Category Archives: General Observations

Tame The Elephant in the Room

You know that feeling you get in your gut when a difficult subject needs to be addressed and you suddenly become the world’s master of procrastination.  Is there an elephant in the room?  What do you do if:

  • The customer service center was unable to handle the volume of inbound leads generated by your Facebook campaign.
  • You hit “reply all” on a conversation which included sensitive subject matter intended only for “reply to sender.”
  • An entire electronic file appears to be missing and the intern is still working on updating the documents.
  • Cash is missing or you realize that someone chipped the heirloom figurine and neglected to tell you.
  • Your toddler, who is in the middle of toilet training, decides to show off their new skills in the toilet remodeling department of Home Depot (Just saw this LOL scene on TV).

No matter how much training you have in mediation or facilitation, these sorts of situations are rarely viewed as light conversation.  Unaddressed, these issues foster confusion and make everyone distracted, preoccupied, and sometimes fearful.  All of these emotions waste valuable time and hamper productivity.

Wikipedia describes the elephant in the room phrase as “an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going un-addressed…an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss…” awkward moment image

Five Steps to Managing the “Elephant in the Room”

Recognizing the elephant in the room is an important first step.  The real finesse, however, comes in acknowledging  the elephant in a manner that allows everyone to feel comfortable enough to participate in the discussion and then to move past it.  Let’s take a look at some of the ways that we can tame the proverbial “elephant in the room:”

  1. Open up the discussion by expressing the issue and inviting input from others.  To do this effectively necessitates that you share your views with little or no emotion.  Why?  Because emotions are contagious and at this point, you are looking to ask others to share.
  2. Asking others to share their viewpoint displays consideration for their perspective.  Stop and listen —really listen—to what they say.  Acknowledge their input and demonstrate a sincere interest in their comments.  Creating an environment where someone feels like they can share allows you to discuss a potentially “forbidden” subject and sets the tone for continued dialogue.  As the dialogue continues, you collect more information that can be used for a reality check.
  3. Do a reality check:  Is this really an elephant or can we resolve this with less drama?  Your attitude on this may set the tone for others and alleviate stress or awkwardness.  Honesty expressed in a calm and thoughtful manner can help to disarm the elephant.
  4. Be honest, direct and convey confidence.  A difficult issue becomes an elephant in the room when it is ignored despite everyone being aware of it.  By naming what others may be avoiding, you will transform the elephant into an obstacle—obstacles are far less overwhelming for the psyche to handle and move off of.
  5. Move forward:  Thank everyone for their inputs.   Summarize the next steps.  Ask others to concur with your summary.  Where possible, ask others to take on a responsibility that increases the likelihood of maintaining harmony.

Deep breath.  You can tame the elephant and move forward.

original post : “You, too, Can Tame the Elephant in the Room” http://ow.ly/qJHb8 by@sharonlewisnyc [TODAY’S POST] #MENGonline #Marketing #Leadership

 

How Do I Trust Thee in the Workplace: Let Me Count Five Ways

How Do I Trust You?
For many, the answer could not be simpler: I trust you or I do not trust you. Who cares how you define it?

I propose that the answer is not quite so simple:
• Trust is a cornerstone of creating change
• Trust requires a relationship between two or more people; Not all relationships are created equal
• Trust implies that even when you, yourself, are uncertain of something….the other party (parties) will help you to uncover the issues and direct you to a solution
• Trust involves a leap of faith; it is easier to speak about trust than to “do trust”
Hence, just like we have various types of power, types of love and types of communication….we have numerous types of trust in the business setting. The person that you trust to run your medical office is not necessarily the same person that you trust to decorate your home, edit your son’s college application or help you with your retirement planning.

Here are FIVE KEY questions to understand trust in a professional working environment:

1. Do you have Professional Trust?
Professional trust in the business setting is often a function of dependability.
• Will you deliver what you promised/exceed the expectations of what you promised?
• Are you a team player?

2. Do you have Rules-Based Trust?
This refers to the trust that people have in the rules of society. For example: people politely form lines when walking up stairs; they avoid eye contact on crowded buses and they superficially begin most conversations with the expression:” How’ya doing?”

