Appreciating Kindness

1105-relax-and-succeed-a-persons-actionsWelcome to the last day of the month and to the end of your first two months of micro-meditations. You can take pride in your dedication because exercises like these absolutely do have an impact on how broadly you’re able to view “reality.”

It feels good to have a positive impact on the world around you. Here at Relax and Succeed I’ve encouraged people to engage in March Kindness Month, a creation based on a program in Singapore I was aware of from the 1990’s. This program was taken up by a variety of teachers around the world and the students in their classes helped add to the total amount of human compassion and kindness that was expressed over the last few years. That kind of thing generates a tangible impact in the world.

Leading up to those micro-kindness goals it’s worthwhile for us to take a good look at kindness more attentively so that we can appreciate its actual impact in the world. Our understanding of it often ends with the belief that it’s a good thing to do, but rarely do we slow our minds down to truly understand why.

1105-relax-and-succeed-spiritual-practice-is-not-just-sittingIn today’s meditation your goal is simply to tune your awareness radar to acts of kindness. You can hear about them on the radio or a podcast, you can see them in a video or program, or you can note them live and in-person at work, in public, and at home. It’s not only healthy to be tuned to these events, moreover your careful observance of these moments will demonstrate the resonating power behind simple acts of kindness.

As I’ve written about before, simply waiting a bit longer than average to hold a door for someone will often elicit the same behaviour from the person who the door was held for. Their odds of looking behind them for the rest of the day goes up. Their odds that they’ll be willing to hold a door just a bit longer than average will go up, and by these small gains the world can change.

We’ll save your action for March, but for today, in watching these examples, your assignment is to simply try to see the echo of the generous and thoughtful behaviour. Note the person’s emotional reaction, which will be demonstrated through their facial expressions and body language. Maybe they’ll even offer some words of thanks, and then echo the action with someone else. Whatever it is, big or small, recognise those gains as real things in the universe; things that never would have existed were it not for the original act.

Gandhi wasn’t kidding when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change in the world is literally made of massive collections of these tiny acts. People are naturally generous, connected and compassionate, but without us modelling that behaviour for others, they have little chance of breaking out of their egocentric thoughts to the point where they can even recognise their ability to impact the world in this positive way.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Ego’s Tools

1101-relax-and-succeed-ubuntu-is-very-difficult-to-renderThis is a particularly good exercise. If you’re reading this then it’s likely that you generally like people. Some socialised peopled can behave anti-socially on, ironically, social media, but most feel the tug to be tribal. We know deep down that being separate from the group is more dangerous and less enjoyable. This is why prisoners describe the lack of freedom as most painful, even when their conditions might otherwise seem good.

Jail is our modern equivalent to shunning. Before you got kicked out and had to find a way to survive by catching 100% of your own food, making 100% of your own clothes and 100% of your own fire-making and socialising. In prison you get your jump suit and your food that’s heated over a stove, but it can still be a dangerous place unless you become a high enough ranking person to have protection, but even that pits you against other similar-strength people. We’re all really better off getting along.

Of course living with others does require a compromising approach that seeks something that works well for everyone, and yet at the same time if we have to sacrifice too much of who we are then we’re better off finding a group that matches us better. That said, adaptations on our part also expand us, so learning to get along with those you don’t get along with is an actual life skill.

1101-relax-and-succeed-teach-your-childrenOver the last couple decades there has been an increasing amount of judgment in the First World. Fed, watered, sheltered, the lower portions of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is covered, meaning you’re looking for things to do. Those things used to largely be actions, not idleness.

Actions would be things like developing yourself, enhancing your environment, playing games or sports with others, being artistic through music or dance or carving or painting or weaving or whatever. Even at the turn of the last century it was an activity for a family to actively sit around a radio and listen. Yes, listening was an actual activity. It was something you completely did, not something that was on while you did other things.

