Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

My father-in-law, Chuck Kiger, in his earlier adult years

My father-in-law, Chuck Kiger, in his earlier adult years

I had a really unusual dream last night. Let me tell you about it along with the obvious meaning to me…

In the dream, I was with a lot of family members at my in-laws’ previous home in St. Louis. My father-in-law, Chuck, who passed away suddenly in that home in 1999, was sitting in his favorite chair. There was a calendar on the wall that was rapidly flipping back in time to the day he passed away. Others in the family knew what was about to happen, but Chuck did not. He was struggling a bit physically, but was lucid and still engaging in conversation.

When I entered the room, my mom had just told Chuck that she loved him. She left the room and then I had my chance to say some things to him. I told him that he was a great father-in-law, that I really appreciated him and that I loved him. The look on his face was priceless and he was so pleased to hear those words from me.

As strangely as the dream started, it ended.

Many times we dream but keep on sleeping and don’t even recall the dreams when we awaken later. But some dreams carry such an impact that we awaken immediately and have a tough time going back to sleep. Such was the case with this dream. I woke up and immediately thought, “Tell people that you love them while you still can, because you may not have another chance.”

That isn’t an earth-shattering revelation. We’ve all heard the sentiment many times and have probably said it a few times as well. Reminders of important truths are important, though, since we tend to get wrapped up in our busy lives and fail to do some of the basics that are actually far more important than the busyness that occupies us.

I’ve lost friends and family suddenly without the chance to say goodbye. I’ve had other times where we’ve known the end was near and those precious final goodbyes were said with deep love and affection. We have no such guarantees, though.

So love well in word and in deed. Tell them while you still can. You may not have another chance.

thankitforwardWhen my professional colleagues at The Community Roundtable started posting their “Thank It Forward” posts recently, thereby recognizing three specific people or groups that have made a difference in their lives this year, I knew I wanted to do the same. So it’s taken me a while to think through it and come up with this post. My three who have had the greatest impact on me this year are from all parts of my life, so it’s an unlikely trio, but a meaningful one to me.

The first person I want to thank for his impact on me this year is my new pastor, Mark Williams. I cannot adequately express how thrilled I am to have this man as my pastor. He is a kind, loving, gracious soul who is profoundly committed to proclaiming the Word of God and calling others to a life of faithful service to Christ. He is wise far beyond his 31 years with a wisdom that can only come from the Spirit of God within. When he preaches, you know you are hearing the truth of the gospel. He is not out to impress others or dictate to others or to draw attention to himself. He is a servant of his Lord and an incredibly gifted and faithful proclaimer of truth.

It is important to me that I deeply respect my pastor. Life has been a bit out of whack in times past when there has been some tension between a pastor and me. That’s not a good situation and not one I care to repeat. I respect the role of pastor and want the relationship to reflect that respect. Mark makes it easy for me to do that because we are united around a common purpose and cause and desire. I would be quite content to learn from this man for the rest of my days on this earth. He makes me want to be a better person in general and a better Christian in particular. I know my own relationship with Christ ought to produce those same desires and it does, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a key person in the flesh that draws you in that direction as well. I thank God for Mark Williams and look forward to his continued influence on me, our church and our community.

The second person I want to thank is my bride of 35.5 years, Linda. I don’t know anyone who works as hard as she does. While her role as kitchen hostess at church and self-employed caterer is officially part-time, she sure does seem to be going at one or the other full-time. And if she isn’t absorbed in those activities, she’s gardening or doing yard work or something else – anything but resting (which she really ought to do more of). Anyone who knows us can tell you how different we are. That has always been the case. In fact, we lost some college “friends” when we got engaged in 1978 for that very reason. They worried that we were so different that it would never work for us to be married and they simply could not and would not give their blessing to it. Well, 35.5 years later, I would beg to differ with their assessment. That doesn’t mean we always see eye-to-eye or have no issues, but we’ve learned to keep the main things the main things and not elevate minor differences to a loftier level of attention than they deserve.

I want to thank Linda for loving me all these years, for continuing to do the less-than-glamorous things that come with managing a home and family, for forgiving me when I have been self-absorbed or downright thoughtless or mean or stupid, for being an absolute rock of faithfulness and consistency for the entire time I have known her from my sophomore year of college through the present, and for being the mother of our two sons and grandmother to the newest generation of Rosses. I cannot imagine life without her, and I am thankful now and forever for her.

The third person I want to call out in my #thankitforward this year is my manager at Humana, Lewis Bertolucci. Lewis took a chance in late 2011 by adding me to his Enterprise Social Media team at work when there were not originally plans to have that team own the internal social media function I manage so much as the external, customer-focused media. Lewis is a remarkable person who knows more about the field than I ever will. He can’t possibly sleep much and still juggle all the things he has his hands in. It’s no wonder he was included in a recent list of the top 100 digital marketing experts. Don’t even think about trying to match his Klout score!

