Who Am I?

I’m the surgeon who would’ve saved your life. I’m the spouse who would’ve loved and honored you in marriage. I’m the teacher who would’ve inspired you to reach your goals, no matter the challenges. I’m the midwife who would’ve helped saved your newborn’s life. I’m the administrator who would’ve been sensitive to your situation and helped you to maintain your job during that difficult time. I’m the engineer who would’ve designed a structure to protect your home during that natural disaster. I’m the counselor who would’ve provided that unbiased listening ear that you were searching for. I’m the florist who would’ve designed your fairy-tale wedding. I’m the paramedic who would’ve saved your life after that tragic car accident. I’m the chef who would’ve inspired you to pursue a healthier diet. I’m the entrepreneur who would’ve motivated you to take on that new business venture. I’m the interpreter who would’ve broken the language barrier, thus protecting your life during your time in combat. I’m the religious leader who would’ve spoken the exact words you needed to hear to bring you closer to God. I’m the social worker who would’ve provided your family with a safe transition. I’m the lawyer who would’ve defended you when you were wrongfully accused. I’m the politician who would’ve set a new positive precedent in the government. I’m the electrician who would’ve discovered those unsafe wires that prevented a future house fire. I’m the police officer who would’ve saved your life during an attempted homicide. I’m the custodian who would’ve kept your child’s school clean and warm. I’m the truck driver who would’ve helped you to jump start your car during that snowstorm. I’m the caregiver who would’ve lovingly cared for your parent during their final days. I’m the artist who would’ve aided you in healing after the loss of your loved one. I’m the stranger who would’ve picked up your dropped groceries in the parking lot, while you held your infant in your arms. I’m the scientist who would’ve found a cure for that deadly disease. I’m the real estate agent who would’ve guided you towards finding your dream home. I’m the computer designer who would’ve created a program to protect your child online. I’m the environmental engineer who would’ve formulated a method for preserving your environment. I’m the firefighter who would’ve bravely ran into your house and saved your family members.

 

Who am I? I’m the refugee you never allowed into your country.
Identity

10501742_10154311250420611_7133988961460598566_n

Will you allow the clouds to blur your vision? The choice is yours. 

Wanted: Effective Leadership (Part 2/2)

The last post left off on a bit of a negative spin; however, that doesn’t mean that an ineffective leader can’t improve and lead his/her employees onto a better path. I’ve compiled a list of 3 steps that will lead towards being an effective leader. Here they are:

 

  • Become Engaged with the Realities of Your Clients & Employees – One of the most effective ways to become engaged with your employees is to interact with them in the realities that they are encountering in the work field. This also includes being a part of the relations with your company’s clients. You must know what is genuinely going on “in the trenches” to develop a possible solution to the challenges that your staff is facing. Many leaders worked their way to the top, which results in them being somewhat removed from the realities that are happening by the time they have advanced to that role. To improve in this area, take time to randomly show up on the jobsite where your staff members are working. Notice how I did not suggest that you call them into your office for a meeting? No; go to them! See what they are seeing; hear what they are hearing; help do what they are doing. This is how you will get a fresh glimpse of the current status of everything that they deal with day-in and day-out. Likewise, you should also engage with the clients that your company works with and ask them questions to discover how things are going from their perspective. I suggest you do this every couple of weeks because some individuals might not feel comfortable, at first, with giving their honest feedback. The further you develop connections, the more they will become transparent in their responses.
  • Provide Honest, Consistent Feedback and Follow-Thru – If you want your employees to grow professionally, you need to give them feedback. This does not mean only positive feedback. How can one improve if you do not suggest areas for them to improve in? Just as important, the feedback should also be honest. Tell your staff members the truth about their strengths and weaknesses. Although there are times when “official” feedback may need to be presented for employee reviews and so forth, make it a practice to also provide feedback during unplanned moments (it’s also key to have a conversation with your employees so they understand these opportunities are not “got cha” moments). Also look among your staff and try to match someone who has a strength in one area, with someone whose weakness is that same area. For example, if you have a staff member whose sales data is maintained in an organized manner, suggest this person to a colleague who may struggle with finding his/her documents throughout the desk. This provides a chance for growth in both individuals. Just as important as the feedback is the follow-thru. If you are going to be a leader who provides feedback, you must also make the time to follow-thru. If you suggested that a staff member begins to develop more thorough lesson plans, then check back in on his/her lesson plans in two weeks. At that point, offer some more feedback (hopefully they made some adjustments and so your feedback can be in the form of a compliment; however, if they have not, do not sugar-coat your new feedback – push for growth!).
  • Inspire Your Employees By Modeling Behaviors – One of the most effect ways to shift behaviors in your place of work, is to model the behaviors that you wish to see. If your staff is not valuing the expectation of being to work on time, model the importance by always arriving to work on time, or even early. If office gossip is becoming a problem, make sure that you are not engaging in this act. In addition, if someone begins to gossip with you, twist it into a positive discussion. If facilitators are not writing detailed reports, model examples throughout the work you produce and mention the value of it during a team meeting. The old saying, “we do what we see” has some merit to it.