Today there are a lot of people doing none of those things. A lot of people watch a lot of TV or spend a lot of time on the internet, and what’s there is what’s here–lots of words. I write professionally, but words are the ego’s tools, so that’s why when I’m healthiest I make the time to drag race, play drums, garden, or play some type of strategy game. These things are very involving and yet they involve little or no words. It’s why lots of kids have taken up knitting.1101-relax-and-succeed-we-are-just-an-advanced-breed

All of the judging people are doing is done in words. They think their judgments inside their own heads and then either say them or write them, or they don’t. But the judgment’s happened either way. That judgment is an ego-action inside our heads that separates us from our human tribe.

You might find it unpleasant imagining giving help to someone you don’t like, but imagine being able to get the help normally associated with a friend, from literally everyone. That’s what Star Trek imagined and that’s where we’re generally headed. A whole bunch of us want fewer borders and a greater emphasis on saving Earthlings, not just Earthlings like us. So that is where we’re going. The question is, what will you do to get yourself there?

Today’s meditation is easy, and yet it’s one of your most challenging yet: find gratitude in a place where you’d least expect it. Ask a few friends or people you see regularly: what sort of people do you complain about most? Maybe they’re rich, maybe they’re poor, maybe they’re intolerant of other cultures, maybe they’re from another culture, maybe they vote differently from you, maybe they’re in jail, maybe they have a temper or are boring–it doesn’t matter, it all works for the exercise.

1101-relax-and-succeed-god-created-our-skin-tonesThe idea is to stretch your own definition of what kind of person meets the definition of an acceptable person. As an example, personally, the biggest challenge I have is watching people with helpful power withhold it for personal reasons that have little to do with expanding the entire tribe.

I find it difficult watching an executive allow his staff to be abused; watching a wealthy person not take action to improve the world; watching someone be grotesquely self-centered, things like that. I’m mostly upset that they steal the joy of connection that goes with helping others. They’re stealing from themselves.

So to challenge my own judgments, I went out and found an example that proves my definition is one dimensional. You do the same. Take the type of person you don’t like, and then find a person who meets that description that you do like. Like I said, easy, and in a way quite the challenge. Find your type. Genuinely accept someone from that group into your group. That’s it. Because that will be a lot.

1101-relax-and-succeed-bill-gates-is-better-that-batman

http://www.frugaldad.com/

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Being Liked

1052-relax-and-succeed-open-your-handsLikes on social media are no different than likes in person. They’re given out rather casually and they’re taken away with little notice. This is because no one is responsible for the fair dispersal of likes, they just tumble out of whatever conditions naturally form them, with the landscape being made up of moment to moment opinions.

It isn’t frivolous to seek likes to some degree. We need them to survive. Even covering the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid of needs is difficult when we’re alone, and achieving procreation and the other higher stages is effectively impossible. So partnerships and group pursuits are key to our survival both physically and emotionally.

That said, we also don’t want to live entirely for others. Our cooperation must in a way be selfish. Each individual must live and look out for themselves. At the same time if an individual who is struggling to contribute, or in cases where they’ve done something wrong and they require forgiveness, if they’re liked enough then popularity can act like a get out of jail free card.

1052-relax-and-succeed-none-of-us-is-as-smart-as-all-of-usThe idea of stored value in the form of good feelings can’t be sought for their own sake or that is a shallow, ego-driven life lived for others. But if they are done as part of an actual, active awareness and understanding that we really do need these other people, then even if a person is a child or elderly and therefore less useful in obtaining food etc., they are still safe.

So why can’t an office be like that? The problem in the office is that if the company’s goals cannot incorporate normal human pursuits then everyone is working for pay and not as a way of pushing the group forward, and that sort of shallow motivation simply will not last.

If we’re not interesting in being liked then the company society deteriorates. People start having wants that are out of sync with their contributions. Because bosses are seen as hierarchical over employees, we learn the very unnatural lesson that someone’s likes have bizarrely been made more valuable than other people’s likes. Now someone can just have one key person in a company like them and that can be enough for them to advance even though that would make zero sense to all of us other apes.

1052-relax-and-succeed-without-the-taoUltimate we must be balance being free with our natural desire for likes, because there is no point in having more likes than you need. In that case you would be seen as greedy and that would then result in less likes. Rich people the world over are seeing this now too whether they were generous or not. Overall we’ve now reached the point where the average world citizen has seen their internal scale tipped and they now see the group’s sharing of value is out of balance. Entire groups are now jostling to reorganise to see the sharing of resources be more equitable.

Why don’t we always act this way in homes and schools and companies and societies? Because now we no longer have the Tao holding us together. We’ve substituted our natural comprehension of our need of others and we’ve attempted to codify that into laws and rules and guidelines, but these are inhuman concepts that will often not match the actual temperament or feelings of various people.

In some cases there are revolts. Apes are killed, spouses leave, company employees start sabotaging the group, governments are removed, people are arrested or shamed. And this hardens divisions, and yet divisions themselves are fine. Sales shouldn’t really love accounting, they’re two different roles in the group that require different kinds of brains. But you need each one. If I didn’t get any wild pig today then I really need your berries and likewise. But when I convince myself your berries are worth less than my pig because I worked harder to get mine rather than me noticing they’re equal amounts of food, then that is the start of trouble: disrespect in the group.

Sometimes disrespect is what teaches an out of line group member the value of being in line. But this isn’t some rigid law-based line. The natural line has more flexibility. It has more understanding. It would look less to the rules and more to the moment. Hopes and expectations of others would be altered according to the situation whereas where laws always apply and there is only leniency in sentencing.

How are you in your groups? It’s fine for people in different groups to dislike you, or even for some people in your group to dislike you. But being cared about and for is a key part of enjoying life so we want to nurture that. We just don’t want to go so far that we surrender our core values and beliefs for ideas or groups that we do not truly believe in.

Find a group that encourages your participation and input by respecting you, and that respect should include compassion and the assumption that the relationship will be managed according to the Tao. That’s why even monkey’s recognise this elemental value in life. Selfishness for ourselves is essential in that our best behaviours are naturally driven by wanting to help provide for a generous and caring group.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #123: Female Leadership

983-relax-and-succeed-you-dont-need-a-reasonWhat if women ran things? Would government run differently? Would business run differently? Would their natural inclination be toward more cooperative efforts? I’m sure there’s advantages and disadvantages to each perspective but I would welcome giving more women a chance.

There are some signs in nature that this could work well. There are also signs that our natures are quite flexible given healthy circumstances. But even the most natural creature can break down if it has to live an unnatural life. That’s probably what happened to us. When we lose our reliance on each other we destroy ourselves.

It’s fascinating to listen to this remarkable story about the strange circumstances these baboons found themselves in, and how that lead to them being lead by the females which in turn lead to their culture becoming kinder and more compassionate. They thrived. It’s a good lesson for any family no matter what gender heads it.

Radiolab is always well done. This story is hard not to find fascinating. Enjoy.

Violent Baboons and Female Leadership

Have a great weekend everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Inspired Living

959 Relax and Succeed - Our culture has bred consumersNarcissism, at least in the psycho-spiritual realm, is not about beauty or appearance, it’s about immobility. When we imagine someone thinking about themselves too much we imagine someone losing weight or wearing pretty things or someone staring at themselves in a mirror thinking, look at me, look at me, but the damaging part of self-centeredness isn’t the part that says look at me, it’s that by doing so it says: do not pay attention to others. What’s painful in the life of the narcissist is their lack of true connection to others.

I met a nice young woman a few years back. Smart, funny, very creative. She wanted to talk to me about feeling fulfilled. She had a tremendous amount of trouble motivating herself and she wondered how that could be improved. She had way above-average skills and the time to use them, but she was stuck in her home office endlessly wondering why more wasn’t happening. She had been immobile for a few years trying to figure it out.

