Setting Goals for your 2020 Vision

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It’s January 27th , so according to the New York Post article, most New Year’s resolutions died two weeks ago. That’s right. Strava, a social media network for athletes, analyzed 31.5 million online resolutions, and January 12th is the date when most resolutions drop off. This same article states that just 8% of people achieve the goals they set at the beginning of the year. Given these gloomy statistics, how can you ensure a clear vision for your team in 2020? The key, according to Forbes magazine’s article, Does Your Goal Setting Have 2020 Vision, is focusing on inspiration. This year try a new process to goal setting. Instead of a full day offsite on goal cascades, look for passion, see what matters, and observe what gives you energy.

To Do vs. Can’t Wait to Do: Too often, goal setting is a left-brained exercise. It is the list of items we’ve already committed to on our to do list, that we roll up into elegant phrases on a PowerPoint. But just like a resolution, what is the shelf life of the work I have to do vs. tapping into how I can impact our overall strategy? For example, at Blue Cross Blue Shield, our mission is to Inspire Change, Transform Care, and Improve Health for the people we serve.  Instead of a functional focus on our to do list, what if you asked your team if we were to be recognized on stage for helping to move the mission forward this year, what would we hear? Who would be there? What would they say? By building a vision of success as the starting point, you shift the discussion and thinking beyond block and tackle tasks and tap into what motivates and inspires your team. Once you have a shared aspiration, you can shift to a discussion around what you should do more of or less of in order to achieve this aspiration. That helps us identify areas of focus and actions for the upcoming year.
More Meaning than Meetings: A great concept in the Forbes article is, we don’t become creative because we’re inspired; we become inspired when we tap into new, intrinsically interesting and valuable things. At some point your team will have to leave that safe haven you created in your goal setting session and enter back into the daily world of work. But this year you want to help them work differently. Challenge your team to have at least 10% of their time “On the work” instead of spending all their time “in the work.” This means allowing space and time to stay focused on the stage you’ve created and keeping your creativity fueled by reading articles, attending classes, meeting with others,
and/or making room for interesting and valuable things in your workday. Allowing space in our busy day to keep our eye on the horizon is key to keeping our goals alive.

Making vs Taking Energy:  It requires energy to fuel our vision, and tapping into our passion creates energy instead of sapping energy. For example , we can all be committed to the goal of putting the customer first, and we can achieve it by leveraging the team’s various skills and passions. Let Mary redesign the website and have Bill populate it with data. Chris would be best at collecting customer data and Sue most interested in finding themes. The more we can leverage our collective strengths the more passion and creativity we will get in our results. When people do have tasks/projects that aren’t aligned to their passion, ask them to bring that vision to the work. For example, I don’t love merit planning. But I am passionate about equity and investing in talent. So making this more about the people than the numbers helps give me energy to pursue this task and brings a different perspective to this project.

Project plans and tracking tools have their time and place. As we know, a goal without a plan is only a dream. But dreams can die under the weight of process and practicality. The key in 2020 is for you to create an inspirational vision to meet with your team and look for passion, see what matters, and observe what give you energy.

 

 

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Update IDPs to Integrate Deliverables and Passions

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Development planning should always start with needs of the business. It is also key to look at the employees’ current skills and future interests.  We also know creating  a written plan is proven to increase the likelihood of acting on the plan. But this skeletal approach to development planning lacks the heart and soul of developing the full person.  I believe it’s time to update our concept of individual development plans (IDPs). Let’s shift IDPs to focus on integrating deliverables and passions in our personal and professional lives.

Integrating Work and Life: One of my least favorite questions is “What is your aspiration?” I will never forget when I was asked that question by our company president. I remember that my very first thought was, ‘I want to be a good mom.’ Then I thought, ‘Can I say that? No that won’t be acceptable. I better say I want my boss’s job.’ What was intended to be an engaging conversation became disheartening. It is perfectly reasonable for the president to expect a work related answer. It is also perfectly human to have multiple, sometimes competing, priorities that would be more insightful to discuss. What if we replaced “What are your career goals in the next 3-5 years?” with “What personal and professional milestones would you like to celebrate in 5 years?” Imagine how powerful it would be to have that insight and how rewarding it would be for employees to know you want to invest in their full life success. This new question also opens a discussion about  transferable skills and on the job learning. It may be hard for your finance manager to get exposure to online consumer behavior at work but easy to tap into through her gig job. It also opens up on the job learning to include volunteer jobs as well as our day job.

