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Spark of Magic With a Touch of Madness

Once upon a time, long ago in a land far, far away…

It’s a classic start of the most mesmerizing stories that once seemed so real to us. What would you have done with your three wishes had you found Aladdin’s magic lamp? Come on, I know at some point in life you thought about it.  And if not, you probably bought a lottery ticket and dreamed of the thought of winning 30 million and all your dreams that could come true.

Ringing in the New Year

A new year means 365 new chances! Many of us take the time to overthink the old year and make up the balance. What were my successes, did I make my targets, am I satisfied, and what should I do different? At the same time, we develop a plan for the year ahead of us. What are my goals and targets, how am I going to achieve them, and what can I do to help others achieve theirs? Maybe you even have dreams you always wanted to make come true but felt out of reach before now.

What does it really mean to you to make the year count or even your life count? That’s a very personal thing, of course, but I would love to take you on a quick journey through another one of my brain spins.

For me personally, it’s important to make every day count. And it’s often in the little things.  Despite the fact I’m a leader, I love the value of entertainment and humour to make everyone get a little bit closer to themselves and help them stay away from outside distractions that often ruin their happy vibes. Staying close to yourself helps to connect to others. Whether it’s dancing at the desk, playing a round of request songs, and teaching others basic dance moves at the office, or making people see that little sparkle of light in a dark and shitty day. Not passing by their true emotions but helping them stay close to themselves and changing their perspective on that rough moment or experience.

Embracing Your Inner Child

I think it’s incredibly important to hold on to your inner child and to follow your dreams! A spark of madness and a rich imagination are valuable tools to make a difference, not only for yourself, but it’s an amazing way to impact others. You only get one spark of madness in this life. It’s so easy to get lost in this world without it so you have to maintain it.  Never lose your inner child, never lose your enthusiasm, and never lose your curiosity!

One of my most favorite quotes covers it all:

“The secret of a genius is to carry the spirit of young child into old age.” –  Aldous Huxley

A child is in touch with its aliveness. There’s a level of innocence that’s hard to hold on to as we “mature”. A child will dance naked and not think “I’m fat”.  They will sing and not think, “I wonder if I’m off key”. They will love you without conditions.  Living through the eyes of a child is just pure freedom. They are so in touch with their divine, their essence, their soul. It’s something special if you can carry this into an old age, because everybody deserves a spark of magic.

Keeping that Child Alive

We often worry too much about what others think of us, inciting unnecessary fear.  It creates boundaries that block our road to give our very best,  and leads to overthinking amazing ideas and beating down great enthusiasm. Do expectations really change?   Well, I guess to some degree they do.  I think it might be frowned upon if I dance around naked through the office tomorrow, but at the same time, there is so much room to be met in the office.  I stay close to myself and, at the same time, bring others closer to their true selves.  I encourage them to enjoy every moment to the fullest and inspire them to really go for it.

In the end, all that’s going to matter is the influence that you had on other people’s lives. Having an impact and being appreciated for it is the foundation of everything we do. We are all on a separate journey! But in the end its going to be about who you where as a person, how you lived your life, how you encouraged and impacted others.

“History is being read, but it’s also being written by people with imagination.” – Les Brown

Yet another strong quote that outlines the importance of holding on to your dreams and keep that spark of magic going. Part of the magic is determined by how much you believe in yourself. Walt Disney once said, “if you can dream it, you can do it”.   There is so much truth in his words. Even if you won’t get there today, you are going to be closer than you were yesterday. Keep going step by step. You might find the first step to be the hardest, but remember that you are never alone. If I can help you to keep your spark going, know where to find me.

Don’t you ever wonder if it’s all just a dream? Make the best of it and you will live happily ever after…. Wishing you an amazing 2021.

Virtual meeting

The Virtual Party

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a unique year. With the New Year just around the corner, the typical excitement of ringing in a new year, full of opportunities and hope, has been replaced with the reality that 2021 is bound to start with uncertainty and growing anxiety.  Currently, many businesses are closed with no re-open date.  Many people find themselves unemployed or working remotely from home.  Initially, most found the idea of working from home enticing, cutting out the commute, more time to balance work-life situations.  Although it sounds ideal, working from home is actually tricky. The usual problems of working remotely (lack of structure and routine, no designated space to work, constant interruptions, etc.) can be managed. Still, some issues require outside influences to execute properly.  Specifically, I’m talking about keeping your team feeling like a team and not individual employees working from their home silos.

Is Technology The Answer?

I’m confident that the amount of Zoom meetings has increased exponentially since the Covid pandemic began.  Although technology is an excellent addition to our work environment, it doesn’t replace human interaction.  As Peter F. Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  It’s difficult to read that non-verbal communication from your computer screen.  If you can get a video meeting off without any technical or equipment difficulties, it can be useful. Still, it isn’t the same as sharing a cup of tea or coffee during a break or being physically present to support each other.  Video meetings do have their place, and they can save windshield time for people having to commute to one center for a face to face.  Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, face to face meetings are out of the question. So how can we use technology while still maintaining the team environment and camaraderie that we come to expect from a well-functioning team?