In previous work environments, rules based trust said that if we work very hard and demonstrate loyalty to one employer, our efforts will be recognized in status, salary and security. In today’s environment, those rules have changed. Hard work is a function of one’s personal drive to achieve and those achievements are portable into other situations, employment or entrepreneurship.

3. Do you have Situational Trust?
This reflects personal experience and is assumed to carry forward to the current situation. It applies to both workplace and non-workplace forms of trust.
• We trust our management team to provide guidance and support to us in meeting our objectives;
• We trust our educational systems to engage us in learning that will be valued in the marketplace;
• We expect that those we work with will be supportive of our personal efforts and responsible in the delivery of their own individual responsibilities.

4. Do you have Medical Trust?
I sit in the endodontic chair having root canal and trust that his expertise and his steady hand will get me through the procedure

5. Do you Trust Your Instincts?
This is another one of the trusts that have both workplace and non-workplace applications.
• You must have a level of trust in yourself so as to be able to trust another
• There was an Oprah magazine article that said something like “take advice as advice”. Everyone gives you their two cents, but you have to follow your gut.

Summary:
Trust is a special relationship that exists between two or more people. The power of trust is significant as it is the cornerstone of change, as well as the cornerstone of on-going working relationships. Not all trust is created equal. However, every form of trust deserves to be treated as the valuable asset that it represents.

How do I Trust Thee in the Workplace…Let Me Count Five Ways!

This blog originally appeared 01/2014 via #EQlist: What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Ask to be Successful goo.gl/d4XFwV

Leveraging Today’s Workforce for a Competitive Advantage

Traditional employment models and traditional retirement models are changing daily as 10,000 Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 celebrate a 65th birthday — previously coined “retirement age”.  The aging of the workforce presents employers with challenges related to compensation, retirement, work preferences, knowledge transfer, and so much more. This environment demands a methodical and holistic strategy for managing a multi-generational workforce.

This article will summarize the @Fedcap hosted #SolutionSeries  with a guest panel that included Dick Cattani of the Compass Group, Dr. Kathleen Christensen of the Working Longer Program of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation and Sandra Timmermann, Founder of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.  The discussion focused on today’s changing workplace demographics.

One of the first things to acknowledge within this transformational change is the wide variety of nomenclature that is used to address the individuals that sit smack in the center of this demographic shift.  During the 45 minute panel discussion, reference was made to:

  • The Baby Boomers
  • High Potential Late Career Individuals
  • Older Workers
  • Aging Americans
  • Those preparing to Age Gracefully
  • Seniors
  • Transitioning Employees
  • And, a few more phrases!

So what are some of the impacts that this aging workforce is creating in the marketplace:

Our longer life expectancies have created a 30 year retirement after a 40 year career. Uh-oh!

Perhaps the word retirement needs to be redefined to reflect a life stage that occurs much, much later in one’s lifetime. Employers need to start thinking about a longer working period during which individuals are looking for a balanced life that includes continued work, play, volunteerism and more.

The objective is for work: life balance, not workplace separation or a career conclusion.  In fact, just the other day my friend Judy, who recently made a retirement agreement with her corporate employer defined retirement as “the ability to work on my terms” – no change to her work ethics or to the  ferocious vigor that she pursues in her work – but, “on her terms”!

The time is ripe for new models of worker engagement.

A diverse workforce needs to include the aging American work patterns.

“Businesses are not thinking about an older workforce except for graceful exits” said Dr. Kathleen Christensen. “Business has spent a lot of time recently creating a diverse workforce” said Dick Cattani, and the definition of diversity did not include the aging workforce.

Hearsay conversations revealed mixed findings on those corporations that are putting formal programs in place to respond to the aging worker trend.

Employers are fast realizing that the aging worker population presents a complex employee profile.  

Our lifecycles include Adult 2.0

Timmermann referenced a new lifecycle stage called Adult 2.0. Others have referenced this period as our Encore years, our Second Act or Life Reimagined. For Timmerman, the 21st century creation of Adult 2.0 is similar to the recognition of the adolescent life stage during the 1930’s; it is a unique period of time filled with change, growth, exploration and experimentation.

With the creation of adult 2.0, we move through life in five stages: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, adulthood 2.0 and old age.

Employers will want to take another look at this new generation of 2.0 adults and remember that most are Boomers who influenced so many aspects of society as they moved through the last several decades. Whether these trailblazers continue to work or become agents of change in their communities, they will define what it means to live and to contribute in this new stage of life, now and for future generations.

Look around – for many — 2.0 includes many re-incarnations of their identity, incorporating new talents, hobbies and relaxed attitudes!

Millennial and Boomers have more in common than first appears! Think Work: Life Balance 

When talking to the win-win that flex-scheduling can provide, imagine the impact on a millennial, born after 1980, whose flex schedule allows them more time with their young children. Simultaneously imagine the Baby Boomer, born between 1946 and 1964, whose flexible schedule allows them more time to pursue their hobbies, their volunteer interests or their family caregiver commitments.

Scheduled in a complimentary fashion, the millennial employee, the boomer employer and the employer have all received flexibility which meets their needs. Everyone wins. Everyone feels better and everyone believes that they have achieved some sense of control in their work: life balance.

Flexible Work Schedules are Strategic Tools for Developing Human Capital 

The panelists acknowledged that numerous studies have shown the positive impact on productivity, employee engagement and employee satisfaction levels when flexible working schedules are employed.  To do this necessitates a culture of respect and trust and will evolve through a new style of win-win negotiation in the workplace. “Companies should not view flex-schedules as an employee accommodation or an employee perk, but rather as a strategic business tool that they use to strengthen their employee capital “, said Dr. Christensen.

Boomer Weaknesses and Millennial Strengths often Mirror Each Other 

Example #1:  Strategic thinking, the ability to lead through a crisis, and a brain-bank of Best Practices are traits most likely achieved only through the tenure and experience of someone aged 50 plus. Technological literacy and the use of social media channels may (or may not) be easier for the millennial.

Put together correctly, the productivity outputs of this duo can be multiplicative.

Panelists referenced the creation of mixed-age teams that have been empirically tested in Europe and the results showed that the inter-generational teams proved most productive and gratified for all participants.

Example #2: Boomers and millennials want to do good work and they want to be recognized for same. Careers take on many variations of a bell curve; for many Baby Boomers in traditional corporate backgrounds, they spent the decades of their 30-50 years climbing the corporate ladder and playing the political games. In the traditional workforce the millennial are now entering the heat of their ladder-climbing career stage.

Team efforts which allow for coaching, mentoring and knowledge transference can benefit both employer and employee alike.

Companies have a bias against the older worker  

In an AARP survey of registered NYC voters over the age of 50, one third said that they or someone they know has experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Myths, stereotypes and biases are common.

Companies have a bias against the older worker. Wikipedia defines a company as “an association or collection of individuals, people or “warm-bodies” …. Company members share a common purpose and unite in order to focus their various talents and organize their collectively available skills or resources to achieve specific, declared goals……”

We change companies by changing the individuals who make decisions for companies. 

  • What is your business doing to recruit, engage and retain talented employees at different career stages?
  • How does your business use a multi-generational approach to creating work teams across the organization?

Repeat: We change companies by changing the individuals who make decisions for companies.  

Healthy, well-educated, enthusiastic people of all ages want to have a seat at the table. It is one’s attitude, not one’s age that defines one’s abilities to make a difference!

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The FedCap Solution Series gathers employers’ nonprofits, advocates and other thought-leaders to analyze the barriers between Americans and economic independence – and to develop informed and actionable plans to break through those barriers. The Fedcap Solution Series is designed to trigger discussions and frame the questions that ultimately lead to the right solutions

Location. Location. Environment. Environment

Location. Location. Location. This has long-been the mantra in the real estate industry. I propose an extension of this mantra which says: Location. Location. Environment. Environment. The environment that you set up for your work, home, study and communications is as important as the physical location.

I recently learned of a wonderful woman who was looking to launch a think-tank for entrepreneurial start-ups. Her twist on the concept was great and I looked forward to getting the announcement details for the kick-off event. Her meet-up announcement drew a strong response. So why did so very few people show up to the meeting? The location, while conveniently located and free to the facilitator—-was to be held on the second floor conference room of a funeral parlor. Location and environment need to work together.

