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Visible Progress = Employee Engagement

I recall an afternoon when I was very discouraged with my work. I looked at the accounts receivables and they weren’t high enough. I looked at the engagements I’d booked and there were too few. Knowing that the Law of Attraction says, “You get more of what you focus on,” I determined to pull myself out of this self-defeating funk before I made things worse.

What worked was to re-shift my focus onto the things I’d accomplished: my blog that had been going strong since 2002 (before they were even called blogs), a book I had written and published, the number of conferences at which I had spoken and the number of referrals and repeat clients I enjoy. Once I could clearly see my progress, I became re-motivated to keep going.

Therefore, when I read the book The Progress Principle, it came as no surprise to learn from authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer that after extensive research, they learned what motivates people: “the ability to show progress on a daily basis.”

Progress is encouraging; lack of progress (perceived or real) is discouraging.

Visible Progress = Employee EngagementWhat are you measuring at work: progress or lack of progress? When you meet with your boss, do you start the conversation as if you’re in a confessional and have to reveal all the ways you’ve “sinned” by not being on track?

When you have meetings with your direct reports, is the conversation primarily focused on the progress being made or do you use it as an opportunity to point out all the areas where they are lagging behind?

The response of many leaders to the above is, “What are you saying, Silver? I should ignore it when they are behind in their work?” And of course, the answer to that is “No;” we all need to be held accountable. Having said that, it is imperative that we shift the focus. Instead of using the traditional 80/20-feedback model—focusing 80% of your feedback on what’s not working and 20% on what is—why not flip it to 20/80? Spending 20% of your time discussing what’s not progressing fast enough and the balance focusing on the progress being made.

Progress is encouraging; lack of progress is discouraging. For greater employee engagement, find a way to highlight daily progress. 

I work with the Solid Waste Department of a city. One of the Supervisors inherited a mess: there were over 50 commercial clients whose sites needed to be cleaned up and the division was way behind on the project. The customers were not happy.

When I walked into this Supervisor’s office, I noticed a map with yellow Post-its on various spots. I asked him about it and he told me that they had started out with 50 Post-its representing each of the sites that needed cleanup. As they completed each one, the Post-it was removed. He reports that it is very encouraging and energizing to him and to his team to see this visual representation of progress.

What can you do that is similar? If you are an independent contributor, what kind of visual representation could you use to show the progress of your work? If you are in a leadership role, how can you do this for your team?

The more progress you can show, the more you and your team will be engaged in the work. And that will pay for itself ten-fold in productivity.

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Remember GIGO?

What you feed your mind influences it.

What you feed your mind influences it.

According to Wikipedia, Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) in the field of computer science refers to the fact that computers, since they operate by logical processes, will unquestioningly process unintended, even nonsensical, input data (“garbage in”) and produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”).

My definition

I have co-opted GIGO to mean that, if you feed your mind garbage, then your mind will produce undesirable thoughts. Since the Law of Attraction dictates, “You get more of what you focus on,” then feeding your mind garbage results in a garbage-filled life.

Be Careful What You Feed Your Mind

If you want to know the biggest Influencer in your life, the answer would be, “Your mind.” Your mind is with you 24/7 and influences every aspect of how you experience life. When you sleep it influences your dreams.

Western society spends an unreasonable amount of time obsessing about what we eat. Is it too much or too little? Is it good for me or bad for me? One of the fastest ways to make a lot of money is to create a book or video or class that promises a beautiful body while you eat whatever you want.

Our minds don't know the difference between pretend and reality.

Our minds don’t know the difference between pretend and reality.

What we don’t pay nearly enough attention to is what we feed our minds. Oh, we have lots of opinions about what children should be feeding their minds. We know that small, impressionable minds shouldn’t be exposed to violent films or TV shows. We are horrified when parents of teens allow them to play violent video games.

All of the above falls under the category of what our parents said to us that we hated: do as I say, not as I do.

This Really Matters

I am in recovery from a major depression that lasted for 30 years. I can tell you without equivocation that what you feed your mind makes a huge difference in the quality of your life. Since your mind is your constant Influencer, it is imperative that you give it material that will help rather than hurt you. Paying attention to what I focused on was the beginning of my recovery from depression.

