Posts Tagged ‘communication’

How to Give a Damn in 3 Semi-Easy Steps

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Last week was one of those weeks. Two clients asked for extra material above and beyond the scope of our contract. My knee was hurting a little, which matters if you’re a runner and my wife was working hard and coming home tired and a little cranky. Hope she doesn’t read this article. Love you, babe!

I happily provided the material because it’s my job and my manager (me) likes to deliver more than what is expected.

I nursed my knee for two days and it began to feel normal again. Normal, is good.

My wife had a less stressful week and was full of energy and was not all zapped from her time at work.

The next morning, feeling good after a run, I went home to shower and then made my way to a popular coffee chain for a cup. I sat down to go over the next few hours of work I had planned for the day.

Enter John – John’s week, his days, are always stressful. His knees bother him, he could use glasses and he hasn’t seen a doctor in over 10 years! John is a soft spoken, sharp, homeless man who literally carries all his belongings in two trashcan-sized plastic bags. He has a phone, believes in God and is focused on improving his lot in life.

Sitting in the corner at a table for two with his ears encased in earbuds, I approached him, smiled and asked him if he’d like something to drink or eat. “A Frappuccino would be nice, thank you,” he replied.

I went and ordered his drink and he came up to meet me as the barista delivered a delicious looking concoction of cool-flavored delight. I noticed the corner of John’s mouth curve up.

I asked him how he could afford the phone. “Long story,” was his reply.
I asked him if he’d like to chat or be alone. “We can chat,” he said as we made our way to his corner table.

“How’s life?” I asked to break the silence. Stupid question I realized coming from a guy with credit cards in his pocket and a roof over his head. I waited for his reply. “It’s been tough lately, but I never give up!” replied John.

“So, how did you end up homeless?” I asked.

“Long story. God is seeing me through. I won’t give up. Many different things occurred to get me here. I’m working through it.”

“Cool,” I said, wondering if I should ask more questions as is often the case with me. I’m a curious person. I ask questions that some folks would be uncomfortable asking.

“John, I’m going to work on some things over there,” pointing to another table where my computer was resting. “Thanks for chatting.”

“Thank you for the drink, Scott,” he said.

That was it. I went to my table. John began to go through his belongings in a smaller bag.

When I first noticed John, I felt for him so I:

1-Walked up to him and began to talk while looking into his eyes. He was not invisible.
2-I offered something of value with no strings attached.
3-I listened, did not judge and felt for this man’s condition.

It wasn’t easy. I felt a bit awkward at first. His returning kindness made reaching out easier for me. I will do this again. It felt right. I didn’t change the world. Perhaps I made a small positive difference in one person’s life for a few hours. I’m good with that. I gave a damn.

It doesn’t need to be a homeless person. A co-worker, a friend, a family member or a complete stranger. How are you going to reach out? Who would benefit from spending time with you? Who is your John?

My Club Rocks and You’re Invited!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016


Ha- I’m kidding, you’re already a member.

Our club includes high achievers, doers, chill individuals, folks with plenty of confidence, those continuing to grow their confidence, mentors, mentees, clowns, smarties and fun seekers.

We’re not your normal folks. We look at things from many perspectives, often amuse ourselves and hate mean people. That’s right, we hate them because besides sucking, they hurt others and we remember that feeling.

Let’s focus on the workplace.

Almost every time I present at a conference or company brave women and men share with me some of the challenges, triumphs and nightmares the face.

Usually, their stories share common threads with others I’ve heard. However, as I writer, I also take notes both to improve my content, learn and share with you!

In 2015-16 a theme has begun to fester in the minds and hearts of many.

It’s crappy management, bosses, bossholes, so-called leaders.

Just as fast as you can say “really”, a conversation with individuals or groups will turn to poor management. And yes, compliments are offered too if earned. Yes, earned!

Our club has experience. We’ve worked for 5+ years. Some as much as 40 + years. We’re good and we know it ‘cause we’ve worked our butts off to get better. So, why do some leaders fall short on…um, LEADING?

Complex as it may seem, the best answer I learned over the years is communication. That’s right; talking, sharing of information and listening.

Hey, I see you shaking your head up and down, I know you understand.