A recent retiree was excited to start taking classes at her local community center. She read the website and the catalog in detail and chose a selection of programs. Her first day of class, she noticed a sign on the building that she never took note of previously; it read: “Senior Center”. The woman felt horrible and while she knew that both the class and the other class participants were young and vibrant, she gets a knot in her stomach every time she enters the building and sees the words “senior center”. Nuances in one’s environment can make all the difference.

Years ago a decorator told me how they were asked to create a working space for a young student with ADD, poor grades and a frustrated attitude toward his school work. As the story was told, the decorator’s chest popped outward and his shoulders squared back—“I designed a working area for that student”, he said which “took that young man’s grades up to B+/A-. That marked an entirely different type of reward for the decorator who normally created beautiful entertaining spaces.

What do you do every day to create an environment that is creative to your own work and the comfort level of others? Here are a few more examples that I have found recently.

When you speak to your doctor, do they stand or sit so as to meet you at your eye level? They should; it creates an entirely different environment for your conversation.

When you meet someone in their offices, do they bring the conversation to the small work table in their office or move their chair around their desk so as to sit next to you while speaking? That desk creates an informal barrier.

Whenever I am in the elevator of an office building, I always look out into the offices of each floor that the elevator makes a stop. Today I watched as three people got out on the same floor and each employee passing by the reception desk took a piece of the fresh fruit sitting in the bowl on the reception table. What a nice way to tell someone: Good Morning; Take good care of yourself!.

And least, we forget the lighting, the flowers, the candles and the music which so distinctly add dimension to our environment.

Location. Location. Environment. Environment. Both are key criteria to making you, your family and your business team comfortable.

Reflections on a Mayoral Forum

Reflections on a NYC Mayoral Forum:

AARP NYC launched a new Go Local campaign on August 6 which included a mayoral forum targeting the city’s 50-plus voter community. The room was abuzz with 1,000 attendees, 50 media outlets and 10 of the 11 NYC mayoral candidates. What a happening for AARPNY!

These events often take on a life of their own and when one mayoral candidate called another candidate “Grandpa”, the press officially had another twist on the story to report. And they did!

  • The Grandpa comment was described as “being made in a room filled with senior citizens”.
  • And, AARP was further defined as the organization behind “this senior citizen event”.
  • The candidates represented referenced their views on “helping those senior citizens in the room”.

What is a senior citizen, I ask? Age or attitude?

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, quoted in an NTAR Leadership Center Study,  suggest that, by 2016, one-third of the total U.S. workforce will be age 50 or older, and will increase to 115 million by 2020 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010)

Supporting every possible product or service line, the advertisers are working hard to make “70 the new 50” and likewise convince us all…that the best is yet to come. The reality is that the words “senior citizen” still has a negative connotation in our society: retiree, old-timer, fuddy-duddy and such. When was the last time you heard someone refer to a senior citizen as a thought leader or an innovator?

So as someone on the very edge of the baby boomer tail, I found myself bewildered as the candidates called the AARP membership of 50 – plus year olds senior citizens. And, I found myself laughing at the hypocrisy of the whole situation. When you looked around the room in real-time, it did not appear that anyone in the room had taken a day off from the social adult day-care programs.

With 7 of the 11 candidates aged 50 plus, do these candidates consider themselves senior citizens? They kept referring to the AARP members as senior citizens. Does NYC want to elect a senior citizen to run their city?

A 2012 Harvard Business Review Blog called: How Companies Must Adapt for an Aging Workforce does a nice job summarizing the situation:

  • First, attitudes need to change; Businesses and people alike need to practice what they claim to support.
  • Older workers are often seen as a burden, with younger candidates preferred in recruitment decisions. In economies where knowledge rules, the experience of older workers grows in value.
  • Older people are seen as fragile. Yes, many are. Others are not. At some point, the 80:20 rule kicks in and with the population life expectancies ever increasing, the age where the disproportionate expenses truly kick into place is increasing as well.