There are so many things I appreciate about Lewis as my manager. He is open and honest and I can discuss whatever I need to discuss with him. He trusts me to do my work and has no inclination to micromanage me or others. He is funny and creative and will blindside you with a funny photoshopped picture or JibJab video and seems to have funny animated GIFs ready for all occasions to throw into online discussions. He keeps his cool in the midst of what I know are very stressful, demanding days at work. He thinks of others more than he thinks of himself. He can write out the best, thoughtful, reasoned response to situations where others would be tempted to respond quickly and emotionally. He gives wise counsel that others (including me) would do well to heed. He is supportive and encouraging to his team. And as is shown by the expanded role he offered me in August this year, he is eager to see those he supervises grow into their potential, even when that means they leave the team for other roles as some did in 2013. Like my pastor mentioned above who is in his early 30s, Lewis is also wise beyond his years and has earned the deep respect I have for him as a person and as a manager. I am fortunate to have him and hope to learn from him for many years to come.

So there you have the three people from different areas of my life who I am most thankful for in 2014.

I won’t end this post, though, without also recognizing the one professional organization that has also been very significant for me this year as well – The Community Roundtable. I have enjoyed being a member of this organization of online community professionals for several years, but this year the connection stepped up a notch when they graciously agreed to take over the reins of the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat which I started in 2013. They are doing a great job with the chat and will continue to innovate and do things with it that I as an individual could never do. I am deeply appreciative of their willingness to do this. I know the work involved in making it successful and worthwhile week after week. It is no small task. Thank you, Hillary Boucher, Rachel Happe, Shannon Abram, Jim Storer and all the wonderful people at TheCR! You do amazing work that is very much appreciated by many.

What about you? For whom would you #thankitforward for their impact on you in 2014?

GroupUsingPhonesIs this the least social time in human history?

The question may sound odd coming from one whose daily work centers around social media, but sometimes I wonder if he haven’t taken giant strides backward in recent years in our ability to simply be social with other real live human beings around us. Here are some examples of why I’m concerned…

  • It is nearly impossible to go out to eat with coworkers, family or friends without a majority of the people spending more time looking at their smartphones than actually engaging with and enjoying others sitting at the table with them.
  • How many homes have multiple family members each on some electronic device for long periods of time, but each rarely interacting in person with others under the same roof?
  • How distracted are we by multiple conversations on multiple social platforms to the point of never really giving our full attention to anyone – either face-to-face or online?

I’m a huge fan of social media and technology in general. It has been the focus of my life’s work for years and will be so for the foreseeable future. I’m not suggesting abandoning the technology; that isn’t going to happen, anyway. But somewhere along the line we must recognize that we’re missing out on the face-to-face present when our heads are buried in our phones, tablets or PCs. As an introvert, I need and cherish my times of solitude, but when I’m with others, they deserve my full attention.

We’re missing chances at rich conversation and deeper, more meaningful relationships when we don’t get past the depth of 140 characters in what we communicate. We limit our conversations and the wisdom we can glean from others’ experiences when our dependence on technology omits communication with those who don’t use the technology. Our monetary wealth and eagerness to spend it on gadgets contributes to a poverty in relationships due to the lack of investment we make in deeper, face-to-face interaction.

Life is always a balancing act. Living for extended periods on extremes is rarely advisable. If you wonder if the above picture fits you or not, it probably does. That doesn’t mean you run to the other extreme by deactivating your social media accounts or giving up your smartphone. It may mean, however, that you set it aside when in the presence of others to develop that which cannot exist online. It may mean you don’t respond to every notification sound or vibration when in the presence of others, reserving that check for when you leave their company.

Be here. Be present. Respect those you are physically with and give them your full attention. Let’s not let a wave of social media opportunities actually turn us into a less social generation. We can and should do better than that.

HomelessIt is the most natural thing in the world to be self-centered – from the time we enter the world completely dependent on others (yet focused only on our needs), to the time we draw our final breath (most likely still clinging to what we want). It’s natural. But not everything natural is good.

As I observe the world around me this Christmas season, I see the usual uptick in charitable activity – bells ringing beside buckets of coins at store entrances, more volunteers than any of the other 11 months of the year at homeless shelters and elsewhere, Christmas baskets given for the needy, and angel trees with names of those who can use a little boost from other generous, kind souls. That is all good, and I am grateful for giving hearts that make a positive difference in the lives of others at any time of the year, but especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

You and I both probably know some remarkable people who live their lives as models of generosity – not just during December, but year-round. It’s just the kind of people they are. Some that come to my mind are my parents and grandparents and some dear souls I’ve known from churches I’ve been a part of through the years. I like to think I’m the giving type, but compared to some others I’ve seen in my life, I know I have a long way to go.

