Professionalism vs. Civility at Work!

In Human Resources and Talent Acquisition we have gotten very use to hiring managers making a statement like, “I really need someone with a high level of professionalism in this role”. Having experience as both an HR leader and a Talent Acquisition leader for twenty-five years, I thought I knew exactly what that meant.

My view of the term “Professionalism” meant the hiring manager was looking for someone who had a high skill level in communicating appropriately for each situation. That they had an appearance that seems to fit the culture of the organization and those we served. That in times of stress or crisis, they were able to keep their composure and work through situations to come up with an outcome that would be satisfactory to both sides.

What I never realized was that the term “Professionalism” is or is thought to be rooted in racism and white supremacy. But, as the social justice and BLM movements have brought many things to light over the past couple of years, I’ve been reading and hearing from people of color that the use of “Professionalism” as a descriptor was akin to saying “what we really want is a white person”.

I have to be honest, and I know folks will say this is because I was blinded by my privilege, but I never once in my career thought when a hiring manager said they wanted someone who was “professional” they were secretly telling me they wanted a white person. I probably think this way because I’ve had men, women, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. tell me this as a descriptor/skill they desired as a hiring manager. But, this is also the difficulty of unconscious bias.

Is there a difference between “Professionalism” and “Civility”?

I can definitely see how the wrong individuals could easily use the term “professionalism” to mean white and not black. I’m not naive to the world. It does bring up the dilemma though on how do we actually measure or speak to how individuals should act in certain business settings. Of course, each company’s culture is different, so this is a constant moving target by company, by leader, by position, etc.

I think most HR leaders and Executives, regardless of gender, ethnicity, and nationality would believe there are appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and ways to conduct ourselves in a business setting. Probably 90% of which we could come to some sort of agreement on, and the other 10% would be personal preferences.

This then begs the question is “professionalism” really a racist ideal, or is it just an additional method some individuals/organizations/institutions could use to continue systematic racism where they see fit? If that is the case, then how can we communicate the 90% we agree on in a fair and equitable way where all employees feel like they belong?

This brought me to the concept of Civility.

Civility is defined as formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. Sounds a bit like how we would define “Professionalism” so it makes me wary we are just using a different word. I did find a Civility expert, Sejal Thakkar, who trains organizations and employees on how to be more civil with each other. She had a post on Linkedin and shared a bunch of really great resources explaining that no matter your role at work, from the lowest-paid worker to the CEO, all should be acting with civility, at all times. (Click here for Sejal’s LinkedIn post with resources) (Also, go connect with Sejal, I really like what she’s doing around Civility in the workplace!)

My question to Sejal was simply, in these current times I get messages from leaders who feel like they are being held hostage by some of their employees. These employees feel empowered to say anything without any recourse. They can talk divisively at work about politics, their beliefs and ethics, while attacking other’s beliefs and ethics that are different than theirs, and leaders feel like they have to allow this to happen. How can leaders deal with this issue of feeling like they are being held hostage by some strongly opinionated employees who are causing dissension at work about non-work things?

Sejal’s response was what I expected. All employees, both leaders, and non-leaders should be acting civil towards each other at all times, with no exceptions. She was short and sweet in her response. There is no room for incivility in the workplace. Period.

It’s fine to disagree about big things in the world, and still act civil towards each other, especially in the workplace. An employee might have voted for Biden and hated Trump, and can’t fathom that another employee actually voted for Trump, but that doesn’t give license to either employee to act uncivil towards each other. You can have employee support BLM and have employees support Law Enforcement, all the while being civil towards each other. If both, or either does act uncivil, it should be dealt with in your normal course of discipline as if they acted inappropriately about anything else within your workplace.

What does Civility look like at work?