Deliverables vs. Door Signs: What if I had answered, “You know the first thing that popped into my mind is I want to be a great mom- which makes me really proud. I also want to continue to grow my career here and am particularly excited about integrating innovation and engagement in our HR practice.” It still doesn’t answer what I want the door sign on my office to read, but it tells you what deliverables excite me, which frankly is a lot more valuable. In our VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) we talk about needing change agility and adaptability but focus development on climbing an org chart. We know that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet – which makes “the ability to gain new knowledge more valuable than the knowledge itself.” Identifying experiences that expand learning agility, organizational relationships, and problem solving skills provides both a richer and more realistic approach to employee development.

Passion vs. Plans: “Every day the spirits of millions of people die at the front door of their workplace.” This is the opening sentence of the Workforce article “Focus on Employee Passion Not Employee Engagement.” The article goes on to say that according to a recent survey from Deloitte, only 20 percent of people say they are truly passionate about their work. Their research found that passion is impacted by 12 organizational factors, job factors, and relationship factors. Instead of asking our employees to write up a development plan, what if we started by asking them to assess how well we are stoking their passion? Through a discussion about topics such as perceived autonomy, goal clarity, and connectedness with their leader we can get to the heart of what is impacting their passion and work together to refuel it. If I had been brave enough to share my true aspiration, and the leader had said he would love to hear more about my kids and my ideas about connecting engagement and innovation, it would have been a home run conversation.

Development planning is, and must be, a business exercise. Understanding the skills we need in the future and helping our team develop them is critical. Most development planning practices successfully outline what steps are needed. Unfortunately, most of those same plans are out of step with what employees want for their development. Asking questions like, “Here are the top organizational priorities. I am interested in knowing how you want to help us deliver them,” creates insights, excitement, and a sense of belonging. Let’s shift IDPs to focus on integrating deliverables and passions in our personal and professional lives. This will make them more valuable – and actionable- for our organizations and our employees.

 

 

 

 

Real Leaders Focus on Learning and Listening

 

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Our current approach to training managers isn’t working. That is not a newsflash but some of the statistics in a recent study on corporate training are stark. 33% of employees who attended corporate trainings say that uninspiring content is the biggest barrier to learning.  Only 38% of managers believe that their learning programs meet the needs of the learner. Worse yet, only 12% of learners implement what they learn from training on the jobs. I am passionate about leadership development and an advocate for creative thinking about how we can do it more effectively. I also think we need to think outside the training box. If we believe that 70% of development happens on the job as the 70/20/10 suggests, then managers should develop 70% of their leadership development through everyday interactions. Pairing practical conversation tools with basic training on hiring, development, and corrective action can greatly improve leaders’ development…and their results.

Hiring: Interview and Engage. There are some important fundamentals about interviewing that it is important for leaders to know- legal requirements, your particular T/A process, and the ins and outs of an interview guide. But the game changer is engaging the interviewee. Help your managers focus on creating rapport with small talk, listen and linger on tidbits they pick up during the interview process, and talk about why this role and your company would be a great fit for the candidate. The mechanics of interviewing matter, but in today’s competitive labor market, conversations that build genuine connection will close the deal.

Development: Make planning personal. Most of us have some kind of talent review/succession planning process. Training leaders on the rating system, the process and preparation, and the company norms about sharing results are key. But what will actually move the dial on building our bench is open dialogue. If managers ask their high potentials questions like, “In this calendar year what contribution do you want to be known for making?” “What kind of leader do you want to be? How does your role today help or hinder your ability to achieve that?” “Five years from now what does an amazing career look like for you? A mediocre one?” This kind of dialogue will open rich doors and help move development planning from a check the box exercise to a plan truly designed around the individual.

Corrective Action: Process and people both matter. Few people relish writing someone up. Giving difficult feedback is – well difficult. We need leaders to understand the process, the paperwork, and our policies. But most importantly we need leaders to understand their people. Corrective action is the perfect time for real talk. Managers who say things like, “Neither of us wants to have this discussion, but it’s important that we talk through this issue.” or “This was a lot to take in. Let’s meet again tomorrow to be sure you are clear on next steps.” make this process more positive and personal. Arming managers with real talk tips can greatly improve the efficacy of the discussion and ensure we respect people throughout the process.

