Message from the Council Chair, Laura Staudacher
We all face challenges in our work and our lives. The first thing most of us do is turn to family and friends to help us through it. We vent, complain, rant, or cry; some of us face the problem head on, and some of us choose not to handle it at all. One of the most rewarding, and sometimes scary things to do when it is a work related challenge, is find someone you admire and respect in the workplace, and ask them if they will mentor or advise you.
A mentor or advisor should be someone in a higher-level position than you, someone you respect, and someone you believe to be a good leader. Tell them you would like to meet with them every couple of months (or whatever the two of you decide) to discuss how they deal with various issues, like time management, organization, leadership, or whatever it is you would like to learn from that person. Bring with you a project you’re working on, and truly listen to what they have to say. There is a reason you respect this person; pay attention, and try whatever they suggest.
The scary part is asking. Anyone you ask will be flattered, honored, and most likely, happy to sit down with you for a half an hour, or go to lunch to chat. Not only will you make them feel good about themselves, but if you are genuine, they will respect you for asking and you will gain a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Two of the strongest phrases in the English language are “Thank you” and “Good job.” We often believe those around us understand they are appreciated, they know they are doing good work, and the fact that we go back to them again and again should prove we like what they do. Sometimes this is true, but how often do you hear these words? How does it make you feel?
I believe we as an organization tend to feel that no news is good news. If someone doesn’t tell us we’ve done something wrong, or if we aren’t called on the carpet, then we can take a sigh of relief. Status quo means everything is okay… it’s comfortable, but it doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves and the work we do.
Start something new - take the time each week to tell one person in your life, professionally and personally, that they have done a good job, or say thank you and mean it. I am not talking about saying thank you when someone holds the door for you (though you should do that too!). I’m talking about truly thinking about someone in your life whom you have never thanked before, or at least not lately, who deserves a thank you or good job. I think you will be surprised at the impact, not only on others, but also on yourself.
“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” ~ Joseph Joubert
Some of you may have noticed that I use the above quote in my signature line in all of my emails. I grew up in a family that discussed everything. Well, not my siblings and me, we argued like any other siblings, but my parents discussed everything. My parents even discussed things with us, their children. We were included in discussions about family vacations, home improvements, special projects, and current events. There were very little statements like “because I said so” or “go play, the big people are talking.” My parents didn’t argue, they disagreed; there was a discussion, compromise, and progress.
Joseph Joubert was a French philosopher who never published any of his work because he spent too much time trying to perfect it (perhaps another story on its own?). However, he was elected Justice of the Peace of the canton of Martignac in 1790-1793. His writings on “many scraps of paper” were published after his death in 1838. I came across his quote buried on a website full of worthy quotes, but his spoke to me. My parents and Joseph Joubert had the right idea. Argument for the sake of arguing doesn’t get anyone anywhere; there is no progress. There may be a victor, but what does the victor gain, aside from bragging rights.
An argument, for all intents and purposes, is when two parties disagree. Both parties try to persuade the other to lean in favor his or her own opinion. In the case of my parents, their disagreements were based on what each of them felt was best for our family. I believe, during our workdays as staff (faculty and administrators), the outcomes of our disagreements should benefit our students. Joubert’s quote is a reminder to me every time I open a new email; it is far easier to claim victory in an argument than to look toward the progress gained with compromise, or possibly even lean in favor of the other side on occasion.
I believe that life is about choices. From the time we wake up in the morning and crawl out of bed, to the time we fall asleep at night, we make hundreds of thousands of choices, everyday. We choose our clothes, whether or not we should put fat-free or regular cream in our coffee; we choose how to wear our hair (or not). Some choices are small, and some choices are large. Some of the choices we make affect others, and we don’t even realize it. We also make choices that affect ourselves that we don’t realize.
Did you know you can actually choose your mood? You can make a conscious choice as to whether you are going to growl at someone because they didn’t put that form-on that stack-on the desk-you told them to put-it-on-the-last-25-times-they-were-in-your-office. Yes you can! Do you know why? Because, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, mood is “a conscious state of mind or predominant emotion; affective state: feeling.” Your mood is a conscious state of mind. You can choose a respectful tone, a smile, and a calm demeanor.
Is choosing your mood easy? No. Does it take some practice? Yes. Will you get it right every time? No. Is it worth the effort? Most definitely. Think about it; why choose to be cranky, grouchy, sullen, angry, or mean? Sure, it might help to get back at someone that treated you poorly yesterday, but guess what? By being cranky, grouchy, sullen, angry, or mean, you’re miserable too! Making a conscious effort to be happy actually makes YOU happy.
Don’t take my word for it; try it. Next time you feel a bad mood coming on, stop, close your eyes, take a deep breath, SMILE, and let it out. Open your eyes, and keep that smile on your face. The simple act of smiling will do wonders for your state of mind. Now choose to be happy today.
I truly believe we are all leaders no matter our position. We lead by our actions, our language, our commitment to work and family, and by our willingness to admit when we are wrong. Most of us think of leaders as anyone from the “boss” to the President of the United States. There are good leaders, and bad leaders, but we are all leaders nonetheless. My dad always told me it didn’t matter what I did, as long as I did my best.
My dad was an oilman. He delivered fuel oil to the homes of residents in the Lapeer County area. When he came home from work, he was dirty and grimy, and he smelled like fuel oil. He never made a lot of money, and it didn’t matter. My mom was a lunch-lady at Lakeville High School for many years, and she didn’t make much money either. The funny thing was, my friends thought we were rich.
We never wanted for anything, because my dad knew how to squirrel away money. We had a travel trailer, and we always took vacations in the summer. We camped all over Northern Michigan including a trip to Mackinaw every year. We had a good size ranch-style house with a big yard, bikes to ride, clothes to wear, and food on the table.
My dad started a food pantry at the United Methodist Church in Columbiaville. He only had a high school diploma, but he learned how to get grants to keep the pantry stocked. Many of my dad’s fuel oil customer’s didn’t have much money. Even though my family didn’t have much money either, many times my dad would pay the fuel bill of someone in need so the company wouldn’t cut them off in the winter.
My mom made banana bread and fruitcake (not the gross kind) for shut-ins during the holidays, and we would leave the loaves on their doorstep anonymously. I loved sneaking up to the doors in the evening after dark, and leaving the colorful packages. It was exciting to me to think these people never knew who left these gifts.
My point is this: my parents were leaders. They didn’t have high powered jobs with big salaries. They were not members of congress, or CEO’s. My dad was never President of the United States, though he was a B52 bomber pilot in WWII, and my mom grew up on a farm and once fooled some kids into believing she rode a bull, when she actually rode a feisty Holstein cow with untrimmed horns. My parents were not powerful people, but they were good leaders who set an example for their children and in their community.
My hope is that each of us will take stock of our talents and use them wisely, reflect on our daily activities, and remember that we are all leaders, both in our work and in our homes. The type of leader we choose to be is up to us.