So everybody, please, stop calling those who are aged 50-plus senior citizens. And for the Mayoral Candidates: Recognize the new reality and explain how you will address the situations of those:

  • Who are 50-plus and experiencing age discrimination in the workplace
  • Who are dependent on social services and unable to earn an income any longer
  • Who are unable to retire as planned because the costs of living are rising
  • Who are uncertain how they will afford to age gracefully in place, in NYC, because of ever-increasing costs for housing and utility bills, issues of crime and safety and more!

Let’s get focused and back on track. NYC is one of the greatest cities on this earth. What makes the candidates qualified to sit at the head of the table running a $70 Billion budget?

BTW: For a detailed review of the issues NYC 50-plus voters are talking about around their kitchen table, check out:  http://www.aarp.org/NYC50plus

Guest Blogger @AARPNY. Tweets all mine

Slow Down to Accelerate

Our family lived in Toronto for 9 years. For the first 6 months, I was so pleased when I would call someone and by the time that I finished saying “Hi so-and-so” they were already responding with “Hi Sharon”. Caller ID was not the vogue yet so I felt so special that they recognized me so quickly. How did you know it was me so fast?” I would ask. The answer was always “your accent”. “What accent, I sound just like you do” Hmmmmm

Two other times in my life I have been told that my speech is distinctive. The first significant time was also in Canada. On the launch team for a first of kind product in the country, it was an exciting time and one where my USA experience was often referenced. In one particular meeting with the SVP of the division, I was presenting my ideas on the qualitative and quantitative research strategies that I was responsible for spearheading. I was SO excited. My hands were moving, my lips were grinning ear to ear and I was excited to be telling the story and responding to the questions. At the end of the meeting, the SVP pulls me aside and says slowly and seriously:

  • Your ideas are fabulous. You understand our objectives and have a great handle on how to approach the business
  • Your energy is contagious
  • However when you speak so quickly, I can barely keep up with you.

With a big grin on his face, he said: “If I am digesting the details to put your second suggestion into place and find myself coming out of this mind-set to hear you speaking about the fourth suggestion, we both loose. I am the big guy here. I cannot admit that I missed a step and need you to go back and explain something to me again. LOL. Seriously, please speak slowly. Make sure that I am with you every three-to-four sentences. In whatever way you must, get the input of the audience and the senior most member of your audience more often so that you know when best to move on to discussing the next suggestion. ”

I will never forget that moment and I do a pretty good job stopping myself whenever I find myself racing through a presentation that I find super exciting. Self: Speak slowly

The second time in my life that I have been told that my speech is distinctive took place a few weeks ago. My mind was racing and I was determined to have an uber-efficient day. With a pre-scheduled exploratory telephone call, I took the call ready to learn and to share. Some 6 minutes into the conversation, I was told” “Sharon, I know we have spoken at the ….  Association meetings however I am having trouble placing your face right now.” In front of a computer, logged onto Linked in, I soon appeared on the screen of my colleague “Sharon, of course, I know you and remember you. Are you okay? You sound very tense. Did I say something to make you uncomfortable? When we spoke in person, your smile radiated energy and I was thrilled to speak with you. It is my pleasure to help you. Is everything okay with you today?”

Wow. I was shocked. There was a lot on my mind. And, one particular comment she made diverted my attention to how best to approach the particular challenge. This person did me a huge favor by telling me that my voice had betrayed me. Huge eye-opener!

I will never forget that moment. I am currently looking for a wonderful visual to keep on my desk that is guaranteed to make me laugh. Perhaps I will also use the long recognized mirror – on – my – desk trick, while further alternating between standing and sitting just to keep all senses active.  Self: Deep breath. Speak in a manner that displays on-going confidence and enthusiasm.

Guest Blogger @AARPNY. Tweets all mine

Making Lists in the Shower

My father used to tell me that one of the happiest days in his life was the day he stopped caring what others thought of him and focused instead of just being the best he could be so as to keep his family happy and safe. These comments were made during his boomer equivalent years (aged 50-60); at that point, he had already proven his ability to provide well for his family and to live a lifestyle that suited the personalities of both him and my mother. “How could you not care what others think of you?” I would say. “That’s bulls…t!”