When the sh*T hits the fan.

We understand that many who leave their job are really leaving their boss, not the company.

We understand that many of the words I used to begin my gentle rant are foreign to management who only focus on numbers, quotas and/or investors.

Millennials are now the largest workforce in the country. Add their number of 83 million plus with those of Gen Xers and you have a massive talent pool of women and men.

The leaders who strive to understand and communicate well these folks will be successful and blow away their competition because their club demands different treatment.

They look at interaction as an equal playing field, especially Millennials! The big picture, appreciation, feeling valued, open and honest feedback and communication are demanded.

The leaders who get this statistically have happier, more productive employees while also increasing retention.

Those who don’t get it continue to complain about staff, generations, and cultures when they’re the ones failing to realized that great communication creates great workplace cultures.

I’m honored to be part of the cool club. I like looking outside the box, asking lots of questions and facing fear with persistence, guts and excitement.

Yes, our glorious club includes high achievers, doers, chill individuals, folks with plenty of confidence, those continuing to grow their confidence, mentors, mentees, clowns, smarties and fun seekers and more.

It also includes millions and millions of talented folks. Treated well and with open communication, we’ll make ya proud. Treat us like crap, like old school my way or the highway and you’ll be asking yourself time and time again- “I wonder why they left? I wish they would have mentioned something.”

Ya, we did. You weren’t listening. Adios!

BREAKING SAD! Leadership done right.

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015



Those of us in the speaking business are fortunate. We get to travel, stay in hotels and present to people from many walks of life. Oh yeah, we get paid too. The hours, weeks and months of creating and preparation plus rehearsal and fresh topics are expected by those who hire us.

My peers understand “the biz” and the difficulty in obtaining gigs. The not so secret- secret that motivates the crap out of us comes from a source we rarely discuss outside of our industry.


That right. We do what we do because you like what we have to offer. The programs, keynotes, breakout sessions, books, consulting and more are what connect us at first. However, as presenters we understand that the real payoff is the connections we make.

One on one or in small groups we learn from you. You teach us. We listen (which isn’t always easy for a speaker) and we grow as people, you and I. That’s the pay off!

Leaders make or break a company and its staff as I found out again at a recent conference.

Jean came up to me after a presentation in tears. Her friend was consoling her. She’s a strong leader and I hit a nerve, her friend explained. I suggested that the three of us meet later in the lobby to chat.

Me- “So Jean, you’re looking better. I mean…,”she stopped me.

Jean- “I’m so sorry, but my boss at work is driving me crazy. I’m sad, so sad because I love what I do. I’m been there 12 years and am thinking about leaving.”

Me- “Can you elaborate? What’s he/she doing that sucks so much? Let’s break you of this SAD.”

Jean- “IT DOES SUCK!!! She’s not responsive to emails, slow as molasses to move on anything and takes FOREVER to make a decision. I have a staff of 25 that this directly affects.”

Me- “You’ve talked to her about this-yes?”

Jean- “Ad nauseam, Scott. Look, I understand you can’t fix this. I was hoping that you had another perspective like you mentioned in our general session.”

Me- “Thank you for stating the obvious (we all gave a much needed chuckle) I’m no expert, but I’ve seen and heard of difficult situations like the one you’re in.  Who can you confide in that you wouldn’t think to approach? They don’t have to be in the same department as you. Someone who does not pop into your mind right away may be the key.”

Jean- “Dan in Accounting is sharp, has a dry sense of humor and at my same management level. Plus he’s heard about some of the difficulties my department has been facing from others. I suppose we could have lunch off site.”

Me- “Low key and hush-hush.”

Jean- “Yep.”

Two months later I received an email from Jean which said:

Scott, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Dan and I did have lunch and he suggested that I involve the senior VP before things got worse. Reluctantly, I did. Remembering what you said about facing fear head on helped. My manager had some upper level discussions and things are better. Not perfect, but I’m not thinking about leaving!

I was honored to assist her in my small way. Jean did all of the heavy lifting.

Leadership form and style is a personal thing. Keeping good employees is critical for company and staff. Losing them costs money and time. Plus, if one person leaves it can cause others to do the same.