Training is important, but if we allow our managers to practice having conversations and encouraging them to focus on both training and talking, I am 100% confident we can improve our results and our manager’s leadership skills.

 

The Problem With Our Problem Solving

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We spend a lot of time at work in meetings solving problems. Our team meetings often allot 15 -20 minutes to discuss the problem, brainstorm up solutions, and agree on a delivery date. We march back to our desks and jump into execution mode.  What if we turned our problem solving approach on its head- and even more importantly on its heart? Human Centered Design doesn’t start with time or an agenda. It starts with identifying who are we solving this problem for. IDEO is one of the most famous human centered design organizations, and their Human Centered Design approach has three phases: an Inspiration Phase to understand needs, an Ideation Phase to distill what you learned, then an Implementation Phase bringing the solution to life.

Be inspired by the problem. Our traditional problem solving spends the least amount of time here – but if we jump right to a solution how do we know it solves anything? Right now I am working on the problem of transition for many of our central services leaders during our merger. I have experience (unfortunately!) in this situation from my past, so an easy and efficient solution would be to cut and paste my last approach to my current company. The next stretch I could take is to consult with my HR peers – internal, external, best practice – and identify tools to apply.  A human centered design approach means actually observing and interviewing our managers to find out what they want. We have attended staff meetings, met with leaders one on one, and made notes as we walk around our building to identify what we need to solve for first. Our initial list of problems includes lack of communication to and from managers, uncertainty on how to retain employees, and a desire for clear process.

How Might We Ideate? When we follow a human centered design process, we have to stay in a learning and curiosity mode.  For many of us suspending our inner knower is a challenge, and even if we patiently moved through inspiration, our solution engine is revved.  It is easy to take what we heard to validate what we know how to do or want to do. But this stage is about still understanding the problem, not landing on a solution.  The phrase “How might we..” is a helpful way to keep the funnel open. We asked the question “How might we address the lack of communication?” Part of the exercise is putting some crazy ideas on there.  We could have a communication contest. We could ask the new CEO to call all managers. We could post all the answers we have in the cafeteria. One of our how might we’s lead us to informal coffee sessions with leaders and our HR team to have a safe forum to ask questions, confirm answers, and practice/discuss how to communicate to employees.  It is also key in this stage to prototype and test. Try something and validate if it is or is not a solution. We were sure having one of our senior leaders speak at an all employee meeting would be viewed positively.  It wasn’t. But it was a good takeaway on how the leader prepped and what people infer.

Implement a Success. Now that we have observed and interviewed, ideated and tested, we are finally ready to implement. Keeping our focus on the needs of the end user throughout the process should give us high confidence that the solution is actually what people need. Check out this link for a great video that summarizes the IDEO process and a real solution you’ve likely seen in your day to day life. In our case we implemented several different communication approaches to try and address as many of the gaps as possible. The key theme- make it informal, two way, and authentic.

There is a real problem with the way we solve problems today at work. HR has the opportunity to be leaders in the area of human centered design. Teaching and bringing this approach to both our functional projects and our business challenges has the opportunity to uncover all kinds of cool new ideas and solutions. So break free from your meeting mindset and focus on inspiration, ideation, and implementation to create something amazing.

 

Are Your Values Valuable?

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Every company has a set of values. They are the norms that describe what is important to the organization, and the behaviors that are encouraged and rewarded. Some of these values are what you see on the walls of the building- but often there are different values playing out between the walls. The new CEO at Uber has just rewritten their values, dropping  “hustling,” “toe-stepping,” and “principled confrontation” and replacing them with, among others, “We celebrate differences” and “We do the right thing. Period.” Or perhaps you are on your second or third iteration of your company’s values, leaving your employees skeptical that you really know what you stand for. If your company’s values include integrity, commitment to customers, or teamwork/trust you’re in good company-According to the Booz Allen Hamilton and Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program researchers, 90% of companies reference ethical behavior/integrity, 88% mention commitment to customers, and 76% cite teamwork and trust. As my CEO, Ann Fandozzi, says, “I’m pretty sure our competition’s values aren’t we have no integrity so come work here. If your values don’t differentiate you, then they aren’t valuable.” Yet values do matter. According to a global survey by HR.com, one of the top 5 drivers of employee engagement is alignment between your personal values and your company’s values.  At Abra we are on a quest to create values that mean something to our team, to our customers, and to the way we do business.  We are getting great input, feedback, and buy-in as we work to create not just new values but a new way of leading our teams and our business.