(I’m going cut and paste from one of the resources Sejal shared (Ten Ways to Create a More Civil Workplace) as this person can say it way better than I could ever write):

  1. Acknowledge Others. No one should feel invisible. Make eye contact. Greet people with “good morning”, “good afternoon”, etc. Use people’s names. Make people feel welcome in your presence.
  2. Think the Best. Most people are not trying to intentionally ruin things or do harm, try to assume positive intent. Until proven wrong, give the benefit of the doubt that people are trying to do the best they can with the resources and tools available to them.
  3. Listen. Stop focusing on yourself and your needs; instead, focus on other people. Don’t assume you need to solve anything, just hear and try to understand clearly what they are saying. Respect what others think and honor their right to see things differently than you do. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, just hear them.
  4. Speak Kindly. Be respectful in word and tone, particularly when delivering critical feedback. In addition, never gossip or speak unkindly of people when they are not present.
  5. Accept and Give Praise. It is said that one of the greatest things you can give someone else is a sense of their own worth. Praising the accomplishments of others and showing appreciation cost you nothing but deliver tremendous value. And when you are praised, a kind thank you is all that’s necessary. Gracious humility is a virtue.
  6. Be Agreeable. Be open to and look for opportunities where you can accommodate others, compromise, or simply allow someone else’s ideas to be implemented. Your way isn’t the only way.
  7. Respect Other People’s Time. Be punctual, end things on time, wait your turn to speak, show up to everything you’ve promised, and every time you fail to do so, apologize.
  8. Apologize Earnestly. Be clear about the error you’ve made and do not make excuses. Let others know that what you did was wrong and that you understand and regret the negative impact you’ve made.
  9. Accept and Give Constructive Criticism. Be clear about your intentions. If your intention is to help, then be helpful, however, if your intent is revenge or to manipulate things to your benefit, re-evaluate and walk away. When receiving criticism, assume the positive intentions of others. Be grateful, not defensive.
  10. Don’t Shift Responsibility and Blame. If you are part of the problem, own it, apologize if necessary, and help in finding a solution. Trying to place blame rather than working to find a solution makes you an obstacle. Don’t be that person.

I love these! Can you imagine, right now today, if we all worked in an environment where this was taking place! The world would seem lighter, for sure!

This is extra difficult right now in our work world because so many of our employees, who are working remotely, haven’t even met each other. It’s way easier to disregard another person when you don’t truly know them or their intentions.

Like I said above, I am not naive to the world. I understand people are hurting and fed up with the world they are living in, so we’ll see unrest and people being uncivil towards each other. I hope and like to believe, that we can create workplaces where people will feel like they belong and are safe to have civil discord. Because once it becomes uncivil it’s time for some folks to leave or are workplaces breakdown and that isn’t fair to the other employees who rely on the success of the business to pay their bills and feed their families.

We live in a world, currently, where most people seemingly do not first assume positive intent, and I can understand why. But for our workplaces to grow and thrive, we must fight to get to a place (understand I did not say “back to a place”) where we can all be civil towards each other working on common goals and successes.

Are You Really a Global Leader?

I was looking at some technology this past week and they were telling me they are a global technology provider! So, of course, I ask the question, “Oh, really, where do you have users?”

A bit of silence and then some explaining, “Oh, well, of course here in the U.S., but we also have users in Canada and the UK.” So, not really that Global, really just Global-ish, right!?

I see the same thing from profiles on LinkedIn all the time. “Global Talent Acquisition Leader”, “Global Head of HR”, etc. When you dig in you find they have the responsibility of the U.S. and like one other location outside of the U.S. I had one the other day that literally had the U.S. and Canada and never, in their career, had any responsibility outside of those two countries, but “Global” was still in the title.

Calm down, sparky!

Questions to ask yourself to know if you’re truly a Global leader:

  • Do you only take meetings and calls in your own time zone? If yes, you’re not a global leader!
  • Does your entire team only speak one language? If yes, you’re not a global leader!
  • Does your passport only have stamps from vacation spots? If yes, you’re not a global leader!
  • Do you only have direct employees in three countries or more? If no, you’re not a global leader!
  • Do you spend a great deal of your time managing cultural conflicts? If no, you’re not a global leader!

