may one day stand in the way of something you want. It’s a small world, especially now that everyone has a megaphone through social media.

My good friend, Lee Caraher, just wrote a book on this subject titled, The Boomerang Principle. She talks about the impact of companies who help employees leave on a good note and keep the door open for them in the future. She also addresses the importance of employees not burning their bridges on the way out the door and the significant mutual benefits that this approach offers.

Two years ago, we set out to change the paradigm of how and when someone leaves our company for their next venture. We introduced a program we call Mindful Transition. Our goal was to make these inevitable transitions less taboo by encouraging open discussion. We also wanted to put an end to the standard two weeks’ notice, which often ends the employee/employer relationship on a bad note.

Through Mindful Transition, we support our employees as they transition to the next chapter of their work life; we even help them find new jobs and keep the door open should they decide to return. Most importantly, we treat the person in transition with respect and ask for respect and transparency in return. It’s exciting to see how far we have come with this program. We continually run into AP alumni who moved on to a new career or business venture and are still strong advocates for our brand.

We will all face situations in our lives that require change or that we need to distance ourselves from. However, when we make the decision to never walk over that bridge again, it’s best to do so privately. This way, we give ourselves the ability to change our mind and reduce future detractors and obstacles on our path to success.

One of the best tips I can offer for satisfying the feeling that comes with bridge burning is to write down everything you really want to say. Then read it, sit on it, read it again and, finally, file it away or delete it. You will have cleared your mind without the associated ill will that such expression might cause.

Quote of the Week

“Never burn bridges. If it’s a faulty bridge then close it off and let it fall on its own.”

Gregor Collins

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Energy Vampires (#66)

Last week, I wrote about Embracing Relationships and engaging more deliberately with people to develop more meaningful relationships with them. This week, I wanted to look at the opposite end of the spectrum: energy vampires.

As monk-turned-business consultant, Dandapani explains, we all have a finite amount of energy to use each day and we’re exposed to people who either fill us with energy or drain us of energy.  People who drain our energy are known as energy vampires. These people could be colleagues, friends, family members – even people we encounter while out running errands.

Dandapani suggests that one of the first things to do when dealing with these people is to figure out if they are a temporary vampire or whether they are inherently an energy vampire. Temporary energy vampires might be going through a difficult time in their life (divorce, loss of family member, job, etc.). In the short-term, they need to lean on others and that’s okay, even though it may be draining.

Conversely, inherent energy vampires are always this way; and they aren’t looking to change. The easiest way to identify this type of person is to assess how you feel after you walk away from them. If you feel exhausted, then chances are that person is an energy vampire.

Here are some common characteristics of energy vampires:

  1. The Victim or Blamer: They consistently talk about how they are always getting the short end of the stick in life. They find external blame wherever possible and like to make others feel guilty.
  2. The Center of Attention: They always seem to make themselves the center of attention in any room or conversation; they like to stand out.
  3. The Narcissist: They are consumed with themselves and their own problems; they take very little time to think about others or how to make their lives better.
  4. The Drama Queen/King: They love the highs and lows, are surrounded by drama constantly, and want to bring everyone along for the ride.

While the best solution is to avoid these people altogether, it can be challenging if they are your co-workers, close friends, or even family members. And when we try to move away from them, we often feel guilty about it.

However difficult, it’s essential that you find a way to break free. What you’re doing is looking after yourself and protecting your energy. When you allow an energy vampire to drain you, they are depleting your ability to help and uplift others and be the best version of yourself.

It’s not about being confrontational, it’s about learning to tactfully avoid energy vampires and, if that’s not possible, then learning how to not engage with them.  Your energy is best used elsewhere.

Quote of the Week

“People inspire you, or they drain you. PICK THEM WISELY.”

Hans F. Hansen

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Embracing Relationships

Last week, I had dinner with someone I have worked with for years. While we’ve developed a strong working relationship, we hadn’t had the opportunity to catch up socially. I really enjoyed learning more about their background and life outside of work. It also reminded me why one of our company’s core values is “Embrace Relationships.”  Here’s how we define this core value:

Relationships advance our personal and professional lives, contributing greatly to our successes. We focus on long-term outcomes, meaningful relationships and genuine connections with our clients, teammates and partners. We believe that competence and character are fundamental to relationships built on trust and that quality relationships allow us to achieve more.

As it turns out, in addition to being a guiding business principal, this core value many have the side benefit of helping us to live longer.

In a recent Inc. article, the author reviewed two Harvard studies (Grant and Glueck) that tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two populations over a period of 75 years. The Grant study looked at 456 men living in inner-city Boston neighborhoods between 1939 to 2014. The Glueck study looked at 268 male Harvard graduates from the classes of 1939-1944. The lengthy time-frame of the study required multiple generations of researchers who analyzed blood samples, conducted brain scans, and examined self-reported surveys and interaction to compile the findings.

What the study concluded is that, when it comes to having a happy, healthy life, there is one thing that surpasses all the rest in terms of importance: good relationships. According to Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

An important distinction the study made is that the quantity of friends had little to no impact on happiness; it was the quality of the relationship that mattered.  And what drives the quality and depth of a relationship? The authenticity and vulnerability we bring to it. The studies’ authors also stressed that when we hit the inevitable rough patches in our lives, it’s critical to do everything we can to lean into these relationships and not push them away.

So, the next time you’re scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram posts, liking things along the way, you might instead think about using that time to pick up the phone and connect with someone you care about. Likewise, in business, rather than seeing someone as just an employee, client, prospect, or customer, engage with them as a person. Doing so could develop into an important relationship and may even help you live longer.

Have a great weekend!

Quote of the Week

 “In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take”

Tony Robbins

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Management Principle: Trust

Most people long for deep and meaningful relationships and yet are ever puzzled as to why they don’t work as well as they should. Like an apple pie that’s missing sugar, it looks good to the eye but once you taste it you notice something isn’t quite right. The missing ingredient, preventing individuals and teams from going deeper, is trust. I hope you enjoy this week’s principle and I would welcome your comments in my blog.

Trust. The most important ingredient of any meaningful relationship is trust. In the absence of trust individual relationships lack intimacy, and, with respect to teams there is no hope of achieving a high performing status. Trust is the belief that others have your best interest at heart and will act favorably on your behalf, even after they get to know you better. And, to work, we must reciprocate in equal measure. Vulnerability and authenticity flourish promoting deep, committed relationships–the kind of relationships necessary if you are going to engage in any form of battle together. How do you know if you have trust? Here are some indicators. You engage in a wholesome form of conflict on a regular basis, where you can say what you feel without any long-term, adverse consequences. You are able to focus on issues, not personalities, and collectively resolve problems. You grow in admiration for one another, even in light of human weaknesses. You have a commitment to people as well as common goals. Your context is absent of individualism and focuses more on community.

Coaching questions: What grade would your individual and team relationships receive on trust? What steps can you take to improve?

Read more coaching principles from Dean Harbry on the Internal Innovations website.