women working

The Business of Empathy

In last week’s post, I provided a teaser about the “feeling economy.” During a Right Management meeting, the term was mentioned as a side note but not really explained. But the term intrigued me, so I did some research.

Just as machines brought us into the Industrial Age, machines, specifically computers, are setting the foundation for the Feeling Economy. The Industrial Revolution emerged as machines replaced humans in repetitive jobs. Many people were affected by this shift as they lost employment to machines. On the positive, as machines took over the easy tasks, humans became the thinkers and the craftsmen. Computers continued to handle more and more leading us into the Technological Revolution, and now computers are swiftly taking over intellectual labor. Voice recognition allowed them to handled customer service calls, and now they can even write articles. I understand that this may scare many people, but what is emerging is so hopeful and beautiful to me. What we are moving into is the Feeling Economy.

women working
Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

At least for now, the one thing computers can not do is have empathy. They can not relate on a personal level with humans. Maybe they will be able to do so in the future, we’ll see. But for now, what makes me excited and hopeful is that what is finally being recognized and valued is emotional intelligence. The California Management Review and the Smith Business School introduce us to the Feeling Economy. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes on not only mechanical and repetitive tasks, but moves into analytic and thinking tasks, we move closer to a Feeling Economy where people focus on interpersonal and empathetic tasks. The next boom is with workers who focus on the feeling tasks and emotional sensibilities.

On a personal level, I feel like this frees me from being a machine and provides me the space to be fully human. My strength, and my weakness, is my Type-A drive. This innate drive has allowed me to accomplish incredible things and keep things on track no matter what. It has also made me an unfeeling task master putting projects above individuals’ needs. For much of my work life, I was a machine. I saw the project at hand and only looked at the facts, what needed to be done and by when. I was automated. I was efficient. And I was very cold, distant, and heartless. I almost never took people’s feelings into account. What needed to be accomplished was of sole importance.

Thankfully, slowly over time, I have become more human and empathetic. What has helped me learn and accept the deep truth and need for empathy is that everything is transitory. A profession, a specific job, or a current project being worked on, all of these things change. Think about your term paper for school and how important it was at the time versus how important it is to you now. Most of what we find critical in the moment, is meaningless in the future. What I regret now is not how I performed my work, but how I treated those around me as I bulldozed my way through my work.

We are not here to accomplish things – although we may. Primarily we are here to connect. We are here to give and receive compassion. We are here to love and be loved. All the stress in the world is due to deadlines, ideologies, and other man-made concepts. Peace is found in connection, compassion, and love. I am learning to focus on the experience I or my cohorts are having. When I work with people in job transition, they can learn everything they need to about the job search from Right Management’s extensive articles, videos, and even AI resume review app. My principal role is not to teach or help them complete the process. What I can and should do is help them grieve the loss of their old position, sort through the anger of being let go, and deal with the fear of being between positions. I am in the feeling economy.

In releasing my computerized ways, I am learning to let go of expectations. Expectations are based on a right or wrong, they are based on timelines, they are based on my perceptions. Where I find more joy myself and more relief for my candidates, is focusing on their progress and growth. Yes, we are still working to land them a new position, but I am thanked more for helping people regain their confidence, have hope in the face of uncertainty, and for providing comfort and support. The result, the new position, is often just the framework for their personal growth.

Daniel Goleman introduced Emotional Intelligence back in 1995. Since then Brené Brown, Simon Sinek and others have been leading the charge of evolving business leadership into the feeling economy as empathy is posed to become more important. As with many changes and rebirths, some professions may be affected as we move into the feeling economy. But the shift to focusing and valuing people, feelings, and emotions gives me hope we are headed in right direction as a species. I am pretty excited. You?

soccer ball

Get on the Ball

At a lovely breakfast with Marlies, a dear friend of mine, she told me about an issue she had with a recent boss. The analogy she gave to describe the situation was brilliant, so I asked if I could share it will you all.