If you are currently in a leadership role, or if you are interested in one day taking that step, put in the work necessary to be an effective leader. Yes, chances are you can be ineffective and still get your paycheck, but why waste an opportunity to better the work environment and to help others to improve their professional status? Taking the steps to become an effective leader will increase staff morale, drive better workmanship and deepen the level of mutual respect throughout the place of employment. It will be well worth the effort!

 

Ahmeli…that you reflect on what type of a leader you are and that you make a change to improve your effectiveness (there’s always room for growth).

Wanted: Effective Leadership (Part 1/2)

“My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” – General Montgomery

duckleader

While sitting at a park today, I began watching three ducks as they tasseled in the river nearby. They splashed in the water, glided on the top and swam around for hours. No matter who seemed to be “picking” on whom, by the end of each episode, the same duck continued to emerge in the front. It was clear to me that this duck was the leader of the group.

 

In today’s society, people are often heard shouting before a slamming door, mumbling down a hallway, grumbling while jabbing keys on the keyboard, speeding through a text, silently rolling their eyes in a cubicle and participating in many other forms of communication that all carry the same message: “Wanted: Effective Leadership!” Yet, day in and day out, the same frustration boils leading to disgruntled workers, employees quitting, increased prescribed medications, arguments in the workplace, drama carried home and perhaps most alarming – the silent acknowledgement that we, as a society, are more easily accepting the choice of maintaining status quo in regards to who is leading us, rather than taking the necessary steps to obtain a more effective leader.

 

As I’ve observed individuals around me, throughout my community, and listened to the concerns of those whom I encounter from various parts of our country, I have noticed trends in the negative effects of poor leadership (which could also simply be leaders who just maintain instead of raising the bar to the next level). The key effects that I’ve noted are:

  • Communication Between Leadership and Employees Weakens – Once this breakdown begins, it can quickly ripple into the area of trust and confidence. If in a meeting, I address a concern in an area of my job, and leadership does not take any steps to rectify the problem, then my confidence in their role is negatively impacted. For example, let’s say I have a concern that is greatly impacting the product that the company is providing to clients. In a meeting with leadership, I addressed the concern and am told that steps will be taken in the upcoming weeks. A month later, the same problem still exists and is addressed again during a team meeting. Then three months later, we are still in the same exact situation (except for now there’s steam coming out of my ears because I’m frustrated over the lack of advancement towards a resolution). When leadership consistently communicates that they will take specific steps and then continue to not follow thru, trust and confidence in that individual to be a leader is tarnished resulting in weakened open communication, or perhaps even communication coming to a complete halt.
  • Decreased Levels of Respect in the Workplace – When an employer has proven to be ineffective time and time again, the employees develop decreased levels of respect for the leadership. Not only will this impact the relationship between employer and employee, but it can also seep out into interactions between colleagues and the workplace itself. Let’s take an example in a nonprofit organization; if employees have seen the ineffective actions of the leader, then they may develop a lack of respect for that person in the role of “leader” (this is different from maintaining respect for the person in regards to manners and so forth). Once the lack of respect towards the employer begins, it can easily transfer into the levels respect between co-workers in regards to performing the tasks of the job. If the organization’s mission is to work at improving the quality of life for a target population in the community, the employees may begin to not put as much effort into their monthly meetings where they previously had spent countless hours planning innovative ideas to make a positive impact. The employees will not be concerned about their decreased quality of work because they do not have a high level of respect for their leadership, as a result, they will most likely not hold one another accountable as well. If there’s no respect for the employer, then when an employee is sent to a conference, there is no internal dialogue to prevent them from easily dismissing the workshops and going to lounge on a beach instead. See, once the respect for the leader begins to decrease, it has a domino effect on the organization as a whole.
  • Professional Growth is Minimal – If there is an ineffective leader, the workers will often not be encouraged to grow as professionals. When they see that there’s a low standard expected, they will commonly just meet that level and not push themselves towards higher advancements. The spark is missing to inspire the staff to pursue a deeper level of engagement in the career field and to take the more challenging path towards developing stronger skills in one’s repertoire. For example, the field of education in America is under fire right now in many areas. Schools are struggling to meet federal and state regulations and expectations. One outcome is that principals are often found running from meeting to meeting and spending countless hours completely paperwork instead of interacting with the classrooms in their building. If this form of leadership is existing in a building, it is very common to also find very little professional development among that group of teachers. The teachers will meet the minimal expectations of the principal because they know that he/she is too busy to really look into what is taking place within this realm. If the leader cannot be effective in suppling feedback that leads workers towards reflecting and tweaking their professional growth, then it simply will not happen in most cases.