Values and teams. It is ironic that the two most common approaches to creating values is either to hire an external consultant or to have a small group of executives pen them.  If values are our guiding principles, then we believe our employees should lead the way. When we began this journey, I spoke to the executive team and said for this to resonate across the organization, our values must come from voices across the organization. We are a national, production-driven organization, so this is not an easy task. But we partnered with the leaders across our stores and organized short focus groups. When we couldn’t pull people together, we took our notepads and talked with employees at their workstations –in the paint booth, next to a car, at the front desk. We asked 5 questions:

  • What do you like best about working at Abra?
  • What makes you proud to be an Abra employee?
  • What makes Abra unique?
  • How does a satisfied customer talk about Abra?
  • What does Abra need to do to become the Employer of Choice?

Over the course of 5 months we collected 90 pages of notes from over 300 employees. We are now going through this feedback and extracting the essence of what our employees said. We are not editing or changing their words – just summarizing.  The nuances and examples our teams shared are the heart of what they value- and will be reflected in our final summary.

Values and Customers. My family likes Panera. They have a great selection of healthy foods, and the quick food vs. fast food environment quells my mom guilt. We love our Panera because of Justine. Justine always greets our family with a smile, remembers my kids’ orders, and engages them in small talk.  To engaged employees, the organization’s success is personal. It matters. It’s a reflection of them and what they believe in, who they are, how they show up in the world. In a service industry, the customer’s experience IS your brand, so your company values should also reflect what is important to your customers. We are reviewing our customer survey data to identify common themes from our customers and our employees. We want our values to be our brand – but more importantly we want them to be our Justine –the essence of your experience with us.

Values and Business. Identifying the values is the easy part. Creating the process to integrate these values into the way you conduct business is hard. There are some obvious places to start – interview guides, recognition, and communication. These steps are critical, but if you want to see a great model of building your business around values, look at Zappos. All Zappos’ employees spend their first three to four weeks manning phones in their call center. This training helps new hires learn the business, but it also provides an internal resource for the company.  Zappos does not hire temps during the busy seasons – all employees are expected to sign up for shifts in the call center during the busy seasons. For employees hired directly into the call center, once you complete your four weeks of training  you are offered $3,000.00 to leave the company.  Not stay- leave. The Zappos’ philosophy is if you haven’t committed to the company and the values, then you should leave. Think about what that could look like – and say about – your company if you did something similar. Powerful.

The article Ban These 5 Words from your Corporate Values Statement recently appeared in the Harvard Business Review.  (1) Ethics and Integrity -as discussed, those are table stakes. (2) Collaboration. As the author says, if your employees aren’t working collaboratively, listing it as a core value isn’t the solution. (3) Authenticity- that should not be an aspiration, it should be a reality. (4) Fun- if you have to claim you are fun, you probably aren’t. (5) Customer-centric- all of us in the for profit sector best be customer-centric. Dig deeper and do the hard work to really understand what is important to your employees and your customers. Take an honest look at your business model and ask if this aligns with what our employees and customers value? Join me on a quest to create values that mean something to your team, to your customers, and to the way you do business.

 

 

 

SKOL Leadership

 

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What. A. Game. I live in Minnesota and while I am a Packer fan, for the last minute and a half of Sunday’s playoff game I was sweating purple. This miracle finish was just the latest chapter in a miraculous season. After losing their starting quarterback and starting running back in the opening weeks, somehow the Vikings, led by their third quarterback, Case Keenum, and their defense pulled the team together. Not only have they stayed together, they ended the regular season with the second-best record in the NFC.  As I watched the game I thought, this is an awesome leadership moment in motion. The Vikings showed how teamwork, strategy, and persistence are what it takes to lead and to win.

