Inspiration through the stories that I hear…

In my constant interactions with people in different parts of the country, I very often come across stories that give me such a sense of appreciation for everything that I have – not the material things that I may or may not posses, but the life experiences that in one way or another have shaped me into who I am today. Recently, I became fascinated by someone whom I will call Mary. Her story moved me, her dedication inspired me, and her energy caused me to admire her. This is what she has to juggle:

Mary works 3rd shift, which means that her schedule starts at 10pm Sundays and ends at 6:30am on Mondays. There are times when she has to work overtime, extending her workweek to 7 days a week. This is where it gets fascinating:

- She also has 2 children under the age of 5
– She is also a single Mom
– She also is a Full-Time Student

After hearing this I asked her to elaborate on what a typical week looked like – it was then when she really inspired me. She shared that she arrives home from work (after an 8-hr night shift) at around 7am every day to get her kids ready for school. Once they are on the bus, she gets ready for her own school as her classes commence at 9am and end at 3:30pm. She gets home on time at around 4pm to see her kids get off the bus. The evening is then consumed by homework – that of the kids’ as well as hers – dinner, and a bedtime story as her 2 children fall asleep. It is then when she is able to sleep 2 – 3 hours before she has to go back to work at 10pm to start her routine again. Inspired yet?

Had she not told me her story, I would have never guessed that she slept for 2 hrs. Not for a second did she look tired, unhappy, or bored. Quite the contrary, she mentioned a number of times how much she loved her job, how grateful she was about being able to attend school so that one day she could become the RN that she is striving to become, which will give her a chance to have a better balance between her responsibilities and her family. When I asked her why she loved her job so much when it was a loud factory where men were predominantly the majority, she indicated that her management team makes a constant effort to recognize her work, which makes her feel valued and appreciated. Before I left her area, her supervisor indicated that Mary is the best employee on her team maintaining a perfect attendance record in the past 2 months.

Are you taking the time to recognize your teams? Someone much wiser than me once said that “recognition is the deepest craving of human nature” – a statement that I find full of truth.

The Antidote to Turnover = Employee Engagement

Is there any substantial evidence that shows a relationship between employee engagement and turnover rates? See, in the world in which I live, turnover is a very hot topic, and if you are a business leader reading this post, it should be a hot topic on your list of priorities as well. Curious yet? After having had opportunity to chat with almost 4,000 employees and hundreds of senior business leaders, I have arrived at the conclusion that this is a topic that deserves as much, or arguably, more attention than your income statement. Without an engaged workforce, the responsibility that you have to your shareholders may not be met.

In the past 2 years, I’ve worked for one of the largest temporary agencies in the country, leading a department that focuses exclusively on systematically measuring the engagement levels of our temporary employees placed at some of our key accounts located all over the country. Our mission has been to not only listen to these folks, but to develop feasible and executable action items that will show them that their feedback matters. Using a consultative approach, it is my goal to persuade clients to implement adjustments to their environments that, based upon the feedback collected, should result in higher engagement levels, resulting in lower turnover rates. Is every client willing to make these changes? No. The consequences, though, of listening to your teams and failing to follow through with changes can understandably lead to a decrease in morale levels and an increase in turnover rates. Your most important assets will feel that their opinions don’t really matter.

In future posts, and as mentioned in my “about me” section, I will share the main turnover drivers found at some of our clients as well as the opportunities that that this feedback represented. The names of the clients that I visit will remain anonymous. I am confident that as a business leader, you will find this information beneficial as some of the trends that I will share could be the reasons why a number of your employees lack the level of engagement necessary to make your company an employer of choice.

Happiness Makes Your Brain Work Better

by Jessica Stillman from INC Magazine

A Harvard psychology researcher explains that rather than thinking of success as the source of happiness, we should think of happiness as a source of success–and one that’s more under out control than we imagine.

Entrepreneurs, in general, are strivers. We set targets, battle to meet them, and believe that getting to that point, whatever it is, will bring us increased satisfaction. But according to one positive psychology researcher out of Harvard, as commonsensical as this tendency to chase achievement in order to attain greater happiness may sound, it’s actually got the equation reversed.

