Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom

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What Your Shopping Cart Says About You

Cart_ResponsibilityI’m convinced that there are two types of people in this world: those who leave shopping carts in the parking lot, and those who put them in the “return your cart here” section.  At least, that’s how I see it now that airports don’t let you past security anymore.  Back then, there were people who met you at the curb, and those who met you at the gate.

I’m all about the cart section/gate people.

Returning the cart is inconvenient.  You have to go out of your way to do it.  You load your car then close your door.  You navigate around the oncoming traffic to push that cart into a tidy line, giving up a few minutes of your time when you probably have somewhere else to go.  But you do it anyway.  Why?  Shared responsibility.  You’re working together as part of a larger community.  It’s being considerate of other people.  Helping protect someone else’s property.  It’s about more than just you.

Same thing goes for the gate people.  You had to park your car, pay a bit out of pocket and walk a ways to bring a smile to someone you loved.  It’s bigger than you.

So many people today don’t return the cart.  They’re caught up in their lives.  They’re so busy!  Many important things to do.  Can’t possibly spare a few minutes to walk 50 feet to help someone else.  So they leave the cart tucked up on a curb, or precariously balanced between two other cars… An accident waiting to happen.

They are not part of a larger community.  They do not share in the responsibility.  It’s just about them.

Returning a cart seems like a small thing, and perhaps it is.  I think it is a symptom of something more though.  We demonstrate who we truly are in the small moments… the little things we do when we think no one is looking.   Are we looking in or looking around?

We inspire our employees when we model that which we ask of others.  Do we ask for urgency and good work, yet provide no feedback or take days to respond instead of hours?  Do they stay late while we leave early?

We teach our children responsibility in our day to day actions.  Do we tell the truth?  Do we follow through?  Do we tell our children to pick up after themselves, and yet leave carts lying around parking lots… too self involved to follow our own advice?  What will our children learn from us in the little moments?  What do we want them to learn?


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Number 5

What do you believe in?

What do you believe in?

When I was a young manager, early in my career, I remember having a conversation with a fellow employee who was upset about a change in procedure from the top.  She came to me in confidence and, after I listened to what she had to say, I tried to help.  I remember telling her that she needed to separate her emotions from the equation, that business was business and – this part I remember quite vividly – that a Company is a Company.  It’s not a person.  It has no emotional intent or motivation, and that if she realized that then she would be able to see the logic behind Upper Management’s decision, etc.  I thought it was good advice.

And maybe it was ten years ago.  Back then, the book du jour was The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene.  It was a different time… Just after the dot-com hullabaloo.  Social media was in its infancy.  The world was riding high; business and home values on the rise.  What a ride it was then.  Fast, hard driving, me, me, me.

I see things very differently today.  Great things are happening at work; we are on the precipice of a fantastic new chapter in our future.  And yet this afternoon, I found myself wrestling with some significant business choices.  So, I went to my mentor for advice and guidance.  (If you don’t have a business mentor, get one tomorrow.  Run!  It will be one of the most significant investments you will ever make in yourself and in your future.) And as I walked through it with my mentor, out of nowhere, I felt a huge swell of emotion – one that was hard to contain.   I finished the conversation, sucking it up and telling myself that “no one cries in baseball.”  I am still unsettled.  And as I work through it (which will take some time), I thought of that advice from so long ago… And thought about what I would say to that teammate today.

Yes, business is business.  But business is a combination of the head and the heart.  I am farther along in my career, and today I am one of the people making those decisions that are lasting… which have meaning to lives beyond my own.  I have a responsibility to those lives… to those people. I’m invested in them.  I know them, know their dreams, know their fears and I share their sorrows.   They are teammates, employees, friends and more often than I would admit, they are family.  We don’t just work together; we have real relationships.  It’s a heck of a lot harder carrying the weight of all of those hearts.  But I am a better manager today because I carry that load.  Business is about emotions, and to be successful today, you have to connect emotionally to those you serve.

Tonight, as I worked though all of these conflicted emotions, I looked up at the core values posted on my wall.  We all have them at our offices (and hopefully memorized), but do you have them at home? My son and I defined our Family Core Values when he was 3. And looking at them today, they’re pretty good. It’s a mantra at home with buy in from the boys. Tonight, I think they are pretty good for work too. They’re emotionally based. So is work.

Business is just a collection of people after all.
And people are pretty special.