Teamwork. Good teams work together and come together, especially under times of stress. Great teams are clear on their goal and commit to their specific role in helping the team achieve it. In the Harvard Business School article The Biggest Mistake You (Probably) Make With Teams, author Tammy Erickson gives the analogy of an emergency room, and writes,  “Before the next ambulance arrives, they have no idea of the nature of the task ahead. Will the patient require surgery, heart resuscitation, medications? The condition of the next patient is unknown; the tasks that will be required of the team, ambiguous. But at no time while the team waits, do they negotiate roles: “Who would like to administer the anesthesia? Who will set out the instruments? Who will make key decisions?” Each role is clear. As a result, when the patient arrives, the team is able to move quickly into action. The Vikings acted surgically – each person focused on exactly what had to happen on that last play so the patient- in this case their playoff dreams- had a chance of surviving. In her research, Erickson found that the most successful leaders ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, everyone understands the project’s importance and ultimate objective, and the team is empowered to determine how to achieve their agreed to “what.” So help your team be great by setting clear goals and roles, and empowering and encouraging them to determine how to win.

Strategy. In football the coach can’t take over the various roles on the team, but off the field ask yourself, am I trying to be the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver or am I the coach? Mike Zimmer’s role was to create a strategy, make sure the team knew how to execute the strategy, and to build their confidence so that they could achieve their goal. Leaders don’t win games- they build teams that win games. In the article Doing Less, Leading More, author Ed Batista writes that many leaders believe if we work longer, harder, and smarter than our team, we’ll inspire by example. But he cautions that if you lead like a “Doer-in-Chief” you can’t pivot your teams from fire fighters to fire marshals. In Sunday’s game, it was evident that Zimmer had instilled a fire marshall mentality in the team – don’t panic when the heat is turned up, focus on execution. We can do the same in our roles with our teams if we do less, lead more, and stay focused on our strategy.

Persistence. Let’s not forget, the Vikings were not only down by 1 with 23 seconds on the clock. They have been down similar roads before. The Vikings have lost their last five NFC Championship games and lost four Super bowls. None of this is lost on the Vikings or their fans, nor is the fact that Minnesota is hosting the Super bowl in just 4 weeks. In the article Never Quit: Strategies on Perseverance From 6 Seasoned Entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs share what it takes to be persistent. The willingness to “take the hit.” Lead confidently, think big, and influence your outcome. As entrepreneur Roy McDonald says, “You can influence the outcome with the power of thought and intention. It’s important to focus on what you do want, instead of what you don’t want.” That mental toughness, or Grit as Angela Duckworth would say, is all about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference in a person’s success.

In football and as a leader you want a team with strong teamwork, strategy, and persistence. Even before Diggs’ touchdown, the Vikings had to stretch their bench to get the right people on the field. They had to ensure everyone understood the playbook. They had to make big plays to be up 17-0, they had to have grit after the Saints came out with 17 unanswered points and they really had to dig deep when they were down in the last 23 seconds of the game. Their success- and the success of strong business teams– comes from knowing the plan, and committing to execute the plan. It means having a leader who clears the path and empowers the team. It also means having an unwavering belief that you will achieve your goal. I encourage you to think with SKOL leadership so you can see and celebrate your  team’s success.

Do Less More Often

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It may be early to be thinking about New Year’s resolutions but as 2017 is winding down, I find myself reflecting on the number of lessons I learned this year. 2017 was a quite year for me. I was laid off from a great job working for a great boss, John Vegas. I also got a great opportunity to shift from designing learning and development content to delivering change management training across the country. I sat on the other side of the “here is your package” table and got to feel firsthand what good and bad acquisition practices look like. I learned to introduce myself as “in transition” at networking events, and to get comfortable with not having a work identity. I gave myself the best gift of all – taking the summer off to spend time with my family, seeing every concert that we could, and taking some fantastic vacations. So what’s my big hairy goal for 2018? I am planning to do less more often. This means embracing JOMO, canceling subscriptions, and better balancing .