959 Relax and Succeed - That horrifying momentSo what was she doing? She was spending her time thinking about how to make her own life great. That was her version of Narcissus and the reflecting pool; she sat and stared all day at her own life and wondered why she couldn’t figure out how to make it more impressive. That was the action of her life. That was its verb: wondering. Instead of doing things she wondered. She was trying to wonder her way to a better life.

Meanwhile everyone has Maslow’s Pyramid to deal with. We need food and shelter before we can do anything else. So does someone like me want to take a hard-won client and lose them by telling them something I know they really don’t want to hear? No, but I always do anyway. I do pay for it in lost clients, but that’s still an easy trade compared to my success rate. Because if people make it through the responsibility part they do fine every single time. And if they bailed they weren’t ready yet anyway and they need to go suffer some more.

In a healthy person the inspiration isn’t some magical bolt of lightning that tells someone how they’ll feel fulfilled. Inspiration is created when we feel connected to others, just as narcissism is thinking about ourselves instead of others. So she was thinking about herself, endlessly looking for some motivation that was truly hers, and I was suggesting she think of her spouse and that her motivation could be how she could make his life easier. If she loved him didn’t she want him to have a good life? Wasn’t he missing out on holidays and things for himself if he was paying her to be idle?

959 Relax and Succeed - Me weIn short, instead of wanting even more for herself she could appreciate what she was already getting from her spouse. That gratitude could then be the valuable inspiration she needed to change that situation. But she couldn’t see that because she was too busy thinking about herself and her troubles all the time even though those troubles were all brought on by her lack of action and contribution.

Once she realised that her spouse was actually struggling and sacrificing his life for hers to be idle, she suddenly found motivation. His life could be improved significantly with her help. Suddenly she was motivated to get any job that would take that pressure off him. She no longer needed the job to be fulfilling to her soul in some abstract way, what was fulfilling to her soul was that she was actually contributing to improving the life of someone she loved.

There’s plenty of spouses running hobbies as businesses with little effort toward profitability, even though their entire life is being supported by a hard-working partner. There are plenty of children idly dreaming while their hard-working parents pay their bills because to the child, just earning a living seems unspiritual and uninspiring. But that’s only because the child has turned the work into money, instead of into a mechanism for benefiting a loved one.

959 Relax and Succeed - Dreams require actionThe money isn’t what counts, it’s the respect. Respect is a kind of connection. It says, I care about what you go through every day. So sitting around idly while someone else works for you ends up as a lack of respect, which is a breaking of the bond between one person and another; a spiritual bond. We’re all in this together. They’re there for you, but you’re not there for them.

If you spend all your time thinking, I don’t know what to do, then I would suggest looking around to see what others around you are doing for you and start with that. If your life seems bogged down then someone somewhere is making up for your inactivity because we all need food and shelter as our spirits take our bodies along this journey called life. So who’s doing what and how can you help?

A spouse or child could gain great personal satisfaction by simply caring more actively about the people supporting them. The same goes for any other scenario where someone isn’t carrying their own weight, from benefits from relatives, to friends to even our societies. Everyone has empathy for those in genuine need, but if someone can recover from a spinal injury in a year or two and go on to a fulfilling life in a wheelchair, then surely an able-bodied person can do it in the same amount of time if they care enough. The question is, who are you caring about?

959 Relax and Succeed - Integrity is doing the right thingStop living for yourself and start living for others. What’s wrong with society is the same thing that’s wrong with individuals: a lack of cohesion, a lack of attraction, a lack of responsibility to one another. You don’t need inspiration you need connection. Respect and awareness is all the inspiration and motivation a healthy soul needs.

Whether you’re a street person or a wealthy idle spouse, you will be in pain if you do not connect to and contribute meaningfully to the lives of others. Love is what love does. So you are never far from salvation no matter how bad it seems. All you need to do is stop thinking so much about yourself and start to think more about others.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #112

927 FD Relax and Succeed - Words are a pretextLiving life is first more psychologically peaceful and then a lot more spiritual if you only increase your awareness. Keep in mind that the things you think about each day are ego-related things. All your ego can do is pass around symbolic words but it is only thinking so it does not touch the world. To live you must be active about living. You must make choices that lead to happiness.

