Gratitude

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days to stop and consider whether I’m doing enough to give back. It’s easy to get busy in the day-to-day and forget to live gratitude rather than just remembering it a few days a year. With that in mind, these are some of the great give-back suggestions friends and family have inspired over the years. The fun is really picking where to start, doing something small every day, and living with the spirit of sharing.

Easy to Do Every Few Days

1. Grab the coffee, tea, movie tickets, or food order of the person behind you in line.
2. Hand out a kit to someone who’s homeless when you see them at the intersection or on the road side. (See below for how-to.)
3. Send a handwritten postcard to someone who makes you smile, just because. Say hi.
4. Leave a friend or coworker a voicemail telling them something you appreciate about them.
5. Do a simple chore for someone, such as taking your neighbor’s trashcans in off the street for them, pitching in with the dishes, or giving your friend a lift in to work.

Easy to Do Every Few Months

1. Make 30-45 kits for homeless: Doug and I started making kits last year by stocking up on extra essentials at places like Big Lots or the 99c store or Walmart. You take a gallon zipper bag and fill with any combination of the following: water bottle, wrapped soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, hand sanitizer, razor, lotion, chapstick, bandaids, granola bar, socks, deodorant, $5 gift card to Subway or fast food. Make sure any snack items you include are individually wrapped and sealed in foil packaging so they’re not absorbing the smells of the bath products. It’s easy to keep a big sack of these in the backseat or passenger seat of your car for easy access when you see someone in need. As we’ve given them out, we’ve heard that water bottles and socks and washcloths are particularly helpful.
2. Send a “just because” treat to someone who’s having a rough time or could use an extra lift. This needn’t be expensive–it might be a small flower arrangement from your yard that you leave on someone’s desk. Or you could try sending a favorite magazine to your dad or mailing an article and a cookie or a small gift card to someone who’s going through a life transition.
3. Spend a day picking up trash in your neighborhood. My dad taught me how nice this is when I was young–we lived on a long, windy road about 1.5 miles off the main artery going into town, and inevitably, people would litter while driving out in the boonies. With a simple investment of some sturdy trash bags and two grabbers to get trash off the ground, this is a small investment to give back year round. You’d be amazed, too, how many neighbors want to help out when they go by.
4. Cull through your collection of books and magazines and donate a bag to a women’s shelter or retirement home. Sometimes something good to read is just the ticket to making someone’s day a little brighter.
5. Send a bag of pantry staples to your local food bank. Items that are usually in high demand: peanut butter, tuna, pasta, pasta sauce, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned beans, cereal, diapers, disinfectant wipes.
6. Donate bags and cans of unopened cat and dog food to the local shelter or animal rescue–pets are often forgotten when we’re giving. Litter and unopened toys help too!

Happy Thanksgiving, and here’s to a season of giving that doesn’t have to end in November!

5 Ways the Best Managers Multiply Your Success

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Who’s the first boss who impressed you? I was lucky early on in my publishing career to synch up with a boss who was also a mentor and a friend–someone who cared about me first as a person and second as a member of our team. Our favorite managers, though they all look and act differently, multiply the quantity of them and the quantity of us to get a result that’s far greater than what we imagined we could do.

Let me explain: I have a personal metric–an unproven but nonetheless strongly held belief–that I should be adding at least five times my pay in contributed value for any job I do. Minimum. In my mind, a paycheck is an investment in our capacity and our return back to the company. So if I make $100, my company’s investment in my services, I should generate the equivalent of at least $500 in revenue contribution. The best bosses put a multiplier on that–helping us get to $1000, $5000, and beyond–because they accelerate what’s possible with that $100. That’s a win for the company, and it’s a win for us, because as we grow and improve, that earned interest rolls with us, job to job, new boss to new boss.

So how do the best managers help us multiply our value? Five simple things.

1. They Set Goals

Look for bosses who set goals that spell out the expected wins, tie those wins to expected timelines, and remove the barriers that might hinder success. Think: “In the next 18 months, close 50 new accounts valued at $3000 of business or more each.” Then they help you secure the business terms you need to close the deals you bring in.

If you don’t have goals written down with metrics and a clear picture of success, get that conversation on the calendar right away. You can open it with, “I’d like to verify that what I consider my most important work is aligned with your expectations. Could you go over my list of goals with me?” Bring a list of the goals that make sense to you and start there, aiming for a collaborative conversation.

The best managers know, on the flip side, that not setting goals, setting nebulous or changing targets, or adding steps that make goals harder is counterproductive. Beware the boss who says “I think x would probably be good enough” when x is what you’re tasked with or the boss who holds you accountable to goals that were never formally communicated.

2. They Get Specific

Which do you prefer: “Hey, good job in that meeting?” or “Hey, we were really impressed with how proactive you were in requesting that client change. It saved us a good week of back and forth.” The best managers are specific–when they’re coaching and when they’re congratulating. They don’t leave to broad interpretation what they can communicate succinctly right now. Specificity includes a message, timely examples that illustrate the point, and clarity on the value of your actions (good or bad).

If your manager isn’t there yet, when something’s right or wrong, ask clarifying questions. “I’m glad the report was helpful. What about it hit the mark so I can build on that next time?”

3. They Help Pave Smooth Roads

Who doesn’t love a boss who makes it easier to get your work done? The best managers help you remove the speed bumps that slow success–you just need to bring them your process, tell them what needs to change and what your plan is, and ask for their support in going faster.

Equally important: they don’t put up random speed bumps to test you or trap you in your process. They like you best when you’re zooming. Help your boss get there by trying, “Can you help me? There’s an obstacle I need to get around, and after considering several solutions, I’d like to do x. Here’s why…”

4. They’re Organization-Minded

Aligning with your company’s larger initiatives is critical to job relevance and stability. Managers who read org priorities and translate them into team and individual priorities buy you a piece of the action. This has nice side benefits: you’re always a relevant commodity because the work you’re doing is high priority and visible to the right people at the right times.

If you’re not clear already, ask what targets the organization is aiming for in the next 12 months. Offer a few probing questions about how your boss sees those initiatives impacting your team. Suggest that you chart your group’s path to align with company priorities.

5. They’re Real

The one quality I’d argue is most important in the best managers is that they tell it as it is. You get the real person, the real message, the real connection. No censored orchestration at the expense of the team knowing how to be successful.

Of course, this doesn’t mean they’re loosey goosey with confidential information or careless with sensitive strategy, but it means you can look each other in the eye. Take the first step by being real yourself–voice an opinion, even if it’s unpopular. Say what’s hard to say, tactfully. Share something about your life when it makes sense in conversations. Care about the whole person. When people are real with each other, amazing things happen, such as ego getting out of the way, decision making happening around facts, and dissent leading to better outcomes.

You’ll know you’re working with the right boss when you a) leave your meetings happier than when you entered b) welcome challenges as opportunities to accelerate rather than reasons to disengage c) know where you stand and why d) work toward a tomorrow that matters to you and to the company.

It’s both that easy and that difficult.