Active dialogue between employees is important. Management should strive to keep communication open, honest and productive. Motivating and encouraging retains good employees!

Breaking sad is a must!


Parenting – Connecting, Talking, Learning & Improving

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Raising my children was a 24/7 job. As a volunteer facilitator at The Parenting Network (a National Fatherhood Initiative program in Milwaukee), I’ve heard from thousands of fathers who agree; every group teaches me something and after ten weeks we all feel better and even wiser. The parents who came in with a chip on their shoulder often graduate with a smile, extend a warm thank you (which isn’t easy for some) and say that they’ve learned some valuable and positive lessons that they WILL use in parenting their children.

Before each leaves, I ask them for 1-3 takeaways to make sure that they are not just saying we helped. I know if the handbook, our classroom discussions, my facilitating and their peer interaction is moving them forward by how they answer. Some talk for five seconds and others 30 minutes! Some comments are: “Man. You opened my eyes. I’m not going to be like how so and so was to me growing up.”  “I never knew why I acted like that. Why I hit my kids instead of talking more. I get it now!”

 I am confident that many (hey- ya can’t reach everyone) are not only better equipped with positive, hands on ways to parent when they leave but they also have a greater understanding of how their childhood shaped their adult lives as it pertains to parenting. Yes, really connecting to our children and treating each as the individual they are is the key to their growing up with good self-esteem. It takes a daily interest, a commitment that some did not see when they were young. Talking, listening, setting proper boundaries and playing is wonderful. Breaking the cycle of physical and verbal abuse is a challenge, but many parents are able to, for the first time, really understand how they felt if this occurred to them. Anger, remorse and contemplation often set in, but the group is always supportive.

 I’m not under the assumption that these fathers are angels. Some have served serious time behind bars and others are completing the class in order to spend more time with their children. They open up about things I never imagined I’d hear and it takes the breath out of many in the class. But, we talk. We discuss. Some even grow- maturing before my eyes. We stay on topic as it pertains to that week’s lesson and these parents are engaged! They’re thinking, talking, and debating all things parenting. That’s the golden ticket!

 I wanted to give back. I wanted to help fathers become better parents. Speaking professionally allows me to connect with people from all walks of life. The Parenting Network allows me to connect to parents who not only leave the course a better and more knowledgeable parent, but often remind me of some things I did well in raising my two children. I wish programs like this were made available to all those who want to improve their parenting skills. I could have definitely used it and I suspect most of us could. Some participants come back to observe, add content and opinions, plus continue to grow. Kids deserve nothing but the best and it is a parent’s responsibility to try to provide that every day.  It’s our most important job!

Put Down that Phone – Please!

Monday, January 14th, 2013

When I headed off to college my mom had two ways of connecting with me. 1) She could call me in my dorm room, and if the planets were properly aligned, she’d get me on the phone. 2) A letter. How did we survive?
Today’s parents have a plethora of electronic ways to “stay connected” with their kids at any given moment of any given day. Thing is, it takes persistence and practice to successfully back off.
Moms and dads can be seen pushing strollers with one hand and chatting on their cell with the other. I wonder. Is that phone call really that important? Probably not. What about the simple act of bonding with our children? Talking, pointing out flowers and birds, the cool cloud formations and the “other” parents pushing their kids in strollers while talking on their cell phones.
Sure there’s no laws preventing us from hanging with our little ones with a phone in our ear and there shouldn’t be, yet somehow I raised two well-adjusted kids and made a point of not letting life’s electronic interruptions get in our way. How did we survive? Okay, you got me. Cell phones weren’t around much when my kids were young, only car phones and the occasional bulky, portable NASA tested, shoulder harnessed talking device that gave one the feeling of real coolness.
Today, it’s easy to tweet, twitter, email, text and talk to one another 24/7. The real challenge for us is to stay connected the old fashioned way-talking face to face. Sound yucky? Feeling a bit cheated? Human communications have taken huge leaps in the past 20 years. It’s difficult but not impossible to step back, put the phone down and interact with our loved ones the old fashioned way-talking. They deserve our undivided attention.
Enough for now. My dog, Jazz is staring at me looking for attention and some serious scratching behind his ears. Gotta go!