If you’re feeling low or stressed or any other feeling you don’t like, look around you and ask if that sense is appropriate. If you’ve just lost someone close to you then it makes sense to be in a state of despair shortly thereafter, but if you’re in that state of mind regularly and the reasons are far more general, then you will only feel better once you take action.

As I’ve stated many times, any stillness must be filled with internal spiritual activity or you will feel crushed by your lack of life. Likewise, if you strongly connect with the natural world–including other people–then you will feel larger than life. But this is a choice that only you can make.

Here’s a good example of how small changes can have a big impact over time. I know for anyone over 35 years old, taking advice from this young lady might even seem humorous and I do realize that before certain key life experiences our comprehension of what’s required for life is limited. While even early battles with serious childhood disease can’t fake that kind of perspective, I urge you to give her a listen anyway. The points she’s making remain entirely valid and they are worth your time. I do hope it helps you set yourself up for a really wonderful weekend.

Enjoy your days everyone!

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Kindness of Others

888 Relax and Succeed - We scientists don't knowRemember, the point of all of these awareness-raising exercises is to give you a rewarding and enjoyable life. And for the people doing them, it’s working. Whether it’s the morning gratitude meditations from week one, or giving the opposite sex more serious consideration, or by being more grateful for the kindness already shown to us, people are using these exercises to enhance their ability to feel good.

Kindness is helpful in this pursuit because it is a form of direct link between beings. Kindness nurtures support and engenders cooperation and defense. Kindness is the basis for our societies. The old capitalist idea that we’re all fundamentally selfish was proven wrong many decades ago. It wasn’t hard to see that a cooperating group would always defeat a selfish group, so kindness is like the glue that holds us all together and it therefore deserves our respect and attention.

Who are the kindest people you know? Who is kindest in your family and how? Who is kindest at work or school? Again, how? Who is kindest in your social group? What is the kindest organization you’re involved with? Ask yourself very seriously how these people express their kindness. A decent act done out of obligation loses its kindness. Look at these examples in your own life to see the results of genuine generosity.

888 Relax and Succeed - You become like the 5Like many of the others this might seem like too simple a mental task to undertake. But there’s the challenge for a lot of you: you say you want to feel better, you start things with an aim to have them help you feel better (like, for instance, reading this blog), but then you’re half-hearted or undedicated to the actual “work” of creating a better life.

Now by “work” I mean doing the things that will feel more rewarding, less taxing and more beneficial to your soul. These things aren’t really work because they’re easier than what you’re doing now–it takes a lot of effort to suffer. That’s where the people who have really suffered have the advantage and it also might explain the idea of the meek inheriting the Earth.

People who have been through a lot always value feeling better like it’s a life and death question–which it very much is. You either live your life consciously or you never actually come alive much at all. But to do it consciously you have to endeavour to make yourself conscious. It’s what you always did as a kid so it isn’t difficult, but you do have to do it. If you’re going to use all those words to get yourself lost, then you’ll have to put some effort into being found again.

888 Relax and Succeed - I slept and dreamed that life is all joyI’m getting great emails from people who are simply doing the exercises. They fit into gaps in their day without too much trouble and just by earnestly doing each one these people are noticing real benefits. So I can’t save you. I can guide you. But ultimately everyone saves themselves. And you do that by being open and loving and supportive to people. It turns out that feels good, and it also makes people want to act that way toward you. It’s a good system.

So look at your life. Find the kindest people in it and call them–don’t text, let them hear the meaning in your voice. And thank them or go see them so they can see see the genuine appreciation on your face. Look at their lives and ask–how do they do it? Is it that they don’t judge? They’re funny? They can be silent and give you space when you need it? They stay in regular touch? Ask yourself exactly how they’re kindness-smart and what you can learn from them.