Okay, maybe you can still be a global leader and not have correctly answer one or two of the above questions, but there is a difference between being a leader who had multiple country responsibilities and being “global”.

But, “Global” looks so super sexy in my title!

Yes, it does! I’ll grant you that. But you look like a moron to people who are truly global and who you most likely are striving to become. The last thing you want to do when trying to become global is to show you have no idea what being a global leader truly is.

I’m Not a Global Leader

I’ve only run operations within the U.S.. So, when I give advice, it’s important for me to understand if whomever I’m working with is global or not. What I can tell them is how this work within the U.S. If the problem is a global problem, I’m fairly confident I can help, but I have not actually performed TA outside of the U.S.

I’ve traveled, spoken and worked with TA leaders all over the world. So, I know enough to be dangerous. I would feel confident taking on a global role within TA that I could figure out what needed to be done and how to be successful, but I base that mostly on my ability to pull from a global network of experts whom I know would help me.

Still, I’m not a global leader.

Do you feel like an imposter in your HR or TA Leadership Role?

Imposter syndrome impacts everyone at some point. The feeling like you don’t belong because your abilities aren’t up to par with others, or your accomplishments don’t fit the role you were given. This belief that you might be a fraud, except no one has figured it out, just yet!

So, there is a couple of ways I look at this feeling of being an imposter in the role you have:

  1. It’s true, you’re an imposter. You might get lucky and no one will figure it out, but most likely at some point, they will. So, you have the time from right now, until you’re figured out, to actually not be an imposter! Good luck.
  2. You feel like an imposter, but you actually know your sh*t. This one is just your insecurities f’ing with you. You probably just need a good life coach or partner, a little self-confidence boost to actually put you on the right path. (Don’t call me, I’m not a Life Coach!)

Within HR and TA we see quite a few imposters. It usually. takes about 12-18 months for an imposter to be figured out after hiring. The world, and LinkedIn, are littered with imposters with year and a half working stints. Some are so good at being imposters they actually will jump from one failure to the next and get promoted! But, the timing always stays true!

The world is also full of really great people who feel like imposters. Why does a good, solid performer feel like an imposter?

  • You work for a weak executive who don’t know that you are actually a really great hire and have great potential. This lack of belief by your leadership leaves you feeling like an imposter.
  • You just suffer from lack of confidence. You might have always had low confidence. Did you feel like you did bad on every test in college, but always got an “A”? Here’s your sign.
  • You have a bunch of senior level terrorists on your team that make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, when in reality they don’t know what they’re doing, but they’ve been around longer and you’re the fourth leader who will fail with this ragtag bunch of under performers.

How do you stop feeling like an imposter in your leadership role?

Validate your greatness!

The more time you spend within your peer group outside of your organization, the more you’ll be able to assess if you’re an actual imposter or if you actually know what you’re doing. The first step is to hang out with some peers you believe are rock stars and start assessing what they say versus what you say. Are they asking you for advice? Are you only asking them for advice? (Pro tip: true imposters don’t ask for advice, because they want to continue to believe they know everything!)

Remember why you got hired into your role!

What were you hired to do? Did you do it? Are you close? If you did accomplish what you set out to do, what’s next on your plan? What still needs to be fixed? Can you fix it? Do you need outside help? Have you upgraded your team? You were hired because an executive thought it was important to do something in your organization, and that’s your job. You will either do it, or not do it. Imposters never do the job they were hired to do, but they’ll tell you they did!

Leaders are action oriented. Imposters are not.

Imposters don’t take action, because they don’t know what action to take, or they are fearful that the action they will take will blow up and they will fail. Leaders take action to better the situation of their department/function, knowing failure could happen, but doing nothing if just continued failure of why they were hired. The one action imposters will take are usually around something to do with showing someone else is to blame for the failure of their function. “We would have succeeded if marketing and IT would have given us a better career site!”

Don’t fear your feelings of being an imposter!

Feeling like an imposter, especially for new leaders, might be the most natural feeling a leader has! Questioning yourself and your abilities will drive you to learn what you don’t, and partner with those who know more. The imposter feelings will give you the pressure you need to succeed and not slow down.