Embracing JOMO. I just read this article about embracing the joy of missing out (JOMO). Instead of stressing out that you can’t get it all done or can’t get to both meetings you were invited to, try a new approach. Admit that there is a problem, and acknowledge that the problem is not you. You can’t do it all and that’s ok. So embrace it. Find joy in training someone else to help with your projects. See the joy in your team when you say, I trust you. You can cover this meeting and fill me in. This mindset can allow you to focus on what really matters and do a few things really well, instead of spreading yourself too thin. This will be a challenge for my extroverted, execution-oriented personality but I am convinced it will help me to stay focused and to be more productive.

Cancelling subscriptions.  I volunteered to co-lead my daughter’s brownie troop when she was in first grade. It appears to have an auto-renewal policy until she graduates. I started a list of all the things I find myself still doing just because I started doing them, and am starting to cancel my subscriptions to these commitments. That means prioritizing my networking groups and cancelling some subscriptions so I can focus on others. It means asking myself if there is a different way for me to subscribe my time at work so I can stay focused on my top priorities. It even means stepping down as the troop leader so I can decide if there is a new subscription my daughter and I want to explore.

Better Balancing. Doing less still allows for doing. I also want to increase my workout goals and to read more next year. I want to work on our learning strategy and be available to create on demand training for leaders.  My goal is to have clear priorities and commit to my priorities. Investing time in my family, my health, and my hobbies are my priorities for next year. So now they will be my filter for making decisions. Stephen Covey has a great quote: “Instead of prioritizing our schedule we need to schedule our priorities.” I am learning that one of the priorities I need to include on that list is white space. White space for thinking and planning at work and for unwinding at home is one of the best commitments of time we can make. Finding the balance of doing and being is my biggest challenge- and one I will prioritize working on in 2018.

I read the book Essentialism in 2016 and it really struck a cord with me. In this crazy world of doing, how can we do less more often? 2017 gave me an opportunity to put those ideas into practice and taught me some invaluable life lessons. I have moved through transition into a new great job, with a great boss, doing some great work. But instead of jumping back on the hamster wheel, this time I am being more intentional about embracing JOMO, cancelling subscriptions, and better balancing.

Tweet Your Vibe

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“Tis the time of year to be thankful. To be generous. It is also a good time of year to think about the vibe we put out into the universe – both the physical and online space we occupy. Thanks to Catherine Byers Breet for sharing this photo and this article. It got me thinking that we all should be thinking, what’s my Tweet, how do I Tweet others, and why we should Tweet each other better.

What’s My Tweet? In the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey’s second habit is to begin with the end in mind. In this chapter he asks the reader to imagine their literal end. Picture yourself at your funeral. What are people saying about you? What impression did you leave? A slightly more updated question is, if your family, friends, and coworkers were to describe you in 160 characters, what would they say? You may also want to check what have they said about you on social media. We all create a vibe- all we can control is if it is intentional or unintentional. What would you like your headline to be? With that end in mind, think about how you treat others, and make an intentional effort to live up to your ideal self.

How do I Tweet Others? The 7 Habits also encourage us to synergize. This means to believe that 1+1 is 3 and that by treating each other with respect and listening to different opinions we can come up with the best solutions. In today’s digital world it is easy with the quick stroke of the keyboard to criticize those we don’t agree with. The golden rule should apply both our physical and online communities – and is part of keeping a positive vibe. Being mindful is also key when interacting with our teams. We are so busy doing that we leave little time for connecting, engaging, and encouraging our employees. How we “tweet” them comes out in all the micro decisions we make -to say hi, to be present, to show genuine interest. These micro decisions can have a macro ripple.  Your words and your impact will be how your team “tweets” about you as they talk about their day with friends and family.

Why we should Tweet each other better.  In an earlier post, Connecting vs. Networking, I talked about the the power of connection, collaboration, and conscientiousness. In this day and age it is only a matter of when- not if- we lose our job, are acquired, or experience a major reorganization. When you need help guiding new terrain, who will be there for you? Who were you there for when they asked you for help? We live in a big small world. Put your positive vibe out there and help to Tweet someone’s story and skills. Create the positive energy needed to propel each other forward.

What we say and do – in person and online- matters. It creates a vibe that either fuels or flushes their energy. There are over a 160 ways a day we can be intentional about showing up as our best self. The best gift we can give ourselves and others is to be mindful about what’s our Tweet, how we Tweet others, and Tweeting each other better.