Find the three kindest people you know and write down what makes them particularly kind, and then before the end of this week do each of those three things for someone else. And be conscious of how you feel when you do it. It will be those good feelings that get you to continue, because as any happy person knows, kindness is a beautifully selfish act. Enjoy.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

Big Changes

Society is maturing. This is the technology/nuclear age where we have started to better understand that the damage we can do is permanent. The world’s greatest minds are terrified of where Artificial Intelligence will go, we’ve made a lot of changes in the environment in various ways but at least now we’re quickly growing a greater respect for where we live and what we are and how we connect.

772 Relax and Succeed - How do we change the worldIt might look bad, but this is where we begin an era of attempting to gain more self-control as a species. We’re thrashing around less. Most of us want treaties not wars. And now that Maslow’s Pyramid has been largely fulfilled, we’re looking for the why’s behind life. What’s the point of all this effort to stay alive?

More and more people are looking for more and more meaning. That explains why fewer and fewer people are seduced by materialism or status. It’s now easier and easier to see that the people who still live still deep inside the matrix have fallen into a destructive kind of materialist addiction of working and spending. Meanwhile, an increasing number of people are trading less work for a smaller life.

Young people used to discuss the cars they wanted to own and the clothes and the trips they wanted to brag about. Some still do. But more and more of today’s youth are more interested in seeking peace and connection. Personally they want less ownership (or should I call it Onerouship?). They want more time with friends. And that shift in values means they see fewer reasons to economically protect ourselves. Increasingly we are seeing ourselves as having more in common with other people from other places. Money might be finite and we may have to battle over it but such is not the case with love. There is always more available. This leads us to see each other less as races and nations and more as humans. This is a big step for humanity.

772 Relax and Succeed - Where there is too muchThe era we’re entering right now is an exciting one. Many of us can pretty easily sense the rumble of change. There’s a real disconnection with materialism, celebrity, efficiency, social conduct and politics. These things feel hollow and meaningless and we are less and less mesmerized by their tricks and we’re more interested in the genuine substance of life.

Before any big change in a person or the world there were always be tumult beforehand. Things will be restless as they reorganize for the change. Then we change, work to understand the change, exploit the change and then move on. Our current tumult is leading to our togetherness phase. This is where we really start to realize how challenging life can be. We start to actually want help. We’ll admit vulnerability and in doing so we will realize that the greatest feelings we get are from cooperation, compassion and love, not competition, comparison and indifference.

The issues that concern people are all about false idols. People do terrible things to each other to obtain fame, power and money. And we’re all focused on blaming each other. But these issues aren’t solved by some know-it-all politician or some divine guru who leads us to the next evolution of our being. This is a personal journey that cannot be lead by anyone guided by fame, power and/or money. We must all lead our own journey. But lead it we must do.

772 Relax and Succeed - Everyone thinks of changingDon’t look to elect a certain government as a way of making things better. Go be nice to your neighbours. Be kinder. Gentler. Happier. Be more patient and tolerant. Because all that other stuff doesn’t really matter on a day to day basis if our interactions aren’t of good quality. My taxes might be low but if I argue every day with my neighbour then my life sucks. So we’ve gotten to the point where a large and ever-increasing number of us are starting to care less what life looks like and we are caring more and more about how it feels.

You are an integral part of this change. The whole cannot change if each part does not cooperate. The decisions you make in life will either add to this current or run contrary to it. But everyone’s always a part of what happens and the river always flows toward the sea no matter what unfolds. None of this is a matter of if, it’s only a matter of when. The world is maturing. If you look for it you’ll see many signs of that. Rejoice.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Conscious Leadership

If I were to hazard a guess, I would guesstimate that about one manager in 30 actually demonstrates any real leadership skill. This isn’t to say they’re incapable of leading—I simply mean that they’ve never really thought much at all about the act of leadership itself. As I’ve written before, they manage the work and not the people. But of course you can’t really manage work. You can talk like you do, but you can’t turn that blabber into a verb.