The Virtual Celebration

This last weekend we attended Jeffrey’s virtual Christmas party for his Fire Department colleagues.  We weren’t sure if it would really provide a party atmosphere if everyone were remotely logging in, but we donned our Christmas sweaters (yes, we are those people), and the virtual Christmas party began.  Everyone received an ample supply of snacks, three sample wine bottles, and three kinds of cheese per package.  The night started with a greeting from the chief, followed by a wine tasting.  The tasting was to last an hour – I thought that would be a little dry (no pun intended), but it was so interesting and entertaining.  Then the group played some trivia and continued to visit.  While we were all on the video party, we were also chatting with each other on our phones, allowing for smaller side conversations as you would have at a live event.  I’m not sure what about the night made it so real.  It certainly wasn’t the same as a normal Christmas party, but I think it was as close as we could safely get during this crazy pandemic. Above all, it was a fun night!

Team Building is More Challenging

The virtual Christmas party organizers did a great job of combining the virtual with the traditional celebration so that everyone was included, celebrated, and felt the team connection they have come to know. This Fire Department has struggled this year to have their routine practice and education sessions due to the Covid restrictions.  As with most teams this year, the pandemic can lead to a disconnect among the team. Although this is an example of a Christmas celebration, it’s importance for team building cannot be overstated.

It can be challenging on a good day to keep your team motivated and collaborating effectively.  This global pandemic has added a new twist to the game.  Not only are we struggling with distance but increased personal demands as we navigate the ever-changing restrictions placed on all aspects of our lives.  Does it mean your team has to suffer?  I don’t think so.  It just takes some creative thinking and more intentional communication and organization. Events like the virtual Christmas party shouldn’t happen only once a year. Indeed no one expects a party regularly, but connecting on a personal level needs to happen more intentionally now that people are working remotely.  Now, more than ever, we need to have the support of our work family.

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Changing Employee-Experience One Teabag at a Time

The other day I saw a quote pop up on Linkedin, If I recall correctly, it was one from Simon Sinek, and part of it said the following “life is beautiful because of the people we meet,” and I couldn’t agree more. So I try to squeeze the wave of thoughts that reading those words released in this little blog to tickle your minds. It is the people in our lives that give it meaning, make it valuable and worth living. Who else would you learn from, and who else would you share all your amazing experiences in life with. Can you imagine being all alone?

Basic Human Needs

Human beings are incredibly complicated and predictable at the same time. That’s what fascinates me about human behavior. Even though there are exceptions, the majority of our society uses the same strategies and patterns to make their everyday moves and decisions.

We all share a need for appreciation and acknowledgment, and we want to grow and develop. In addition,  we all desire a level of certainty and security. Although people have the same basic needs, we all seek them in different ways, moments, levels, and forms. We look for them in other people or situations. In the end, we are still unique.

Appreciation and acknowledgment are something very delicate. But by saying good morning, you can never go wrong.  Saying “good morning” tells people, “I see you and respect you.”  Another common way to get appreciation and acknowledgment is the use of social media. We share parts of our personal journey through life, things that happen to us, and something we experience. In return, people share our stories, like them, or even love them. In some cases, it can lead to new jobs or opportunities.

Nothing replaces human contact. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, there is so much value in being able to look someone in the eyes or to share your smile when someone feels a little down or just as a token of appreciation.

Developing Relationships

You hear it everywhere around you, “We tend to get caught up in life” or “life goes by so fast.” It’s a summary that describes the urgency of valuable inter-human relationships. Meeting new people means getting to know new people. Something that is, of course, extra hard during the current Covid19-restrictions all over the world. Never the less we need to keep going; we need to be a little bit more creative and leave the well-worn paths.

The importance of getting to know people is very relevant to the work floor too. Knowing your staff is one of the most important things there is. Getting to know them takes time and effort. But if you are willing to invest that and you really listen to your employees, truly try to understand them, you can make a difference.  Because when you know them, you know which buttons to push to coach them and guide them to become the best version of themselves under all circumstances.

The Tea Bags

People that know me know I’m not really a coffee drinker, but I will take a good cup of tea any time of the day!  That brings me to a good story about the connecting value of a cup of tea. It was at the end of my first year working as a manager at GVB public transit in Amsterdam. Managing a team of tram drivers and service staff members in the city of Amsterdam came with challenges. My staff members were often on the road, moments of contact were often short and usually about their adventures during their rides (basically to let off some steam). These visits were important but too short to build a meaningful work relationship and to help get them out of their own heads during their busy schedules.  Then I figured out the value of a teabag!

My favorite Dutch tea brand Pickwick is not just any teabag.  They have a wide variety of amazing tea flavors, and no, I’m not (yet) sponsored for writing this in my blog. But what makes me an even bigger fan is the little label on the end of the string attached to the teabag because they contain questions. And I can hear you think what’s so exciting about those questions? Well, they make you feel; they are an amazing tool to connect to yourself and other people.

I remember putting the jar of teabag questions on my desk. I made this plan when staff members walked in to blow off some steam, ask a simple question, or just a visit, I would draw a question. The first person I asked laughed hard and told me she wasn’t going to answer the question. But she did ask me the question back.  As I was answering, I was kind of disappointed, not knowing that two hours later, she would walk back into the office to answer it anyhow. I was happy and thought I was on to something. The value of this little teabag was more significant than I could ever imagine. It changed how I connected to my staff members in a natural human way and got them out of their busy work bubble.

Ironically enough, the labels on their corporate teabags don’t have the questions and just show their plain logo. A missed opportunity if you ask me because the work floor offers such an amazing stage for some good conversations. And it gave me, as a manager, an important tool to approach leadership from a different perspective opening my eyes, allowing me to connect with my staff members on a different level.

When did you connect with your team for the last time? What do you do to get to know your staff?