As I approach another birthday in the decade of the “big 50”, I am finally starting to see the logic in these words. As a boomer with a successful career history who is going through a transitional journey, I am re-thinking the need for me to accomplish some of the goals that I set out for myself when I was 24 years old and a freshly minted MBA. Achievement of tough goals remains exciting…they just need to take form in a new way that blends in with my life today, society today and the economy today!

A recent More Magazine article shares similar advice as to the role that our experience plays in our ability to be more realistic. “You get to a point where you realize that a lot of your dreams haven’t come true….and that’s fine. You stop thinking that you have to be the leader in your company.  Or you realize you don’t have the perfect family, but you know what? The kids are OK” ….. If you accept that….…you can shake off a lot of stress and angst. Then go outside and admire the stars”

Which would bring us to the next challenge:  Being vs. Doing.  There are a lot of articles published on this subject recently. So I started to track my calendar, with an eye to uncovering what was actually keeping me busy and likewise, what were the activities that were productive events directly tied in with my personal and transitional goals.

You know as well as I do that the activities were not rightly balanced! Perhaps after reading this, you will join me in making small changes toward a more productive being.

First, I thought about what it will take to allow myself to say that “it is okay to slow down.”  The fact that I no longer make lists in the shower with a waterproof marker already proves that I can do this! LOL Yes, I can do 18 things at once; can I ace all eighteen things simultaneously? Is anyone reading this feeling the same way? Let’s drop the guilt on allocating time for thinking. Instead, figure out how best to thrive on the act of being intentional and prioritizing our energies.

When our son was a toddler and I was working full time (read 60 hours weeks in banking),  I would express my guilt by baking his favorite cookies …… usually at 11pm at night. When my BFF, Eva, asked me if this was preferable to sleeping or preferable to being awake and in bed with my husband practicing the act of making our next child …… I resolved to change my baking schedule.

However this commitment to slowing down so that I can think smarter still leaves me needing some “quick hits or opportunities for instant gratification”.  How do I simplify my life so that I can get more out of it?  Bingo : the to – do list.  It took me about two hours to consolidate my lists of lists of my lists to be done. In forcing myself to thoughtfully go through the lists, I realized that there was a major opportunity to rework my approach to listing:  I differentiated the  to do list of tactical day to day programming  from the to do list of strategies needed to be formulated. This was empowering.  Recognizing that the tactical list can never be completed in a day, I spread the items out over time. This gave me a sense of control as I now felt easier blocking the time needed to do the critical thinking work that relates to the objectives of Being.

Doing or Being.  Busy or Productive. The choice is ours. Breathe deep. Small steps lead to big impacts.

Self: Allow yourself to slow down!  The cookies will taste better.

Draw Me a Picture

I recently read that creativity can soar when given constraints. Is this an oxymoron? Not!

Think about how you would feel if given a sheet of paper and asked to “draw something”. Now think about how you feel when you are given a sheet of paper and asked to draw a picture of your dream-house.  The constraints provide direction and allow you to draw with a purpose. This simple exercise did wonders for my own sketch!

I had a tough day with one of my clients recently and found myself grateful for constraints that I was able to exemplify for his consideration.

The client is an entrepreneur in the wealth creation space and has established a professional networking group of respectable size. It is time to take this networking group to another level of professional or industry association. The members in the group are all involved in the elder-care industry; on both a personal and professional level, each member wants to ensure that they are doing what is best as we move through what I call the era of the aging tsunami.

The entrepreneur has lots of ideas on how the group can be strengthened as a professional association for its membership base, as well as conceptual ideas on partnership options that would be able to provide innovative service offerings and revenue streams for all involved. To move forward in creating the vision necessitates the creation of a more disciplined, structured approach; to draw this picture necessitates an evaluation of the member needs, the consumer segments, the marketplace offerings and the opportunities which the gaps present.

Similar to our target audience who is trying to decide how to best meet the needs of their aging loved ones, this entrepreneur created a 6-person strategic advisory board for himself. Each of us is wise and committed to elder-care issues. Yet, each member of our team has a truly unique voice. Together we represent a strong set of resources.