648 Relax and Succeed - Instead of thinking outside the boxWhere you see this most often is with sales teams. I’m often brought in by a manager to help them realise more potential from their sales employees, but 95% of my success comes from making the manager more conscious about how counter-productive they are, rather than any changes to the actual employees under that manager. Saying to someone, you sold $40,000 of product last month, I want you to sell $43,000 this month is not management. That’s target-setting and you might as well get a computer to automate that process because it is thoroughly meaningless—and yet it’s what 99.9% of sales teams focus on. The numbers are pulled out of the manager’s ass and they simply amount to the manager habitually saying to the employee at the start of each month: MORE!

Let’s just think about this for a moment. I was talking to an excellent top sales performer at a company recently and she noted in a group session with her managers that the targets were meaningless to anyone who had done the job for more than about a year. After 12 months of repeatedly saying MORE! the employee just tunes it out. If you’ve been selling for 5 years, you’ve heard this stupid plea on the 1st of every month 60 times in a row. You might as well just email them a link to an audio recording that slots in a new digital number every month that is +X of whatever they did last month.

648 Relax and Succeed - Showing gratitude is one of the simplest thingsIf they really wanted to get an employee’s attention and see some change, they should talk to someone and say, “Hey, you know what? You’ve been an excellent salesperson for X number of years. Your numbers have steadily grown year after year. You’ve proven yourself and I want to show you that I appreciate that growth and the effort that it took to achieve it. So this month I made your target lower. Take a bit more time this month and do some things for yourself. Family time, fun, recreation a hobby—whatever. Go invest in yourself and next month we’ll get back at it hard. I need you to pull at least a decent number so my boss doesn’t chastise me, but otherwise let’s create a bit of space for you. You’ve earned it.”

I’ve asked a lot of sales teams what affect that would have and they have universally responded to it super-positively. The few places that had actually implemented it often saw the numbers go up anyway on the “lax month” because the employee was more relaxed and less stressed, so they used their energy more efficiently.

648 Relax and Succeed - People don't respond to youSimilarly, you can’t manage time. Time is nearly irrelevant. I recall seeing an email from a manager that I know zero thought went into. It was ridiculously simplistic. It wasn’t chosen as a strategy from a competition of other ideas, it was just a knee-jerk reaction to some event, (with the emphasis on the jerk). The manager was a truly decent guy that I actually quite liked, and the fellow was bright, but that didn’t make the decision smart.

The email suggested that any employee who was even one minute late should text their boss or they should not even bother showing up. Of course, to say to a salesperson to not show up is to say, don’t earn any money for your important bills. How important did this guy think one minute is? He would make all sorts of lame arguments about principle but if he had to debate it with me in front of people he would realise there wasn’t anything principled about his decision at all. Another manager could easily create better performance with a smarter strategy.

648 Relax and Succeed -Why good employees leave

The guy had an MBA, but everyone teaching it was an academic who’d never been in a senior position, and even if they had, they’re far more likely to be one of the 29 bad managers, not the one good one. Which shows you can go to school to learn data but in practice you still either have an unconscious manager or a conscious one and only the latter makes people better, and the latter one would never send such a useless, silly and entirely counter-productive email. The reaction to it by the manager’s staff was universally a drop in respect for the him because he had so clearly shown disrespect for their lives and the money those lives need to function in a healthy way.

It was petty, punitive and what bothered me most about it was that it had zero chance of causing that sales team to be more effective and in fact it did the exact opposite. It took people’s heads out of the game. They spend half their time gossiping about how bad their boss was. Yes, it’s much more professional and much more likely to be a promotable person if they show up on time and demonstrate respect for their co-workers so it does have real value, but there isn’t much worth in being rigid about flawless precise timing.