Marlies was very frustrated with her boss. The manager was not very focused. Marlies’ told the manager to stop treating her like a soccer ball – telling her to do one thing, then minutes later redirecting her to do something else. Like a soccer ball she was sent right then left then backwards then diagonally. Either the manager didn’t know what needed to be done, was reactionary, or maybe she was just on a power kick to boss people around. Whatever the issue, Marlies requested that she be treated like a golf ball not a soccer ball. A golf ball is focused on one result and is continually sent closer and closer to that goal. No distractions. No side trips. No confusion over the goal to be accomplished.

soccer ballDo you have a manager that treats you like a soccer ball? How frustrating is it to never know the goal, to never be able to complete the task? With all the changes of direction it is hard to do our best work and to feel fulfilled.

If you run your own business, are you treating it like a soccer ball? Are you distracted by a new technology, a sudden opportunity, or the next best way to run your business? Often businesses, especially in the early stages, are running in circles on the soccer field. A clear strategy is not put to paper and followed. Perhaps the owner does not know the right course and is jumping at whatever comes up in the hopes that it will lead to success. Success, however, is usually the result of focused and consistent efforts.

For us personally, the soccer ball analogy is usually the cause of overwhelm and stress. We are the old juggler trying to keep fifteen plates spinning. We are running from one commitment or emergency to another. We are trying to do too much because we have over-committed and won’t ask for help. We have put the importance of the tasks above our own health and run ourselves ragged. Instead of finishing one task before moving to the next, we are inefficiently switching between tasks.

Besides being a soccer ball – those of us being pushed or pushing ourselves in multiple directions – sometimes we are a ball in a pinball machine. We are floating through life, failing to act, and being sent this way and that depending on what we bump into. We do not act. We are only reacting to things around us. The result is the same as the soccer ball and is even more harmful because we are completely out of control of our personal goals.

Where in your life are you unfocused and constantly shifting? What is the result? How does it feel to constantly change directions?

How would things shift if you focused on a single goal? You don’t have to make a hole in one. It is not speed but efficiency we are after. Being focused and not changing course constantly gives us the power to more effectively achieve our goals.

Take some time to review your work and home life. Are you a soccer ball or golf ball? How are ways you can become more focused?

top stress events

Stress Levels

A few months ago, I wrote a post about handling life’s top stressors which included a link to determine one’s personal stress level. To date, this unscientific survey has uncovered that almost 20% of respondents are experiencing high levels of stressful events. The remaining respondents are fairly split between medium and low amounts of stressors. Changes in living situation, health, and working or financial conditions are some of the most widely experienced stressors, as are vacations and major holidays.

For you lucky ones who have a low amount of stress due to life events, congratulations!  You are free to stop reading and go back to enjoying your life.

top stress events
Top Stress Events

For those experiencing medium to high stress based on life event stressors, it is time to look at your stress coping tools to ensure you have them, are using them, and that they are helping you through this time. We may not be able to control the stressful events that come into our lives, but we can control how we handle these stressors. The key is to recognize your stress triggers, how you personally respond to stress, and then use your tools to minimize the effects of stress.

When we are in the midst of stressful situations, we may feel like we do not have bandwidth to learn how to react any differently. But that is not true.  Three simple tools to take back your life from stress no matter what you are experiencing are outlined in this free online course. Even in the most challenging situations, these tools can help you center, clear your mind, and stop being a victim to the stressful event. You have the power to reduce the effects of stress and it does not take much time or effort to get started.

Many of the respondents to the survey noted that changes in work conditions, work hours, and work responsibilities are current stressors in their lives. We often spend more time at work than home, so learning how to reduce and manage stress in the workplace is very important. Improving our stress levels at work improves our health and well-being while also improving productivity for our businesses. Plus, when colleagues all understand how to identify and manage stress they can become coaches for each other to help prevent and minimize the effects of stress in the workplace creating a more peaceful collaborative atmosphere. Because of the immense need and the amazing benefits, I now help bring some stress relief to small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and association members through customized virtual workshops, online self-study courses, and check-in group meetings.