One helpful key to imposter feelings if having a mentor or peer, outside of your organization, that you can share your feelings with. Someone to bounce ideas off of, and help you understand the difference of being an imposter and being a leader. These discussions are important for your mental health.

Are you an imposter in your current role? The real imposters will answer “No!” and change nothing. The real leaders will think about it and determine the feelings are just feelings, and go about doing something about it.

The Past-Employee Walk of Shame!

I’ve lost jobs and I’ve called old employers to see if they would want to hire me back. I’ve usually gotten a response that sounded something like, “Oh, boy would we want you back but we just don’t have anything. Good Luck!”  Many of us in the talent game talk about our employee Alumni and how we should engage our Alumni but very few of us really take true advantage of leveraging this network.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine took a new job. You know the deal, shorter drive, more money, growing company, and oh, boy, just where do I sign!? The fact was, it was all they said, shorter drive, more money and they were growing, but they forgot to tell him was our operations are broken beyond repair, you will work 7 days a week and probably 12-14 hours per day because of the mess we have, but keep your head up it’s the only way you won’t drown here!

So, now what does he do?

He already had the going away party, bar night out with the work friends with the promises to do lunches and not get disconnected, packed up, and unpack the office into the new office.  Let’s face it, big boy, you’re stuck! Not so fast. He did the single hardest thing an employee can do he called his old boss after 7 days and said one thing, “I made a mistake, can I come back?”

Luckily for him, his past boss was a forward-thinking leader and so this past Monday he did the 2nd hardest thing an employee can do he made the “Employee Walk of Shame”.

You can imagine the looks from people who didn’t know him well, “Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you leave?” Having to tell the same story over and over, feeling like he failed, like he wasn’t good enough to make it in the new position.

HR plays a huge part in this story because it was HR who can make this walk of shame a little less rough. Let’s face it, it is different. You just don’t leave and come back as nothing happened. Something did happen, there was a reason he left and that reason isn’t going away. A transition back needs to be put into place even though he was gone seven days.  It’s not about just plugging back in, it is about re-engaging again and finding out what we all can do better so it doesn’t happen again.

It’s also about making sure you let those employees who you truly want back, that they are welcome to come back (assuming you have the job) and not just saying that to everyone. There are employees who leave that you say a small prayer to G*d and you are thankful they left! There are others where you wish there was a prayer you could say so they wouldn’t leave.

Make it easy for your employees to do the Walk of Shame, it helps the organization, but realize they are hurting, they are embarrassed, but they are also grateful!

New Leaders Start with Two Things!

Are you a new leader or do you know someone who is about to get into a new leadership position? This post is for them!

Every time a new leader starts in a position they only bring two things with them:

  1. Your resume.
  2. A speech.

Your resume is easy. It’s all the crap you did in your career to this point. You’ll be judged on that resume by your new team. It can go a number of ways, but usually, if you got hired, you have the resume to back it up.

There’s nothing you can do about your resume when you start a new position. You are who you are, regardless of how you got to this point in a new leadership role. It’s too easy for people to check up on you, so lying isn’t a real answer, especially when starting a new job.

The speech, on the other hand, is completely up to you!

Every new leader needs to come into the new role with ‘the speech’. Your speech. What does your speech need to have in it? Well, that really depends on what kind of leader you are, but here are some basic components:

1. Why you? Why are you the one to lead us? What is your personal vision in life?

2. What were you hired to do?

3. What about us? How do ‘we’, your team, fit into this?

4. How will we know if we succeed or not?

5. What are some things we should know about your style?

This is your Day 1 speech. I know you want to wait a while. Get to know your new team. Get to know the ‘real’ problems. Get your feet on the ground. But you can’t. You don’t have that time.

You have to come in and be ready to deliver your speech. This one speech will most likely dictate your success as much as your resume. You will either kick off this new leadership position with the right momentum, or you’ll just be another schmuck to take over and do what every other person before you did, fail.