So here is where it gets a little bit sticky. The entrepreneur has been working with a blank sheet of paper. “All options are viable at this early stage of development”, he says. Yes, this is the core philosophy behind good brainstorming. And, it is a lot of fun—up to a point. To move forward, the entrepreneur must be willing to work with this advisory board to define constraints around the direction he will take.

It is like deciding that you want to go on a diet and eat healthy. What does eating healthy mean? My father never had a problem with his weight and was power walking long before it was in-vogue. Eating a big salad was as comfortable for him as was eating the two bakery black and white cookies for dessert. So what did healthy eating mean to my father? When asked to give up the cookies, he would substitute 3-4 pieces of fruit, usually apples, oranges and bananas.  And, always eaten at one sitting. On the surface, this fruit salad would appear to be healthy eating. However, would a dietitian approve of four pieces of fruit for dessert…. At every meal? Was my father truly satisfied by all this fruit or was he actually eating more sugar in the four pieces of fruit than he would have been eating in one bakery black and white cookie. The Weight Watchers program addresses this dilemma by telling us how and what to eat; they give the participants defined food categories and portion sizes. Creativity and compliance can soar when given constraints.

Fast forward to our discussion around the challenge of defining a new entity that will simplify the coordination of life-stage planning and care delivery to the senior.  How does a family do this? Is there a place where they can turn for one-stop advice on meeting the varied needs of an aging loved one? And what are the price points for this myriad of services? Cash, time, emotions and accuracy of the information – in a situation that is always emotional and time sensitive.

On a very regular basis, I have been sending the client advisory team articles and websites describing programs that strive to simplify the coordination of life-stage planning and care delivery to the senior. The options range from — AARP programming to disease specific support offerings to grassroots entities—and much more. Overwhelming amounts of information are available; the challenge is in helping the consumer to recognize, and to define the core elements of their own situation so that they can turn to the appropriate resource for additional supports. Isn’t this a variation on defining some constraints to accommodate the answer?

When you rely on personal referrals for your elder-care journey, how do you know that the referral has had a similar elder care experience or that the senior citizen had a similar health condition or financial situation? 

Dealing with my own family situation at one point, I confided in a friend who spoke in generic terms about how everything would work out and “this, too shall pass”. Anxious for assistance and simultaneously scared to put “labels” on the situation at hand, the generic nature of my friend’s response infuriated me. I had no doubt in her desire to help me; it was obvious that she too was scared and did not want to overstep any undefined boundaries in the friendship. Instinct took over. I found myself getting pretty specific in defining the resources that I required. I then took it a step further and defined the people in her own network that I wanted her to call – on my behalf. My friend was now empowered and a series of phone calls, emails and text messages soon followed — all critical to my resolution of the situation. By better defining what I needed, I had empowered my friend to help me solve the problem. And, she was as excited as I was when the puzzle starting making sense.

Creativity can soar when given constraints. Not quite the oxymoron that these words initially convey!

Guest Blogger @AARPNY. Tweets all mine.

What Do You Do?

Guest Blogger @AARPNY. Tweets all mine.

This is my inaugural blog for @AARPNY and so I open with a question from which many of my future posts will follow.  A simple question … yet so difficult: “What do you do?” Does this question fill you with pride or make you recoil in frustration? Aaargh.

Why is the answer to this question so important? Because we are defined by our professional persona.  More often than not, we are seen to be as good as our “last deal” or “our last title” or “How did you impact the P&L?” or “Describe the measureable outcomes of the initiative”.

 “What do you do” is not so easy to answer when you are experimenting with lots of different industries and different roles. How do you distill a multi-dimensional experiment in a 30 or 60 second elevator pitch and expect the recipient to “get it?”

Sometimes I feel like I am acting, when in fact I am genuinely trying to convey that what I do has little to do with who I am or who I am trying to become.

I began my career with an MBA in an executive training program at a major financial institution; the world was filled with possibility and I believed I had a clear direction of how best to proceed. I desired to create marketing strategies that fuel the acquisition of new customers and the retention of existing clients, and quickly gained experience in the art of market research, the management of external advertising agencies and the navigation of internal resources to ensure the financial approvals, the sales training and the customer servicing capabilities. It has been a great ride thus far and I am proud of my accomplishments across a broad breadth of industries.

