December 16, 2009

Forgiving brings peace and lessens health risks

Grudges and negative feelings affect your mind and your body. When you don’t forgive, you’re under stress which drives up blood pressure and wears down the heart says a psychology professor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He and a Harvard University colleague conducted two studies that were published recently.

Midwesterners take special note
We tend to be more easily offended than people from other parts of the United States. We are called thin-skinned because we tend to care probably too much about what others think of us and can be slow to respond when we’ve been treated with a lack of respect or civility.

The holiday season, the time to make resolutions is a good time to work on being more assertive and more forgiving.

For more on the studies, read the Des Moines Register Dec. 14 article: Grudges are hard on your heart, student contends. Subhead: The negativity will drive up blood pressure, a Luther professor says.

December 09, 2009

Do your part to eliminate midnight sun

We had a day off work today. It was a blizzard. (That's a snow drift outside those doors.)

One of my colleagues went to work anyway. He took photos, explained he could get in only one door and wrote in an email:
Very lonely here, but the lights were on!

Midnight sun, lighting throughout the night, in office buildings does not respect the planet.

One small thing office workers can do
Adopt a policy that whoever is the last one to leave a room or a building should turn off the lights if they’re not motion sensitive. Post reminder signs near doors or light switches.

The U.S. Department of Energy has many tips to help Americans save energy. Check out the office energy checklist .

No one should come in from a blizzard to find a completely lighted building and no one there.

December 03, 2009

I tend to trust OR not trust this person

It’s a game. You have photo cards of the people you work with. You need to quickly sort them into those piles or a third one, 'I don’t know this person well enough to know whether I trust him or her.'

This exercise helps determine the credibility of people in your organization.

We are judged every day. Am I credible? Am I believable? Am I someone people (including myself) trust?

Four elements of credibility
Stephen Covey in ‘The Speed of Trust’ lists four key elements of personal credibility.
Two elements deal with character
• integrity
• good intent
Two elements with competence
• credentials
• demonstrated capabilities

Building credibility is a key behavior of leaders
You can work on improving every one of these elements. To test your credibility, go to Find Out Who Trusts You is a short survey you take and then you can invite colleagues to take a survey about your credibility.

December 01, 2009

Letting go of control with civility

Thanksgiving was memorable and different. My daughters took over my kitchen. They devised an extensive menu despite living more than 500 miles apart. They’d assigned their college student brother two easy menu items. My job was to stock the refrigerator and cupboards with basics and thaw the turkey.

These two watch cooking shows and read cookbooks as if they were novels. For a day and a half they prepared food and consulted their menu taped to a cupboard door. My first pangs of not being in control hit when one asked me to take the turkey out of the brine and get it in the oven early on the second morning. It would not be stuffed. How can you have a Thanksgiving turkey without my mother’s stuffing? I’d worked hard to get that recipe. One Thanksgiving years ago I sat at mom’s farmhouse kitchen table and quizzed her on every ingredient and approximate amounts since she wasn’t measuring anything.

I took the dog on a long walk on the second day and thought as I came back towards home that I could set the table. I came in the door to find they’d already selected china, had a centerpiece and the drawer with table linens was open with napkins laying about. Apparently some task in the kitchen had taken the table setter away from a final decision on napkins.

Somewhere in the haze of food preparation, I was asked to find my mom’s recipe for salad delicious—this is a 1950s green Jell-o concoction. (Something of my heritage would be on the table.) And as meal time approached, I was called to the kitchen to make gravy. I am, after all, the only one with a home ec degree.

“To be open inspires credibility and trust;
to be closed fosters suspicion and mistrust.” -- Stephen M.R. Covey, 'The Speed of Trust'

Covey writes you can evaluate your openness with questions such as:
• Do I believe that the way I see the world is totally accurate and complete—or am I honestly willing to listen to and consider new viewpoints and ideas?
• Do I seriously consider differing points of view, and am I willing to be influenced by them?
• Do I believe there may be principles that I have not yet discovered? Am I determined to live in harmony with them, even it if means developing new thinking patterns and habits?
• Do I value---and am I involved in—continual learning?

The Thanksgiving tale is a simple one of being open to new ideas, of the power of differing views and being open to something new and different. Covey’s questions applied to the workplace can bring powerful results if you practice civility—listening and respecting the ideas of others.

P.S. After long hours in the kitchen, the girls called in the rest of the family and friends both evenings to play (new and different) board games. Both daughters told me this was the best Thanksgiving ever. I’d agree.

November 24, 2009

How grateful are you?

Will you struggle with being grateful this Thanksgiving? In a year of high unemployment, an uncertain economy, ongoing war and other problems, can you find things and people to be thankful for?

Consider these ideas to increase gratefulness
Think of a person important in your past. This is a person who made a difference in your life but you have not told how much you appreciated the help or guidance. Write a page about that and call, or better yet, visit that person and express your gratitude.

Keep a gratitude journal for a week. Each evening, write down three things you’re grateful for that day. Maybe it’s potable water, a bed to sleep in and shelter. Many in the world don’t have those basic necessities.

Take the gratitude survey to measure your appreciation about the past. It’s on the Authentic Happiness site from the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center. You’ll need to register and then you can use the resources, take the tests.

Gratitude is about being content
Gratitude can be cultivated. You can decrease your desire for consumer goods, be less envious of other’s positions or wealth if you look beyond your immediate surroundings.

Instead of being competitive and concerned about being self-reliant, think about how many have helped you and continue to help. Do you believe you have enough and should share? What can you give to others… physical things or emotional support?

Happy Thanksgiving. May you have a grateful heart. It improves your well-being.

A longer article from the Utah State University Extension, Cultivating Gratitude

I thank Ellen, Lee and Kristin who presented these ideas Sunday.

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