Respect for clients and co-workers (including the managers) has a huge impact. So asking them to leave home an extra 20 minutes early every single day on the off chance they’ll get caught in bad traffic on one of them—that just means work is eating even further into people’s lives and that never pays off because people are starting to choose jobs based on who respects their lives outside of work. And even after all of those reasons, where I live texting and driving is illegal, so that manager’s request was essentially a demand to break the law or make no money. Nice guy, but dumb dumb dumb decision that never held anyway.

648 Relax and Succeed - No individual can be happy who livesGreat managers treat all employees as what they are—individuals. They each have their strengths and weaknesses relative to the job, and each has their own fluctuating life challenges. Telling some guy with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or a sick child at home that they can’t make money because of 1/60th of a clock tick is meaningless, thoughtless and potentially cruel. The better manager would tailor everyone’s schedules to their natural rhythms and circumstances and then they would be working with the employee’s nature rather than subjecting them to the tyranny of a clock. Seriously. That one minute late decision still stands out as one of the most counter-productive things I’ve ever seen in 30 years of learning and teaching management.

Bad bosses will lead by title. They’ll point to their sales record as proof then know what to do when that is almost entirely irrelevant to their staff. The hockey strategies used by a long-armed 6’5” winger are not applicable to a 5’9” speedster with quick hands. Again, that’s unconscious management. Thinking that someone else should just mimic you is arrogant and meaningless. You coach to people’s strengths you don’t try to whip them all into the same person. The meticulous customer service focused person cannot be managed the same as the cold-hearted money-motivated one. They can both be maximized to excellent effect, but not by just broadcasting arbitrary uniform demands from the professional equivalent of a bullhorn.

648 Relax and Succeed - Thomas A EdisonIf you took an action as a manager and you didn’t think of five other choices before choosing that one as the best choice, then you know you’re an unconscious manager. That’s the vast majority of you. The good things is, anyone can become conscious. You just have to spend a bit of time extrapolating out what the impacts of each choice might be, and then select the one that looks like it will take you the farthest. How well you’ll do will depend on how well you understand how people work. Regardless you’ll still be wrong plenty of times. But doing it the unconscious way you’ll hardly ever be lucky enough to have your personal opinion line up with what’s best.

Don’t think a degree or success in a job qualifies you to lead. It absolutely doesn’t. Understanding people well enough to know how to motivate them as individuals does. So spend less time on rules and targets and penalties and more on learning about what personally inspires each of your staff. Do that and you’ll find they not only perform better than their competitors, but you’ll save yourself a ton in Human Resources costs. And—oh yeah—you’ll actually enjoy your own work day more too. And after all, that is half of your waking life.

peace. s

Spirituality is a Verb 2

I know it’s a holiday for a lot of people, but this is a great blog to start your week with. It’ll invigorate your spirit and inspire you. It’s a quick, easy-to-read bit of positiveness.

It’s not only a holiday in Canada, but this is the week a lot of my readers are putting their kids into school, so this is when readership dips for a bit, making it a good time for me to take a week off for the first time since I started this blog.

This week I’ll be presenting some awesome posts that were written back when the blog was new and very few people knew about it. So it’s highly unlikely you’ve read any of these, and even if you had you’d have changed enough as a person since then that the material would appear entirely different.

This will be fun–I get to hand pick some old favourites that are still extremely relevant to our lives today, and you get to read a selected collection of my best writing. Enjoy! 🙂

Relax and Succeed

Maybe you attend a church or synagogue or mosque or temple. Maybe you read scripture, or are knowledgeable about the philosophies behind your religion. Maybe you dress a certain way, sit a certain way, and meditate a certain way. But those are all just things your ego is doing. Spirituality is a verb. It is an act of love. It doesn’t discuss what should be done by us or others. It acts. It is love in motion.

24 Relax and Succeed - The simplest acts of kindness Please pardon the original designer for their then-for-than spelling mistake.

Take all of the energy you currently put into telling others how they should vote, how they should eat, what manners they should have, what opinion they should have of what person, place or thing, plus all of the energy you put into religious rituals, and invest all of that life force into sharing more love. Use it to hold open…

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