 

So, that all sounds rather depressing. You have ineffective leadership and employees who have basically given up. They show up at work to be a body in a location that will bring home a paycheck in two weeks to pay the bills. The excitement of what one’s work day may hold has often faded away and is replaced with eyes looking at the calendar app each morning after the alarm goes off with the hopes of seeing “Friday.” However, there is hope. I have found three key steps that leaders can take to increase their effectiveness and turn the mood of the work environment around. Nothing can ever be perfect, but you can improve your ability to be an effective leader. Check back this week for Part Two of “Wanted: Effective Leadership!”

 

Ahmeli…that this post will open someone’s eyes and encourage them to become a more effective leader.

Friend vs. Co-worker?

Every year I have said to my students, “You don’t have to be friends, but you do have to work together.” This concept is repeated throughout the months of school, and yet it appears to be a lesson that isn’t exactly mastered.

You see, the other day, I was having a conversation with a co-worker and she was expressing her frustration with the concept of being a friend while also being a co-worker. (Now, I think one important factor – from my experience – is that we work in a female-dominated building. Out of nearly 80 staff members, we have an average of 5 males. That many females in one place can put an interesting spin on daily events.)

So, she was stating that she feels like perhaps she cannot be friends with our co-workers because it puts one in a difficult situation. I understand where she is coming from because I too have felt this way. I believe in strong work ethics and in my field that would mean doing our best for the students while following the perimeters from administration. This is where the line between friend and co-worker gets challenging. If administration requires that you use certain materials, but your co-worker/friend shares with you that he/she is not using those resources and instead is choosing his/her own material, that is a challenge. Do you pretend to not know during meetings, thus being deceptive towards your employer? Or do you encourage your friend to tell the truth to administration? I think most people would suggest the second option; however, what if it falls on deaf ears? Let’s take another possibility. Both gifted and special education students have specially designed instruction by law. If your friend is open about not providing that support, what do you do? Again, I would think that having a chat with your friend would be the best route; yet what if it’s ineffective? And another possibility… what if you cannot turn in your assignment (i.e. lesson plans, grading, other paperwork…) to your administration because your co-worker/friend has not done his/her part? Again you are in a difficult situation. You are stuck between your employer and your friend. Unfortunately, this can create a negative impact on your work performance.

Truth be told, you might have a friend whom you work with who is a great friend, but a lousy employee. This becomes a struggle between being a friend, or being honest about the actions of your co-worker and the negative impact it has on the number one priority – the students. My experience has been that there’s a very fine line between being a friend, and being an effective co-worker. My choice was to put some distance between myself and others while at work in an effort to maintain genuine friendly interactions without it jeopardizing my integrity as a teacher. A great mentor of mine told me when I was in high school, “If you have more than 2-3 friends, you don’t know what a real friend is.” I never forgot that.

I’m interested to hear your responses as to how you would handle the obstacle of: being a friend, being a co-worker, or being both?

 

Ahmeli… that co-workers could be friends who inspire one another to become more effective employees.

A Sense of Community

It bothers me that I find myself often saying, “Where is today’s sense of community?” I have the blessed opportunity of being able to meet people from various cultures, religions, countries and so forth. However, sometimes this opportunity creates a deep struggle within my heart. Now, I understand that I am about to generalize a whole community and I know that these comments are not true of everyone; however, I do honestly believe that it is (sadly) the vast majority. Another key point is that I do live in a city and my experiences in the city have been different, overall, than from those when I visit family/friends who live in more of a country setting where you still borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor. That being said…I’ve been asking myself, “Where is today’s sense of community?”