Your Mind Doesn’t Know the Difference Between Pretend & Reality

I will never forget the day this was driven home to me with a 2X4 (metaphorically, not literally—a 2X4 would hurt!). I was in a really foul mood. A foul mood is so much worse than a bad mood. It is—well—FOUL. Since I had begun to really pay attention to cause-and-effect in my life, I was confused. I couldn’t pinpoint any reason for feeling so dark. There was nothing going on at the time that would explain it.

And then it hit me! While on the elliptical trainer at the gym I had been listening to books on tape. At the time I was listening to a James Patterson novel. I can’t recall the title but I DO recall it had a lot of graphic violence. Since my brain (like yours) doesn’t know the difference between pretend and reality, at some level my mind thought it was happening to me. The foul mood was the reptilian part of my brain signaling me that I was in imminent danger.

Since that day I am careful about what “entertainment” I choose. Friends who don’t necessarily subscribe to my opinion on this but honor my choices will call and say, “Don’t go see this movie, you will hate it.” I walk out of movies that make me uncomfortable (and ask for a refund) and have been known to throw a book or two across the room when the ending was far from happy. There are authors I will never read again, even though (or maybe because) they are great writers.

Nutritious Food for the Mind

We live in a wonderful time when information is as close as our computers. There are numerous websites, videos, blogs, podcasts and online articles that can inspire and uplift. There are books, movies and TV shows that can do the same. The more we feed our minds a nutritious diet, the less stressed we will be and the more we attract what we want.

In the work we do (paid or not), why not focus on the positive aspects of what we’re doing? What if we celebrated each step of progress? What if we allowed ourselves to feel the thrill of a job well done? Imagine the quality of your life if your mind, your biggest influencer, was consistently applauding your efforts.

Question: Are you careful about the diet you are feeding your mind? Do you remember a time when you realized your mind was being negatively influenced? What prompted you to start paying attention to this? I am gathering these kinds of stories and would love to hear about your experience.

For private coaching, or information on having Silver work with your company on employee engagement, call 877-840-5416 or email: Info@SilverSpeaks.com


“Happy Journey” to One of my Influencers

2013_12_18_holidayThe text message arrived on Saturday. I read it standing in the middle of a furniture store. It said, “Laura left us today. I’ll call in a day or so when I can put a coherent sentence together. Love, Ed.”

Ed is Laura’s husband. I later found out he texted me just 63 minutes after Laura took her last breath, surrounded by people she loved and who loved her. The text was a Herculean effort and Ed knew I would understand better than anyone that he couldn’t call. He and Laura supported me when my beloved Bill died of the same pancreatic cancer that claimed Laura. In fact, we all met in the waiting room at UCSF the day Bill and Laura underwent the CT-Scans that would confirm this awful diagnosis.

Shopping alone, I cried out loud,, “Oh, no!” in such distress that another shopper, a kind woman asked, “Are you okay?” I told this stranger, with tears in my eyes, “A dear friend of mine died.” She murmured her condolences as I tried to catch my breath.

Laura Grand with QuiltLaura was a teacher by profession and also by nature. During the four and a half years she spent living with cancer she taught everyone who knew her how to live and love to the fullest. Indeed, her last FaceBook posting was less than 66 hours before she transitioned and she wrote, “I’m not running these days. I cut up some of my race tshirts to make this quilt. Reminds me to be strong and stay in the race! This post is why the text took me by surprise. I knew she was dying; I just didn’t think it was imminent. (Nor did she, I suspect.)

I am writing this to you because so many of you have followed Laura’s journey with me. A few years ago, some of you donated money to help her get the treatment that would ultimately prolong her life. It worked, my friends! Because of your kindness and generosity, Laura got to do so much more than anyone anticipated.