Recently, I have been looking to find new opportunities to apply my skill set. …..some of which are an easier transition to explain than others. Heck, I hope to have another 30 years of active work ahead of me. I want to feel like a pioneer again!

With this in mind, I started to do more volunteer work across a number of different organizations with similar themes: What’s Next, Staying Brain-Sharp and Family Care-giving issues. Lots of media coverage can be found on these subjects, including the timely and relevant AARP resources at Life Reimagined, Brain Health and Family Caregiving.  

Similar to the foundations of a good marketing strategy: I am trying to formalize a game-plan for myself. Why?…because we learn who we are –in practice, not in theory—by testing reality, trying new activities, reaching out to new groups……We express interest. We test. We interpret and we incorporate..….No amount of self-reflection can substitute for the direct experience we need to acquire so that we can evaluate the options.  We need to create opportunities with those around us and we need to acknowledge that “new” can be a little bit scary.

Throughout my posts, I will share with you some of my life experiences that motivated me to seek change, along with some articles and peer-related stories that are impacting my own thinking. Being a “people person”, I invite you to join me on my quest to redefine my professional career, and hope you will take a moment to share your own observations. Together we can all reach our dreams.

What do you do and what do you hope to become?

Guest Blogger @AARPNY. Tweets all mine.

A SMART SHOPPER ASKS QUESTIONS WITH A SMILE

A Smart Shopper Asks Questions with a Smile

Regardless of the huge holiday sales and the temporary staff that are in place to help us during this exceptionally busy time of year, the smart customer asks questions, and the smart customer service representative considers the best way to handle the inquiry themselves or to refer the request to a supervisor. Let me share three (3) great examples of this that took place over the past week:

Verizon Phones and RCN Internet Services: I am satisfied with the service delivery from both of these organizations. However I cannot forget the frustration and the hour plus of my time that it took to load my RCN email address onto my Verizon Android. I recently realized that emails going out from my RCN address on my smart phone device were identified as coming from “Me” vs. coming from Sharon Lewis. Upon calling Verizon Help Services I was told that we would have to un-install and then re-install the RCN internet provider services from my smart phone. … Not so fast. There must be an alternative way to do this.
• Imagine my relief when only 11 minutes later, I said “thank you and happy holidays” to the service rep who figured out how to fix the situation without uninstalling anything from my phone! All I had to do was “to ask” for another possible solution.

Bloomingdales: Finding the one shirt that you love at a ridiculously reasonable price in the wrong size is a frustration that we have all felt. No problem. I asked the sales associate to re-direct me to the rack where I originally found the shirt. When we reached location, it seemed that I had the only one. Again, no problem – can you do a store search to see if the item could be shipped from another location. “Oh no, she said. Much of the sales inventory is out on the floor in our store and we now charge $20 in shipping and handling fees”.
Really, I can’t remember the last time, I spent $20 to ship one small clothing item—in a non-rushed fashion—from any department store or on-line retailer.

Let me hold onto this shirt while I continue to look around the sales floor.
As I finished my shopping and went to the sales desk, I found myself working with a lovely sales associate who was very attentive and very ashamed by the way today’s consumers throw “fine clothing” around the racks. So, I said, any chance you can do a store look-up for me on this shirt. “Oh sure”, she said and proceeded to find four shirts (in my size) at a West Coast store. “I can have it shipped for you at no charge she said. And, if for some reason the inventory is not correct, we will reverse the transaction. So, let’s do the shirt process as a stand-alone transaction so that it is easier to reconcile your credit card bill. Now, that’s a pleasant service experience.

A visit with the Doctor Allen: I sat in the examining room reading a magazine when the doctor knocked on the door and came in for our appointment. As I started to explain my reason for the appointment, I said “would you like me to get on the examining table as I explain my concerns to you?”
• His response— “This appointment is about you. Whatever is most comfortable for you to be while you tell me about your pain.” Yup—I stopped mid-thought—thank you. That is really nice!!

A Smart Shopper Ask Questions with a Smile.