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If Opportunity Doesn't Knock, Go Find That Sucker!

Going out of your comfort zone might be scary, but if you really want to make a change it’s necessary. 

The old saying of “opportunity knocks” may be true, but there’s something to be said for creating opportunities for yourself.  The way you do that is by taking proactive steps to achieve your goals. 

A dream isn’t going to manifest into reality without effort.  Wishing for something to happen is not going to make it happen.  Effort and commitment is what makes it real.

If you aspire to do more in your career, it is up to you to make that happen.  Whether it’s taking courses that will help you obtain the necessary knowledge required for your next move, or having a conversation with your manager about your aspirations and career path – it starts with you.  You are as responsible for your success and professional growth as your manager is. 

If you have a talent or a gift for (i.e. singing, acting, dancing) you need to get out there and get in front of people who can help you get the exposure you need.   Stories of people being “discovered” are rare.  You need to put in the effort – and – have a back up plan.  Because the reality is that the entertainment industry is very hard to break into.  So be realistic, have a back up plan, and go into it with an open mind. But make the effort. 

If you like to write and want to write a book, story, screenplay go for it.  But like everything else, it requires effort.  It requires many hours of research, networking, promoting, and a ton of patience.  Not to mention a thick skin.  Because not everyone will like what you write and want to publish it.  Having a thick skin and a realistic approach will keep you sane and help you stay positive during the rough patches- and there will be rough patches.   Many famous authors have stories about all the rejections they received before they finally had a book published.  Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are just 2 examples.   Keep at it, keep writing, and stay positive.  The great news is that today authors can self-publish, so you don’t have to rely on a big name publisher to get your book out.  That being said, you still need to put in the hard work of marketing, promoting, and above all editing/proofreading your work to ensure that you turn out a quality product.

The bottom line is that creating opportunity requires making an effort, and making an effort sometimes means doing things that are outside of your comfort zone.   Big change – even good change – is scary because it means letting go of what is certain for the unknown. 

Embrace the unknown.  Embrace change. 

Don’t wait for opportunity to knock on your door.  Go out and find it!

Happy Saturday

Inspiring Action

If you’re using email as the primary means of communication with your employees about your charitable giving program, it’s time to rethink your strategy.  One of the best ways to promote your program and volunteerism among your employees is via your company’s intranet.  Your intranet is a powerful way to connect with your employees and to connect your employees to each other, especially if you are a global company.  

Don’t just use text to communicate.  Instead, consider more creative ways to get your message across.   One of the most effective ways to communicate is via video.   The fact that Facebook has now added a video feature is a testament to how wildly popular video has become as a way of sharing content.

Record and upload videos of your volunteers in action.  One idea might be to record short video clips of your employees talking about their favorite community event that they participated in, or about a memorable moment as a volunteer.

In other words, you need to capture people’s hearts in order to keep their attention.  Here are some things to keep in mind when posting content about your program on your intranet:

  • Make it inspiring
  • Make it connect emotionally to your audience
  • Post photos in addition to videos.  Photos are as popular as video when it comes to sharing content

For more information on how to post content that gets noticed and shared go here:

How to Go Viral

Giving Day

If you want to create an event that will unite your employees and raise a lot of money, consider doing one big fundraising drive across your locations.   This is a really great way to raise money if you are short on resources and don't have a staff to run monthly or quarterly fundraising events.

The idea is to choose 1 day out of the year and designate it as your company's "giving day".   You can select a special date, for example the anniversary of your company's founding. Or your founder's birthday.  Whatever date you choose, before you announce any plans, be sure to partner with your Finance department to ensure that you have the proper processes in place to support a program on this grand a scale.  It's important that you establish this up front because you never want to launch a campaign of this magnitude without the proper "checks and balances" in place form a finance and audit perspective.   Once you have all your financial "ducks in a row", partner with your Marketing and Communications department to promote the heck out of it.  You'll want to highlight the reason why you are doing this fundraiser, and which non-profits will be the beneficiaries of your giving.  Be sure to tie it back to your company's culture and values.  Create posters and a communications campaign around the event to keep employees informed and engaged before, during, and after the event.  Post information about the fundraiser on your company's intranet with a countdown to the big day.   Provide regular status updates on funds raised.  If you have it in your budget, have shirts or pins made up that you can distribute to all your employees in commemoration of the event.

You can set a fundraising goal, or you can make it a fun "competition" between departments, divisions, or locations.  It's a super way to engage your employees and raise money for our deserving non-profits.  

Everybody wins!

Do You Hear Me? Do You Care?

If you grew up in the 80s, chances are you’ll recognize the title of this post as lyrics from the hit song “Words” by Missing Persons.   In fact, the whole song revolves around being heard and today's topic – active listening.   In my last post I wrote about the critical role that communication plays in maintaining harmonious and successful relationships.  A key part of good communication is active listening and, like communication skills, most of us think we’re pretty good listeners when in fact we’re not.

Active listening is a term used in counseling and also human resources, and is defined as “a technique which involves not only listening to the words someone uses, but also taking into account their tone of voice, their body language and other non-verbal signs in order to gain a fuller understanding of what they are actually communicating”.  This is not as easy as it sounds because it’s human nature to want to share our point of view and tell our side of the story, especially in a debate or a heated conversation.  Sometimes we’re so focused on our own feelings that we tend to get defensive and start formulating our response while the other person is still speaking, which results in our missing half of what the other person was saying and adding “fuel to the fire” via confusion and frustration.

Understanding that it is just as important for the other person to be heard as it is for you to be heard is key.   Resisting the urge to interrupt when someone is expressing their viewpoint is important.  Wait to hear everything the other person has to say.  Then, in your own words, repeat what they just said.  This is beneficial in 2 very important ways.  First, it demonstrates that you were actually paying attention to their words (that in and of itself will be viewed as a positive in their eyes).  Second, it allows you to confirm that what you heard is indeed what the other person meant, which helps to avoid misunderstandings and confusion.  We are all unique and have different ways of expressing ourselves.  Expecting that someone will automatically know what we mean just because they’ve known us for a long time is not realistic.  Many things influence the way we communicate with others.  Our experiences, culture, upbringing, our environment all contribute to the way we share our thoughts and feelings.  This is why active listening is so important.   By being present and attentive, we avoid making incorrect assumptions which can lead to resentment, more questions, and hurt feelings.  Over time, these feelings can grow more intense and can cause a rift to form between two people.  In some cases this leads to irreparable damage that ends in the demise of the relationship altogether.

Here are some great links to more information and tips on active listening.  As an added bonus, I’ve also included a link to Missing Persons' video for “Words”.  Enjoy!

Forbes: 10 Steps to Effective Listening

Become A Better Listener

WSJ: How "Active Listening" Makes Both Participants in a Conversation Feel Better

Video: Missing Persons - "Words"