Laura Grant, Kids and GrandkidsLaura was the very best sort of Influencer. She led by example. She set goals and then stayed focused on them. Her initial goal, when she received her diagnosis, was to live long enough to see her daughter Lily married to Joe. She not only accomplished that, she was there to help with and celebrate the birth of her daughter’s son Grayson a year later. In the Summer of 2013,  Laura and Ed danced at their son Turner’s wedding to Celia and the following year, got to meet their second grandchild, Turner’s son JeTeo.

Laura used the Law of Attraction brilliantly. She never allowed doctors to tell her how long she had to live. She didn’t want that in her head. She was focused on life and that’s what she lived, all the while doing what she could to stop, or at the very least, slow down the cancer that would ultimately claim her.

Laura Grand and Ed LisheidShe loved her family and no one more than her husband Ed. She knew her friends and family would help him through this and I won’t let her down.

Pancreatic cancer is a debilitating disease and yet, I saw a photo, posted by one of Laura’s many friends, of Laura, just days before her departure, dancing exuberantly. She was flashing that famous smile, the smile that proclaimed, “Isn’t life AMAZING?

More than anything, Laura taught us all the power of NOW!  There’s a famous quote by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that sums up Laura’s attitude beautifully:

If you are depressed, you are living in the past,

If you are anxious, you are living in the future,

If you are at peace, you are living in the present. 

Laura was at peace when she left and I know she’s at peace now. But do not think “at peace” means she is resting. She is out there, dancing with my Bill and leading others in a Conga Line. If I know Laura, ever the teacher, she has already taught her Higher Power a few new dance moves. She lived with enthusiasm and I’m certain she is still doing so, unencumbered by the body that slowed her down.

See you later, dear friend.


Influence as it Relates to Engagement

My bagel shop experience

Last week I went to a bagel shop for lunch. The young man behind the counter could barely muster up the small amount of energy required to accurately record my order. I ordered tea and he handed me a cup. I managed to find the tea bags on my own but when I went to the coffee bar, I discovered there was no hot water. Returning to the counter, I asked him about it and he replied, “Oh yeah, I need to do that from behind here.” Then (and this gave me hope for him) he asked if I wanted the cup filled to the brim. I replied, “No. Thanks for asking. Please leave some room for cream. “ He certainly did that—he left about four inches! Then I went back to the coffee bar only to find out there was no cream. So back I trotted to the counter…

These kids today—not!

Before you jump to conclusions about “youth today,” please understand that I have had similar scenarios played out in front of me when the employee tasked with helping me was my age or older. So, from my experience, it’s not generational. And it happens in corporate and government settings, not just fast food.

Lack of Employee Engagement

Leaders need to learn how to engage employees

It has to do with lack of engagement.

According to the 2015 Global Human Capital Trends1 study published in Deloitte University Press, “…employee engagement and culture issues exploded onto the scene, rising to become the No. 1 challenge around the world in our study,” with 87% of organizations citing it as one of their top challenges.

Kevin Kruse, in a Forbes magazine article2 defined the issue. “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.” 2

Engagement and its relationship to influence

If you’re trying to influence someone, whether it’s your boss, a subordinate, a co-worker, your teen or your spouse, if that person is not engaged, then good luck! The conundrum is that, in order to engage others, you need to be able to influence them. One of the many benefits of influence is the ability to engage.

Engagement can be accomplished through fear or influence—your choice. Which is your leadership style? Fear will certainly get the job done but it’s a short-term gain. And doesn’t intimidation take a lot out of you? I might have tried to intimidate that young man into providing better service but the cost to my well-being for the rest of the day would have been too dear. I doubt he’d have felt any better, either.

Influence will ensure that the job gets done even when you’re not around.

The Law of Attraction and influence

The Law of Attraction dictates, “You get more of what you focus on.” If, when you are attempting to engage others you are doing so with the mindset that they need to be “fixed,” then what will continue to present itself is more evidence that they are broken and unable to meet the requirements of the job.

Start with the premise that everyone wants to be engaged!

Think about that for a moment. If you were given the choice between being fully involved and bored to distraction, which would you choose? The same is true for everyone but many do not know how to do this for themselves. That’s where your leadership skills come in as you influence them to get involved at a deeper level.

There are many things that keep people from engaging. One of the most important is that they have no say in how they do whatever it is you are asking them to do.