If you have not taken the stress inventory survey yet, check it out to grow the awareness of how current life events are affecting the amount of stress you are experiencing. Become aware of how you react to stress. Without awareness you can not make any changes. At one time or another, we are all affected by stressful situations. They are unavoidable. What is avoidable is adding unnecessary stress to our experience because we are not prepared to handle the event. Whether personally or through your business, is it time to take learn how to better manage your stress?

share your gifts

Self-Promotion

One of the toughest parts of job transition is self-promotion.  I wish I had a dollar for every candidate who told me it was difficult for them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. Slowly but surely, I take these job seekers out of hiding and help them uncover, recognize, and share the value they bring to their jobs. To get there, we have to overcome two obstacles.

share your giftsFirst, the fear of bragging. People believe that if they are not quiet and modest, then they are brashly bragging. I help them see there is a mid-ground. Talking about what you do well is not bragging, it is stating facts. What you do, what you accomplish is not bravado but a truth. Look at your career and pull out the accomplishments and wins over the years. These are facts, evidence if you will, of your value and contribution. Use these facts to let a potential employer know what they can expect if they hire you.  If we don’t take the time to tell people what we offer, they will never know. We have a responsibility to ourselves and the future company we want to serve, to share what we bring to the table. Part of the fear of bragging, is the assumption one must put others down to raise themselves up. This is not true. You can state what you do, outside of what anyone else does. Focus on the facts of you, not a comparison to anyone else.

Second, people need help uncovering and recognizing their contributions. It astounds me how many women and men draw a blank when I ask about their accomplishments. They can not even put into words their contributions. Candidates will say they executed their position but can’t go into detail as to what that entailed. In doing so, they are not only minimizing their professional value, but their personal value as well. When I realize the candidate I am talking to is unable to answer even the most basic questions about what they did and how it benefitted their company or customers, I know there is a larger problem at play. This is no longer about self-promotion. The true issue revolves around self-awareness and self-love.

Acknowledging your true strengths and weaknesses, knowing who you are, requires self-awareness. When we take the time to uncover and own who we are, we are pulled out of the shadows. We can no longer hide our faults – or our brilliance. We become a known entity. Yet so many of us are happiest hidden in the background. We react to others, never taking proactive actions of our own. We look to others to create the framework and guidelines for life which we follow like lemmings. In doing so, we are depriving the world what we are here to offer; what only we can offer. It is not selfish to know and speak our truth. It is actually selfish not to.

Without self-awareness, there can be no self-love. Self-love gives us confidence and strength. We can not tap into this power until we acknowledge, embrace, and love who we are – warts and all. And amazing accomplishments and all! It is when we know ourselves, what we do well, what we are meant to contribute, that we are then in a position to guide our lives. If you don’t know and love what you have to offer, you flounder from job to job, relationship to relationship, city to city – or you don’t move at all, sitting in a static state never fully expressing your gifts.

Take some time, starting with your professional gifts, to write out what you do well. Uncover these gifts. Acknowledge them. Celebrate them. Then look at these gifts and see where they point you for the future.

customer service

Making a Human Connection

This past Easter, a fire erupted in a local parking garage. Thankfully no one was injured. Although hundreds of cars were destroyed.

We park our trailer in this garage.

After a few days wait, we were able to access the garage and remove our trailer which was thankfully unharmed in any way. We had to find alternative storage as the garage would not be reopened for over a month. We found a place to store it and waited.