This thought was brought to the front of my mind today when I was driving on a very busy road outside the city. I was approaching a red light when suddenly the car in front of me stopped moving. I stepped on my breaks, thinking perhaps this was an individual who was choosing the cell phone over driving, but then I realized that was not the case. It was an elderly gentleman and his car then began to drift backwards. I slowly started to go in reverse and put on my hazards. Meanwhile, cars are approaching us and then swerving around to pass us (Exhibit A – clearly people driving backwards should be a sign something is wrong). The car continued to go backwards, but I was beginning to get nervous because we were now going backwards around a curve, where cars fly. I stopped and, of course, the gentleman’s car bumped into mine. I’m blaring on my horn, not out of anger towards him (I could clearly tell something is wrong), but rather in the hope of alerting drivers who are coming from around the bend to slow down before ramming into us (here I am somewhat freaking out because my infant is in the backseat and this is where the first point of impact would land). At this same time, there’s a continuous flow of traffic trying to maneuver around us at a fast pace (Exhibit B – many vehicles’ windows were down due to the nice weather today, would you not have yelled into my car, “hey, is everything okay?”… nope). After several minutes, I decided I had to leave the scene out of concern for my child, so I turned on my signal and a nice elderly woman let me in front of her to get around the stalled car (now this would be evidence that some people still do look out for others in their community – thank you!). I then drove forward and got on my phone to call the police to come help the guy before he gets hit, and because I believe in community, I turned my car around and parked above the scene of the disabled vehicle. An older guy did the same thing and walked ahead of me to the car that was in the middle of the road (2nd helpful community member). We tried to explain to the elderly man that he needed to get out of his car and come over on the grass because it was not safe for him to sit in the middle of the road, around a curve (Exhibit C – DOZENS of cars continued to fly around us.). We then helped the guy to get out of his car and onto the grassy area, which was a challenge because it soon became apparent that he struggled with walking and could hardly hear when one spoke to him (Exhibit D – we had to wait as several cars flew by us, even though the speed limit is 25 mph, refusing to let us walk to the grassy area). Eventually, we were able to get a car to stop and we guided the gentleman to the grass. I then agreed to wait with the man, while the other community member left. For at least ten minutes, we stood on the side of the road across from the car, waiting for the police. During this time, cars never stopped driving by – it was a steady flow with not even one car length empty at any point (Exhibit E – So many people drove by me holding up an elderly man and a car sitting in the middle of the road, and yet only ONE guy asked if we needed help; I thanked him and explained that the police were on their way). Eventually, a police officer arrived and she was able to drift the car back further to a spot where it could then be pulled off the side of the road after several attempts. During this time, one guy asked if she needed help. She declined, but we were still thankful. Nevertheless, at this same time, dozens of more cars (Exhibit F) quickly drove by us without offering to help this lady who was standing outside of the car and pushing it herself, while trying to steer it to the side. Thankfully, the whole event then ended; the car was to be towed and the officer was helping out the driver. In addition, I am VERY grateful that no one was hurt.

Yet this experience today made the word “community” race through my mind. Why did so many people drive by and not offer to help? There’s an older man in a car that is in a dangerous situation. There’s a young woman with a splint, trying to walk this man to the side of the road. There’s a smaller-built lady officer struggling to move the car alone. Yet, so many people passed by without pausing. This is our community. It is my belief that communities are strongest when they function in a manner in which individuals help one another. Community presents the opportunity to give someone who is struggling a hand-up (different from a hand-out). We can bring out the best in one another; supporting the talents and skills that each of us possess and using them to make a stronger, supportive and more loving environment for future generations. It breaks my heart to look around and see so much potential in a city. So many people who could work together to build a successful (and I don’t necessarily mean financially) community that, in turn, benefits everyone.

Regardless of the pain and anger I feel when I see communities that are broken, or simply MIA, I am grateful to still see some glimmer of hope through the people who are trying to work as a community. The people who look out for one another, not to be nosey and gossip, but rather they help out of genuine kindness. As I mentioned, I do get to engage with people from various cultures and this too gives me hope because I see that there are still areas where community is not just a term, but rather a way of life. These pieces of hope serve as encouragement to me that we do have the ability to still mend our broken communities and once again start displaying positive supports through our actions and words.

Ahmeli…that you consciously make the effort to do your part in rebuilding community.

A note? What is that!?!

tempPerhaps it is from my love for the art of writing that another love quickly spun into my life many years ago. It’s an ancient practice. One that takes a few minutes to complete. An action that does not require sophisticated talent. With an eye open for sales, the cost is very minimal. Sounds pretty simple, right? It is. Yet it is rarely seen in today’s society. It is called… writing a note.

Now, I understand the quick accessibility that technology has provided through the invention of e-mail, a short text or even a Facebook shout-out. I also get it that everyone is very busy through the lifestyles we are choosing (key word there!) to live in America. However, I do believe that there is great power in both receiving AND sending a note/card to another individual.

Phyllis Theroux once said, “To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” I agree with her. Your thoughts, your emotions, your smile, your heart. These can all travel many miles when we cannot be there in person.  I also believe that although many people enjoy receiving a note in the mail, it is also very powerful to be the writer. You are not just giving the friend a note with a few words on it; you are giving him/her your time. You are not just buying stationary and a stamp; you are buying the magic of warming someone’s heart from miles away. “I love you.” “I care about you.” “I’m praying for you.” “I’m thinking about you.” These are the feelings that are transmitted when one mails a note.

My wish is that my children will see the power of sending a note as I model the behavior for them. However, even if they do not take a special liking for this art form, it is okay – I will still continue to send them notes throughout the years because, remember, a note is not just an outdated task that requires a few minutes; it is also sharing your time and heart with another human being, and in doing so, both individuals are left smiling.

Ahmeli…that you will send a quick note to someone this week.