Allow them to “own” the job. 

We bemoan the fact that others won’t take responsibility for their work and then we insist they do it our way. The quickest way to allow others to grab ownership of whatever you’re asking them to do is a two-step process:

Step 1 – Statement:

Here’s the end result I’m looking for: _____________________________

(make sure it’s achievable and measurable.

Step 2 – Question:

What do you think a good approach might be?

If the person is planning to use a method that’s against company policy or doesn’t take into consideration some pertinent facts, then some coaching from you is in order. However, if the only reason you want to correct his approach is because you have a better idea, then keep it to yourself. How is this person going to learn if you do all the thinking for him? And how can he experience self-worth if all he’s doing is carrying out someone else’s solution?

And what if (this is a sacrilege, I know) his idea turns out to be better than how you would have done it?

The thrill of seeing the spark ignite.

Nothing is more exciting or fulfilling than igniting a spark in someone else. In the case of engagement, you won’t always have a lighter at hand to create an instant flame. More often, it resembles the approach we learned in Scouting—two sticks patiently rubbed together until a spark catches the kindling.

And how satisfying when it happens!

I’d love to hear your experiences of how you have used your influence to spark someone’s engagement in a process or job. Tell me what worked and what didn’t.

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For more information on having Silver work with your company on employee engagement, call 877-840-5416 or email: Info@SilverSpeaks.com


1 2015 Global Human Capital Trendshttp://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/human-capital/articles/introduction-human-capital-trends.html OR search: Deloitte 2015 Global Human Capital Trends

2 Kevin Kruse is the creator of the Leading for Employee Engagement eLearning program for managers. and author of the bestselling book, Employee Engagement 2.0. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/


How NOT to Influence Others

Undeniably, the fastest way to decrease your influence with anyone is to give unsolicited advice. Whether or not you are in a leadership role, using questions, not directions are the better way to influence.  In fact, give it a try at home first. If you apply the process outlined below, your family will send me thank you notes.

Have you ever had this happen? You’ve given specific and clear directions to someone about how to perform a task. You’re pleased when that person even acknowledges your suggestions. Yet, when the task is completed, you discover it’s been done in a completely different way!

Margaret J. Wheatley, a writer and management consultant who specializes in Organizational Development has identified the three things others do with your ideas:

1. Ignore
2. Change
3. Criticize (this is the one that creates the most mischief)

Given this reality, why are you wasting your breath? The best quote about this type of situation came from one of my mentors, Esther Hicks who said,

“An answer to a question no one asked you is a wasted answer.”

2015 May 29 An answer to a question no one asked is copyThink about that. There you are sprinkling your fairy dust of “incredibly good ideas” over others. Are they paying any attention whatsoever? If they seem to be listening at all, it’s probably because they are formulating all the reasons why your idea won’t work. They may even be planning how they’re going to entertain co-workers later with, “You won’t believe what he suggested I do!”

If you doubt this, try an experiment–the next time you’re gifting someone with your good ideas about what they should do, pay very close attention to that person’s face. They may be looking right at you but are they listening? Better still, follow up to see whether they implemented your idea. You will likely find that they did one of the three things Wheatley has identified.

Here is the process for influencing:  instead of telling another how to perform a task, outline the end result you are expecting. Then ask, “What are some ways to get this done?”

Let’s say you need a co-worker to produce a report that lies within his/her area of responsibility. You’re not the boss but you need the report.  You say, “I need a report on ______________ by next Friday.  Can you walk me through some ways to make sure that happens?”

Or you need something from your boss and you know she doesn’t like “upward delegation.” Yet, she’s the only one who can provide what you need. You might say, “In order to finish X project, I need the following information _____________. Can you help me figure out a few ways to get it?”

Insider Tip #1:  (hold onto your hat!) People LOVE to be asked for their advice. That’s why we give it out for free–there are not nearly enough people asking us for it!

Insider Tip #2: Never ask for “the best solution” or “the solution” as if there is only one.When they think there is only one correct answer, people freeze; their minds problem-solve more effectively if asked for potential solutions (plural).