In a fascinating (and funny) TEDxBloomington talk, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, argues that while we may think success will bring us happiness, the lab-validated truth is that happiness brings us more success. And understanding this is particularly valuable for entrepreneurs, Achor said in an interview. Business owners, he said, need to,

Reverse the happiness and success formula. We think if we work harder and achieve some entrepreneurial goal, then we’ll be happier. But the research is clear that every time you have a success, your brain changes what success means. So for you and for your team, if happiness is on the opposite side of success, you’ll never get there. But if you increase your levels of happiness in the midst of a challenge—in the midst of searching for investment, in the midst of a down economy—what we find is that all of your success rates rise dramatically – every business outcomes improves.

The brain, it turns out, works significantly better when you’re feeling positive, so developing a sunny outlook allows you to be smarter and more creative. “We found that optimism is the greatest predictor of entrepreneurial success because it allows your brain to perceive more possibilities,” said Achor. “Only 25 percent of job success is based upon IQ. Seventy-five percent is about how your brain believes your behavior matters, connects to other people, and manages stress.”

If you’re all set to argue that your level of optimism or ability to handle stress is out of your control and determined by either your genes or your childhood, requiring a Woody Allen-level commitment to psychiatric intervention to reverse, Achor would like to correct you. “It’s a cultural myth that we cannot change our happiness,” he said, explaining that:

Genes are really important to happiness, but that’s based upon the cult of the average. What that means is that the average person doesn’t fight their genes. So if you’re born with genes for obesity or for pessimism, and you don’t change your behavior than your genes win. Happiness comes easier to some people, but happiness is a possibility for all if we change our behavior or our mindset.

And changing your mindset is probably less difficult than you imagine. “No one would think that something small could change patterns of pessimism from decades or from genes,” conceded Achor, but he said research proves the doubters wrong. “What we found was something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism and it holds for the next six months. The research is amazing. It proves we actually can change.”

So if you’re looking for more ways to boost your personal happiness quotient, than check out Achor’s TED talk below for some simple interventions that have been proven to help (they’re towards the end). Or if you’re more focused on helping your team perform better by being happier, check out Achor’s recent Harvard Business Review Magazine cover story, explaining, as Achor put it, that “happiness leads to greater levels of profits. In the article I described some things you can do at a team organizational level” to promote it. Check out this 12-minute video:

shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html

Dad’s wisdom…

“Hijo – Haga ejercicio” is perhaps one of those sentences that my Dad repeated over and over when I was growing up, one that carries so much meaning and truth that alas, I was not able to comprehend fully when I was younger. It translates for “Son – exercise.” See, you have to know a little bit about my Dad in order to better comprehend his constant desire to instill in us the benefits that a regular exercise routine brings to your soul, your body, and your overall persona.

As I post this blog, I am not sure how old my Dad is – he has kept it a secret and has always stated that he does not really remember when he was born. Let’s assume that he is 81, which is what we at home estimate. At his current age, my old man walks on average 15 hours per week and swims at least 3 times per week – when he does, people stare at him in awe watching this older fellow swim non-stop for more than 2 hours. I admire him for many reasons, but his passion for leaving a healthy life through the power of exercising is perhaps one of the reasons why I admire him the most.

A few years ago it all started clicking, my Dad was right. All of those years growing up when I did not pay much attention to his constant reminder that I needed to exercise more paid off when I consciously started seeing the benefits of having a regular routine. Sadly, the benefits are not related to having Beckham’s body, but even better, they are those of feeling ALIVE, energized, grateful, and joyful. Today, I just was not able to wake up on time to go to the gym due to a lack of sleep caused by my friend “Oscar. The result – perhaps psychological – was that of feeling tired, stuffed from the not-so-healthy food that I had this weekend, and unable to sharply think on my feet. Interested in being reminded about some additional benefits? Go to this site and check out 7 on your own.

I will be sure to wake up tomorrow early enough to go to the gym and one more time remember how accurate my old man’s wisdom was and continues to be.

Miniatur Wunderland

Bucket List

In case you have not had a chance to add new items to your bucket list in a while, here is one that should be at the top if you are into model railways, or if Legos still keep you up at night inspite of your age: