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POINT OF VIEW
January


Thank you Willie: Your presence was an important gift to me.

His name is Willie. He seemed quiet, alone, and desperately in need of warmth and probably food. I met Willie outside the McDonald's in Merced on a recent cold, foggy day at about 9:30 in the morning. I had stopped to get a cup of coffee on my way to a client in Modesto.


As I approached the door of the restaurant, Willie was huddled next to the building, obviously cold and in need. I went in; got my coffee; and as I walked back to my car, Willie's gaze was too much to ignore. I smiled, and continued on, getting into my warm car, placing the cup of warm coffee in the cup holder. Then it hit me: What am I doing? Here is a simple, safe, opportunity to give to someone. I had talked about it most of the holiday season as I read and watched the media convey the needs of so many as the freeze took its toll on Valley residents. I had talked about it; I had done nothing, really, except to donate food at the church and pray for the families affected by the harsh winter realities. Willie was there. So was I. I've learned that money is not always the answer. After all, it just provides income for more drugs and alcohol in too many cases. No, money is not the answer.


Somewhat hesitantly, I got back out of the car and approached the man, who was disheveled; looking to be about 65 or 70 when in actuality, he was probably about 50. "Forgive me if I am insulting you, but could I buy you an egg Mcmuffin?" Willie did not skip a beat. Quietly, graciously, and with a warm response, he replied, "Oh yes. That would be wonderful". "Okay, I said. I'll go in and get you one."


As I stepped up to the counter and placed the order, I asked the clerk if she recognized that man standing outside in the cold. "Oh, yes", she replied. "That's Willie. He's homeless, and comes here to go to the bathroom and get warm once-in-awhile." She handed the muffin to me, and as I turned to take it to Willie, he surprised me by approaching me with more warmth and a spirit of dignity. He stated, with much resolve and a sense of self-esteem, "Thank you so much. But I don't mean to take your hard-earned money. I get paid the first of the month and if you come back then, I'll look for you and I'll treat you." It was an encounter of the spirit I will never forget. It was necessary. It was meaningful for both of us. It was truly a time for connecting in a way that few of us ever connect with another. This was the kind of interaction that verifies the statement, So what is our purpose in this world if not to make it less difficult for each other.


You know what, you guys? We are born. We grow. We go to school. We get a job. And then, for many people, life kind of freezes. Like water, becoming a form that is cold and hard, our lives are Ñ many times Ñ frozen in the same form. And, we keep on staying in that form to protect us from becoming soft. After all, soft is not what business is about. Soft doesn't impact on the bottom line. Hard and cold; procedural and in control; results and focus. Those are business-like. Forget the soft.


Well, you know what? In today's work environment, the yardstick for success at work is being redefined. Emotional intelligence, defined by competencies that many define as soft are necessary in a way never needed before. As Daniel Goldman points out in his latest book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, the skills that distinguish the star performers in every field, from entry-level jobs to top executive positions are different for today's generations at work and the demands of the global economy than the skills needed in the industrial, assembly-line, sterile environments of yesterday. Employees, now commonly referred to as partners in making the business successful, are still about results and bottom line, but with a different distinction as they get results. Star performers stand out not only by achievements for the business but by their capacity to work well on teams and with people and have the ability to implement soft skills. Those who are robotic in their thinking, isolated or explosive; those who are unable to manage change or conflict can be toxic and abusive to the organization. Um hum. Soft is in. Cold and callused in positions that represent an unapproachable stoic results-at-all-costs persona is, well as Goldman says, "Out! Out of touch." The human touch is needed more now than ever before.


Soft skills and emotional competencies needed in today's radically changing world are self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-control; commitment and integrity; the ability to connect on a personal level; the ability to communicate and influence; the ability to initiate and accept change. As Goldman points out in his book, "These competencies are at a premium in today's job market."


About Willie. I believe that the personal connection that this man made with me for a brief period of time was not just by chance. It was truly an opportunity for me to grow in my self-awareness, my self-confidence, and my commitment and integrity to another human being, albeit for a brief time. The communication between us was one of purpose for both of us. And his need to express his self-esteem and self-confidence could only be positive if my soul was open to it. Last month I challenged each of us to ask ourselves after every encounter if others would say, "Your presence was your gift". This month, I say, "Thank you, Willie. Your presence was a gift. And the gift you gave me will always be remembered."



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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
December


Remember to make your presence your gift to others every day.

Your presence is your gift. When my husband and I were married, eight and a half years ago, we wanted nothing more than to have family and close friends help us celebrate this special occasion.


Because each of us had been married before (both of us for 23 years), we were at a place in life where the need for material gifts and more things simply was not necessary. So, after much deliberation regarding how to state kindly, please no gifts! We arrived at the statement, Your presence is your gift. And after a simple, beautiful ceremony in Woodward Park, we began our life together. This article is to challenge anyone who reads it to ask, "When I leave the work environment, can I look back and say with honesty, my presence was a gift?" Employees (who I choose to think of as partners in the business) bring a vast array of physical ailments and emotional needs to the workplace, thinking that this is a place to get these needs met. The pressures we all face on a daily basis create insurmountable opportunities to give.


I am often hearing about the work environment of today from a perspective that you just can't get good help anymore! And part of what I believe the organization is wanting is a common value base reflected by anyone who represents the organization. People are becoming more discriminating about where they work. Money is no longer the primary motivator. The way people feel in the work environment; the way in which the values of respect, integrity, and accountability are handled determine the priorities of the individual as he or she gives back talents and energies.


People in a younger generation today have a different attitude toward work in their lives. They work to live, rather than live to work. The time spent on the job is time given only for a life after the work day ends. Increasingly, these partners to the business search for meaning in their lives, and want meaning in the workplace as well. Simple courtesy and a feeling of connection is of the utmost importance. I have observed in several situations that taking the time to chat about what is important to someone else creates meaning for both people. It is like entering a vacuum for a short time sometimes measured only in seconds or minutes and leaves the other person or group with a feeling of wholeness.


I observed a man at a retail store the other evening handing money to the clerk, waiting as she reached out for it and then smiled in a way that said, "Thank you. I value you." Another customer in the same line, when told the total of the transaction, threw the money on the counter, impatiently waited while the clerk tried to scoop it up and put it into the cash register drawer. Such a simple gesture by the first gentleman resulted in such a different response from the clerk and all because he valued her. Compassion. Empathy. Support. Respect. I was told of a situation in a parking lot recently, where an employee was getting ready to back out of a parking space to head home after a day of work. Just as she started to back up the car, a courier driver blocked her car and proceeded to jump from his vehicle to go inside. The woman quietly got out of her car and requested that he pull his truck up so she could leave. To her simple request, he shouted out, "You have plenty of room. Just back up!" The employee, knowing the department in which the courier was employed, called the supervisor. The response was, "Why are you calling me? What do you expect me to do about it?" All of the messages were statements to the woman that she had little value; that she was a problem; that she should just go on about her business.


The employee, a temporary worker, was demonstrating his values of recklessness and ego-centeredness; certainly not the values of the organization! (Or, after hearing the response of the supervisor, maybe they are)! In this special time of year, when we spend several weeks celebrating holidays which have to do with thanksgiving and love, remember your spirit. Spirit is that place within yourself where you find connectedness as well as feelings of joy and happiness. It is from the spirit that all behaviors flow! Check your behaviors. Do they reflect the values of respect, integrity, and responsibility? Do they focus on giving instead of getting? Are you really aware when the day-to-day craziness gets you off track? Do you know that each moment, each person with whom you have an encounter has a purpose and is receiving from the spirit? The gifts we give each other in value-based behaviors determine the outcome of the moment Ñ of our lives. And, as we leave each encounter, maybe we should all ask ourselves what we gave to the encounter. More importantly, ask yourself if others will say, "Your presence is your gift!"




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
November


Each of us strives for the feeling that I've had a good time in life.

"Well . . . I've had a good time." My mother passed away on Oct. 25. As she drifted in and out of consciousness due to a morphine drip to keep her comfortable and pain-free, she would share thoughts she was having as she prepared to leave us. After three days of sitting next to her, rubbing her hand, talking with her, and reminiscing over the many years of joy and love we shared, she quietly and firmly announced, "Well I've had a good time." I write this to give recognition and thanks to my clients who were most compassionate and gracious during this time.


Since I am an independent entrepreneur and have no administrative support, I experienced customer service at it's finest from these clients! I am a sole proprietor and because of the nature of my work, when a client contracts me to educate employees they are requesting information and creativity that I deliver through my unique set of skills and knowledge. If I need to change or cancel the defined time, it impacts directly on the energy and human resources of the organization. I am proud of the fact that I have never had to change the promised service date in 11 years of consulting until the death of my mother.


Customer Service Training is a big part of the education and training work I do. I impart (hopefully) cutting-edge skills and knowledge to employees and partners of the business, to assist them in creating a better business environment. The word customer implies a business relationship. However, in these times, I truly believe that if we focus on the act of service, understanding that a customer is anyone we are interacting with at the time, that we can impart a deeper meaning to our purpose. That when we focus on the spirit of service there is an entirely different meaning to the interaction. And, that's the gift my clients gave me in my time of loss.


I had to cancel two training sessions with one client, several one-hour planning sessions, and one all-day session with a new client. In every case, when hearing the change needed as well as the reason for the change, I was given the most gracious empathy and compassion even though it meant a tremendous impact on each organization, involving scheduling changes without a definite date and promise of when we could re-connect! I was overwhelmed with the feeling of service extended to me and my specific needs. I felt supported. I felt as if I had given them service. I felt good! All this in a time of tremendous loss and stress in my personal life. What a gift!


In the past year, I have noticed more requests from clients for addressing soul in the workplace. I believe that this is attributed to several factors: a generation of Baby Boomers, who understand better than any other generation in the workplace that there is more to life than money that scratches the itch. After all, they've had it all, remember ? I also believe that the addictive society of rapid change and heavy demands on each and every person is promoting a sense of Is this all there is?!!! A sense of need and a feeling by each and every one of us is generating a new desire to re-connect with what is really important as we go about our everyday lives. And, this sense of purpose comes with being in touch with our spirituality, our soul. The life we experience is more than tasks, products, and even the professional, business definition of customer. Yes, this life is about discovering one's personal sense of purpose, touching others' lives with our own, and ultimately leaving this mortal coil, as my mother did, with a legacy of all the customer service values we all need: love, understanding, the ability to listen, really listen, and compassion and empathy for the space and soul of others who interact with us daily, yearly, or even one time only! Walk a mile in my shoes is an old expression, and one which imparts an empathy and response to another that is the ultimate gift of service. As I wrote in a previous article, "Service is needed, regardless of which side of the counter you're on." The death of my mother gave new meaning to the expression, "In the spirit of service." The clients-friends who provided the gift of understanding with no hesitation or creating any conflict are truly in touch with what the meaning of life is all about. It goes far beyond business. It taps into something much more meaningful. It is, in fact, what each of us strives for in an experience, be it in our business or personal lives that gives us the feeling that, "I've had a good time."




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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POINT OF VIEW
October


It is time to regain our sanity, examine our real purpose in life.

Be connected to your real self. Be connected to what's truly going on in your life. There's something real going on but the physical and mental/emotional connection is of utmost importance. If you believe you will succeed, you will succeed. If you believe you will fail, you will fail. In other words, what we think and feel in our hearts and minds produces the belief in its purest form, reality. For those of you who say this is a bunch of mumble-jumble it will be exactly that! And for those of you who agree, I know you too have experienced the power of positive thinking.


If we take care of ourselves, we have so much to give. And, sometimes, when we are in the most pain, the way we can take care of ourselves is through the act of giving to someone else.


When we demonstrate leadership in helping others to grow and gain more in their own lives, personal or professional, everyone wins. I believe that it is through our willingness to give that we make a life worth living. As the saying goes, "You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give." This article is written with a specific client in mind. I have observed much pain come into his life in the past three years, both emotional and physical. I do believe that much of the physical pain is a result of the shock and devastating trauma of disbelief which accompanied his personal loss. However, I have also observed him moving forward with his own life as he gives the gifts of mentoring and time to a young man who has had a questionable past. With the encouragement and gift of being there for this young man when he needed a strong male presence, I have observed the young man making statements of positive belief that were absent previously, "I will get my high school diploma. I am going to college. I can keep a job. I do know the difference between right and wrong. I will succeed."


While I observe and hear this positive approach to life from the young man, I also see a difference in the client. He has given up his own worries and chosen to give time and support to someone else. The phrase, "It takes a village", comes to mind as I see the impact of mentoring, guiding, and positive support. In the world of business, caring can also be a powerful business advantage. I observe the need by individuals as they arrive for work, to be recognized, valued, and supported in their daily routines, providing a sense of connectedness not only to the people around them, but through the demonstration of their skills and abilities. While I do believe that the adult professional must learn to give praise and recognition to one's self, I also know that the frantic, fast-paced work environments of today become more a place of disconnectedness, rather than a place where people can give and receive in a way that result in a thriving business.


When our hearts and minds are connected, we give our best performance. When we deliver our best performance, the business thrives. When the business thrives, everyone wins. If the leadership and the individuals who represent that business day-to-day take time to connect in a sense that says, "You are important. You are not just anybody. You are the reason for my being at this point in time, the true meaning of work in the journey of life can be realized." We talk customer service. We talk training and education. We talk executive coaching, and mentoring, and role-modeling. I believe that in all the talk we are faced with insurmountable opportunities to prove that we can walk the talk. And, I believe that while great opportunities to help others seldom come, we are surrounded by small opportunities to make a difference daily. I also believe that one of the symptoms of a troubled world, personal or professional, is when we disconnect from the acts of identifying what is truly going on in our hearts and minds, and react, instead as if the journey on the treadmill was of the utmost importance. It is time to honestly regain our sanity; our real purpose in life. After all, many times the urgent problems are not the most important. At the end of a day, a week, or a career, it is time to reflect on this question: "What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?"




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Jane Yow is President of The Performance Link, a Fresno-based Training and Organization Development Consulting Firm.
She can be reached through e-mail: janeyow@performancelink.com

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