While we waited, I attempted to receive a refund for the time we paid for but could not access the garage. I talked to the mall office who sent me to the garage office which was inaccessible. A security guard gave me the phone number of the woman in charge, who never answered her phone. A friend obtained and called the number for the garage management parent company in Mexico City. On the first call we were told to call back because the individual we needed to speak to was on break. Next time we called there was no answer. At this point, I was measuring the importance of how much we paid for the missed month versus the effort to receive a refund. I laid the issue to rest.

customer serviceA week or two later, after the garage opened, I happened to be in the area with some time to kill. I walked to the garage office and asked for the woman in charge. After a few minutes she, and the two little dogs that accompany her at work, appeared. I was preparing myself for what I expected to be a terse conversation, when she introduced herself, shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “Mucho gusto.”

In Spanish, “Mucho gusto” means approximately “pleased to meet you.” All at once we were not manager and customer but two human beings making a human connection. I smiled. She smiled. All the tension dissipated and we had a cordial conversation. In my broken Spanish, I was able to negotiate an extra month on my contract. Problem pleasantly and easily resolved in 15 minutes.

When was the last time you had to call the cable company or return something damaged to a store? What attitude did you go in with? Did you expect to be denied? Did you feel wronged, entitled, or outraged? Did you have anger blurring your mind?  When you entered the conversation, what happened? Did you get your issue resolved? If you did, did you feel good afterwards or did you still feel painful, angry indignation?

Replay the situation in your mind. What if you started off by introducing yourself and by taking a moment to truly connect to the other person as a human being. What if the issue was now secondary to the importance of treating the person across from you as a living breathing being with feelings?

Next time you need to address an issue or when someone confronts you in an aggressive manner, stop. Breathe. Connect as two individuals. Remember that you are speaking to a person who deserves as much respect and unconditional love as you do.

It's My Life blog

My 2016 Goal

My friend Catherine Johns challenged herself in 2015 to write one newsletter every week. She knew that it was good business to stay in touch with her community, but writing is/was a challenge for her. But at the end of 2015, she had reached her goal and had written 52 posts for the year. And I believe she accomplished it again this year.

After reading her 2015 accomplishment post I thought, “I like to write. Why am I not writing weekly?” So in 2016 I challenged myself to write weekly. I started writing one post a week. Some weeks I found myself inspired and wrote more, allowing myself to have a writing-free weekend here and there. Some weeks I was up to a deadline before I was enlightened with an idea.

It's My Life blogBusiness books and gurus encourage weekly posts to increase and grow one’s business. For me, looking at the numbers, the result was a mere 1% increase of newsletter subscribers and Facebook followers. Nothing to write home about. However, what I did notice was more participation from my community. I received many more emails about my posts and had some great discussions as to how the posts reflected what the readers were experiencing in their lives.

Another less tangible beneficial result is that writing weekly helped me grow yet again personally, professionally, and as a writer. The commitment to the goal gave me purpose and made my writing more than a to-do. I became more inspired this year. I noticed stories I wanted to share and experiences which could help others. Sharing information to help others became my purpose for 2016. It was a goal larger than any business goal.

What was your experience of this year’s posts? Was it the information you needed to hear when you needed to hear it? Was weekly too much; did it become overwhelming instead of helpful? Did you share posts with others when they were relevant?

What subjects would you like addressed in 2017? What else would you like besides weekly posts? Are you interested in an online course, a retreat, perhaps working together? How can I expand my goal of helping through writing to something more helpful to you?

One other thing I noticed about this exercise was that having a single goal for the year was certainly much easier to accomplish than having ten goals. Having only one goal gave me focus and allowed me to accomplish what I set out to do. And although there was only one goal, there were many outshoots of accomplishments. Writing weekly has stirred my blood and giving me the starting idea for writing book two. Certain topics helped to assist non-client readers through difficult times. Sometimes the post helped me work through my own growth challenge. All in all, writing weekly was a goal that helped me, and hopefully you, throughout the year.

What are your goals for 2017? Perhaps you want to make it just one focused goal. Make the goal easy to accomplish. Make it something that is not one time, but something that follows you throughout the year. Make it focused but not narrow and notice where the goal natural expands to.

Wishing you all the best in the new year!