Does it feel like I’m putting too much weight on this one thing?

I’m not. I’m actually trying not to scare you, because most people don’t give great speeches when they’re terrified they’ll fail. But, don’t kid yourself, this Day 1 leadership speech is critical to your success.

You are now the leader. Everyone is looking at you for the answers. You might not have any of them, yet, but you better make it sound like you have them, or you’re about to discover them!

You only bring two things with you into this new position. You only control one of them, at this point. Don’t miss it.

What do leaders fear more than anything else?

Leaders don’t fear failure. Failure is part of the job description when you accept any position in leadership. You are put in a position of making decisions and to date, no leader is one hundred percent on making good decisions! So, no, leaders don’t fear failure.

Losing? I mean, the best leaders I know hate losing. They hate losing almost more than anything else in life. In my experience as an HR and TA leader, the biggest reason I’ve seen leaders fail is they were too soft on losing. It didn’t impact them enough. They seemed to be okay with it.

“The greatest sin of a leader is not being defeated, but in being surprised.” 

The quote is from Frederick the Great, and for those who have ever worked with me really closely, they know this is a motto I live by! I never want to be surprised! I mean never! To me, it’s my one deadly sin!

I think I’m a decent guy to work for, but work for me and let me be surprised when you could have told me beforehand, but didn’t, and you should just pack up your desk and move on. I’m dead serious. There is nothing I hate worse than being surprised when it was unnecessary.

I get it, sometimes we get surprised, that’s why it’s called “surprise”! But in business, too often, I see leaders get surprised by things that they didn’t need to be surprised by. Someone on their team knew something but didn’t share it with the leader. Now, they might not have shared because they were hoping it would never happen, or they didn’t think, at the time, it was a big deal, then it became a big deal, and now you look like a fool telling your boss, etc.

Maybe they screwed up and were afraid or embarrassed to share what happened. We all have this voice in our heads that tells us, “No, it’ll be okay, this is nothing” and then it becomes something.

I tell those who work for me, I won’t be mad at you screwing up if you tell me before I get surprised by it. Tell me quickly, and we can work to rectify the situation, game plan a better outcome, etc. I want people who for me, as a leader, to be rushing to tell me stuff so I’m not surprised.

The most common leadership surprise is when someone on their team leaves. You know this one, a trusted employee on your team puts in their notice and leaves, and the day after they leave, you begin hearing the team talk about how they knew this person was going to leave! How they knew this person was interviewing.

No! No, you did not just let me hear you knew someone was leaving but didn’t tell me!

Why is being surprised such a big issue? 

There are a number of reasons. Being surprised makes a leader look not in control. How could you not know this!? Are you not the one responsible!? Being surprised puts a leader in an unfavorable negotiating position. If you get surprised, you don’t have time to game plan potential outs and wins.

To me, being surprised, also tells me my team doesn’t trust me. Doesn’t trust that I’ll act appropriately with the information I’m given. Doesn’t trust that I will stand up for them and help them. Doesn’t trust that I can handle the information. All of those are really bad!

Being surprised is a leader’s greatest sin because it points to other factors they are failing at within the overall leadership competency.

@SHRM CEO, @JohnnyCTaylorJr Accepts Board Seat with @iCIMS!

For those who know me, you know I’ve been a fan of SHRM’s CEO Johnny Taylor since before he was SHRM’s CEO. The first time I ran into Johnny was on the speaking circuit when he was an HR Leader, in the corporate world, and we spoke at the same conference.

My initial impression of Johnny was, “Who the hell is this guy!? He’s an amazing speaker!”  Johnny is a smart, confident, dynamic speaker, and leader, so I thought it was a great hire when SHRM hired him as CEO. Plus, he was a “real” HR person! There have been some folks who have thrown him shade over his tenure, but I think the majority of the SHRM membership has actually liked how he has pushed to elevate the HR function during his tenure.