It’s no easy transition to make from that perfectly natural self-centeredness to one that takes more pleasure in focusing on others. Consider just a few scenarios that illustrate what I mean…

  • Someone is talking to you with the expectation that you are listening, but your mind is wandering about other things, perhaps about what you’re about to say, but maybe about things far removed from the conversation. How do you shift your attention back to the one talking?
  • You’re approached on the street by someone asking for spare change, but you’re in a hurry, you don’t want to get involved, you don’t have any change or small bills, and you don’t want to part with the larger bills you just got from the ATM. Do you get involved or just shake your head “no” and walk away?
  • Your child or grandchild approaches you with something he/she wants to do for a few minutes, but you have a long list of things you were hoping to get done before bed. What do you do?
  • A coworker asks for help with a project and your own to-do list is just as long for work as it is for home, but you’re the best person to help. Will you put in those overtime hours to help others succeed and not just get your own work done?
  • Your spouse has had a hard day or week and could use some tender loving care. Do you come through or do you just carry on as usual?

Being other-centered isn’t natural. In fact, it’s hard. Very hard. It takes time. It’s inconvenient. It costs you something – effort, time, money, emotions. But it’s worth the price. It makes us more of who we were put on this earth to be. It makes a real difference in the lives of others, leaving our world a little better than we found it.

Moving toward other-centeredness is a continuous effort. We won’t arrive at the final destination this side of heaven, but it behooves us to keep working at it.

How other-centered are you? What can you do today to move one small step in that direction?

Work Relationships

Posted: December 15, 2013 in Relationships
Tags: , ,
LastDayTogether

a recent photo from the last day of a great team before some moved on to other opportunities

I’ve had the good pleasure of working with many great people through the years. I’ve been on teams that got along well, enjoyed each other, helped each other, and befriended one another outside of work while accomplishing much for the business. Such experiences have fostered long-term relationships that carry on long after we no longer work on the same team. That is not to say that all work relationships have been stellar. As expected, there are some people I haven’t gotten along with for whatever reasons. Fortunately, those are rare exceptions.

As I think about the range of possibilities for work relationships, I see the following primary types in the workplace regularly:

  • True friendship. This is the most satisfying type of relationship for me. It is one that lasts beyond working together. It leads you to help each other, be patient, try to understand, give willingly, share openly, be honest, and to be on the receiving end of those behaviors as well. This kind of relationship doesn’t happen quickly. It doesn’t happen automatically just because you spend a lot of time together. It happens for the same reasons friendships outside of work come to pass – making connections with kindred spirits where something positive clicks between you. Having true friends at work makes collaboration easy, although there is the potential down side of letting personal feelings interfere with making the best business decisions at times. Having colleagues transform into friends makes it more difficult when the work relationship ends, but it makes the time together more enjoyable.
  • Cooperative Professionalism. This is the most frequent type of work relationship in my experience. These are not relationships that are likely to intentionally continue when one leaves the company, but they serve the company well while working together. These range from very infrequent interactions to more frequent, and they seem to be transactional more than relational. Like cogs in a wheel that do their job to keep the corporate machinery moving forward, these relationships serve their purpose for the individuals and the business, and do so in a positive, professional manner. There is no real emotional connection present or necessary in these types of relationships. Accomplishing business objectives and doing so with professional courtesy drive what happens. This is the type of relationship that is most appropriate for managers to have with their subordinates, and what is likeliest between most coworkers. While it’s certainly possible for managers and subordinates to be friends, making that work can be like walking through a minefield.
  • Adversarial. Fortunately, I’ve encountered very few of these types of relationships through 40+ years of work. These are the toxic, frustrating relationships that not only hinder getting work done, but make the process miserable at times along the way. Motivations for someone behaving in this manner are as varied as the individuals involved, but may be due to attempts to climb the corporate ladder, maintain control of some aspect of the business, competing priorities, personality clashes, perceived threats, lack of trust, or hidden motivations we may never understand. There is no good excuse for these kinds of relationships to exist, but we all know that they do.

With so much time spent at work for the majority of adults, it’s important to have good relationships along the way. If you love what you do but dread being with those with whom you must do it, then you’re not likely to hang around for the long term. What we have a right to expect from work relationships at a minimum is cooperative professionalism. We also have a right not to expect openly adversarial relationships. If we are very fortunate, though, we will end up with some genuine, meaningful, true friendships along the way.