Monthly Archives: June 2017
Happy Fathers Day to those of you who are fathers and grand-fathers! I hope your day was as special as mine. My family and I just returned from Myrtle Beach where the weather was perfect the entire week and Colin (3 year old) and I slept in every morning until 10 am!
I spent a lot of my time preparing my lesson plan for the upcoming summer session. I am teaching a Leadership course at Capital University for the MBA program beginning next week. As I worked through various topics such as managing stress, organizational behavior, generations, etc., I continued to swirl my brain about one topic… how do I show love at work.
My HR friends reading this across the globe probably panicked a little, but please allow me to explain. There are many types of love. I love my wife and children differently, but they (along with my God), are my greatest loves. I love the Indians, Cavs (don’t troll), and Buckeyes. I love going on vacation and reading. I love seeing great stories like how people rally when others are in need. Each love is different and covers a wide spectrum such as passion, interests, faith, and family.
I think there is a type of love we sometimes miss that is required to be a successful leader and that is being able to love at work. Now the reader must understand one thing about me, I make mistakes. As my father-in-law often says from the pulpit, “I am the biggest consumer of grace there is”. If he is #1 then I am #2. We all slip up and mistreat someone through words or actions, but the kind of love I am speaking of is the lifeboat that pulls people in when you torpedoed them with unkindness. My 5 year old son Jackson put it best last night. We drove 12 hours and all were tired. His brother passed out in the bunk below and he himself nearing sleep he said, “Daddy, I LOVE you and you know what? I always will….even when I get mad at you…because….well… that’s how life works”! He spontaneously kissed my hand, pulled the blanket over his head, and was asleep.
I left his room with soggy eyes and I thought,”this boy, such wisdom, and sees the key that most of us miss, love”. I laid awake until 2:00 a.m. thinking about Jackson’s words and wondering how I could be more like this 5 year old. How do I forget about the bullies, the one-uppers, the hurtful actions of others…. how does work-love work in those scenarios?
That’s just how life works. Listen friends, we all have those people in our past and present that the mere mention of their name will make your face turn red and blood pressure rise. So how do you show love in that situation? You love by turning the page. You can’t undo what has been done, but you have a choice to love yourself enough to not ruminate about the hurt. You show love to that person by moving on, whether they deserve it or not. Some of the worst leaders I have ever worked for or were subjected to turned out to be the most important lessons in my career. Love the lessons you learned from them and be thankful you received the hurt instead of delivering it to someone who did not deserve it.
So bring the same lesson of love to today. “But Jason, you don’t know what he/she is doing to me! You want me to love that boss”. Yep. As I mentioned above, love comes in many forms. If someone is persecuting you, there is likely to be a deeper troubled root. Maybe they don’t understand the work. Maybe they lost a loved one. Maybe their boss is unkind or attentive to them. Does it excuse their behavior? No of course not! You show love by taking the high road and executing the job you are expected to do. Root yourself in integrity, do not compromise your values, and execute! Get out if the opportunity arises, but the high road is the road to impact change. That is showing love.
I will close with this. I show love in a variety of ways at work. To my direct reports, I show them love through absolute trust. They make mistakes, so do I, love is rolling up my sleeves and digging with them. To the Managers that report to my directs, I try to show them love through confidence building. They are all very good and I make sure I interact with them as much as possible to thank them for the work they do and to reiterate my belief in them. To each member on their teams, a total of about 110, I love them through time. Over the course of the past three months I have conducted 30 minute 1:1s with each of them. We don’t talk about production or quality, but what drives each Joe and Sally on my team. I diligently take notes so I can follow up on that big game, the scary surgery, the vacation, etc. They are important to me and I love them with my time.
In the workplace love can be shown by forgiving, trusting, helping, and giving. It’s not a romantic gesture, rather a gesture of goodwill. It takes a lot of effort to invest at this level and forget the past, both are still struggles for me, it at the end of the day you will be successful because you are building a foundation of stone and driving people from the inside instead of the outside.
“Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying! There’s no crying in baseball”!, Tom Hanks famously said to Bitty Schram’s character in a League of Their Own. Hank’s character was infuriated over Schram’s mistake and be-rated her, which prompted the crying. This scene ran through my mind this morning at church as the pastor spoke about how life is filled with curve balls.
I grew up enamored with baseball (I’m watching the Indians as I write this). I could tell you detailed stats of every ball player in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I hit and threw rubber baseballs against our garage doors for endless hours each day. I worked meticulously to be one of the few left-handed shortstops. I loved playing the game (also in softball form) until last year, when I accepted the cries of my body and exchanged my bat and glove for a set of irons and a driver. As the pastor shared Biblical examples of “curve balls”, I reminisced about my playing days, but thought more about how the mechanics of baseball pitches play as perfect analogies in the business world, particularly the curve ball.
For those of you that are not devout baseball fans, please allow me to explain the mechanics of a curve ball. A curve ball can take many forms, but the premise is to deceive the batter in thinking the ball will arrive across the plate in one location, however the spin on the ball makes it drop to another location. If you, the batter, do not see the rotation of the laces on the ball, you may think it is going to hit you. You turn to avoid the plunk, but hear “strrrrrrrrike”! You are perplexed to see the ball had glided across the plate. Often batters are overly aggressive and swing for the fences, only to be fooled and look silly. Other times the batter reacts too slowly and look a fool as he swings softly long after the ball crossed the plate.
A curveball is such an art that it takes years of practice for a pitcher to pitch it and a hitter to hit it. Some never master it. Such is life right? I have shared my personal journies through the death of two children and a less than normal childhood. I have given talks about bullying and navigating dangerous corporate waters. I have swung and missed, in embarrassing fashion, at curve balls at work and at home, but one thing is consistent… I adjust my helmet and gloves, take a couple practice swings, get back in my stance, and patiently wait on the next pitch. Each time I get back in the box, I don’t know what is coming or where that pitch will land. I know that if I want to get a hit, I must stay back on the ball, avoid swinging too early or too late, and aim to make contact.
In work and life we face curveballs every day. Once in awhile the person throwing the curve at you is erratic. Sometimes you will have a dozen pitchers wind up and throw at you. This once happened to me and I learned quite a bit from the experience. I was once responsible for the completion of a project and it’s end product, but had no control over how the widget was made. The widget was put together, but needed a lot of work. My goal was not to make the widget maker look bad, but rather improve the widget. The widget maker believed I had compromised my integrity and focused on exposing that rather than fixing the core problems. Curve ball one came at me and I expected a fast ball and so I swung erratically. My first reaction was to defend endlessly. My boss was great, gave me a figurative pat on the ass, and pushed me back in the batters box.
The second, third and forth pitches by the widget maker were erratic and missed the strike zone. The issue became less about me winning and more about the integrity of the product. I quit defending and began offering solutions. When one so,union was ignored, I stayed back on the ball and offered another solution. When my character was questioned again, I stayed back on the ball and offered partnership.
My point to the work story is simple this, don’t swing erratically when life throws you a curve ball. You my not know where that pitch is heading, and honestly your curve ball may take a life time to land. I don’t know where the curve ball of the loss of two children will land, but I must stay back and wait patiently, for it will land. The situation with widget making had a resolution. Eventually the character attacks subsided, because I wouldn’t swing erratically. Eventually the integrity questions were replaced by conversations of resolution. Because I wouldn’t swing at the curveball, there was no cause for the widget maker to continue throwing it. The problem was successfully remediated.
Friend, my encouragement to you is this: there will be a lot of curveballs in your life, particularly at work. The next time you find yourself in a tough situation, think of the curveball and remember, patience keeps you from looking like a fool and being erratic. A skilled leader will wait for the right pitches and swing accordingly. If someone challenges your character, don’t swing. If someone effectively challenges, appreciate it as a learning opportunity. Bottom line is this friend, your job takes skill, and to master skill you must practice. Find your routine and never stop practicing!
May this week be fruitful for you!