This week iCIMS, a leading applicant tracking system and talent acquisition platform for enterprise organizations, announced that Johnny Taylor was joining their board. Here’s a bit from Johnny in the press release:

“I’ve been closely following iCIMS for years and have been consistently impressed,” said Taylor. “I am proud to be joining the iCIMS team. No other company has demonstrated how well it understands what talent professionals and business leaders require to succeed, and iCIMS is leading the market and its customers to success in the new world of work.”

Taylor was selected as a board member through Vista Equity Partner’s independent board program, which leverages the firm’s network to source qualified board candidates for its portfolio companies.

Why should we care about this move? 

CEOs of large organizations frequently take board seats at other big organizations. So, this isn’t surprising. I think the one surprise SHRM members might ask themselves is, why would Johnny, the CEO of the world’s largest HR organization, take a board seat with an HR/TA Technology vendor? Couldn’t that be viewed as a conflict of interest? I mean companies like iCIMS, and their competitors, spend millions of dollars with SHRM each year in sponsorships at SHRM conferences and other virtual events.

What if he took a board position with Workday or Oracle, would that be considered a conflict? I don’t know. Like I said above, Johnny is a smart guy, I’m sure he could get a paid board seat at almost any F500 company. I do also think this move speaks to Johnny’s increased attention within SHRM of Talent Acquisition professionals overall. When I first became a SHRM member in 2001, Talent Acquisition pros were the red-headed stepchildren of HR and we didn’t feel very welcome in SHRM. That has changed drastically over recent years.

From the iCIMS standpoint, this is a brilliant hire. Dynamic, smart people, with that kind of network and leverage, are hard to find, it’s a definite big win for them. Hire? Yes, it’s a hire. This is a paid position. People at that level don’t join boards to make themselves look cool on their LinkedIn profile! Johnny brings with him exceptional insight of hundreds of thousand SHRM members that will be super valuable to iCIMS.

This does beg the question, is Johnny getting ready to leave SHRM? It has been rumored over the past couple of years that he had bigger aspirations and plans than “just” being the CEO of SHRM. I say “just” because that job is a pretty great job, but he definitely has the resume and the intangibles to secure even bigger positions and make even more money. In my opinion, it would be a big loss for SHRM, as he’s by far the best CEO they have had in decades. Again, I know a bunch of folks who will disagree with that statement, but SHRM is in a far better position today than at any single point in the past twenty years as an association.

iCIMS and its CEO, Steve Lucas, have definitely been one of the most aggressive TA tech companies in the marketplace as of late. Product growth, tech acquisition, and increasing talent at a rapid pace over the past two years, it’s very interesting times for them. Make sure you keep an eye out, I hear they have some big things coming in April. If you haven’t demoed them lately, it might be time to get an update and see a different iCIMS than you’ve seen in the past.

From Great to Crap is Mostly a Management Failure

Can we all agree that we hire someone our thoughts are that this new hire can only get better. We think this person will be great when we hire them, and we expect them to only get better. Is this true? Or do you feel when you make an offer to a new hire this person will be a piece of crap you’ll one day fire?

If this is the case, when an employee turns into garbage we must accept the fact this it is mostly our doing as leaders. Somewhere along the line, we failed this person. We hired potential to be great and we did not help this person reach their greatness.

Where do we fail as leaders when someone goes from Great to Crap? 

– We failed to truly assess this person before we hired them. We thought we were hiring great, but we didn’t do enough due diligence to truly understand this person’s skills and motivations.

– We failed to onboard this employee thoroughly to set them on a path for success. To prepare them for our culture and norms.

– We failed to train and develop this person in a way that would assist them on their path of success within our organization. To give them the skills needed to succeed in their role.

– We failed to define, accurately and clearly, what a ‘great’ performance looked like in our organization and in this role.

– We failed to lead them to a performance that would guarantee their success. We allowed their performance to slip into negative territory and not help pull them out of it.

As a leader, we fail our people constantly. Should we talk about how employees fail us? We could, that’s what we usually do. We find every excuse in the world to tell ourselves how a great person turned into a piece of crap when the common denominator was our leadership. It’s not us, it has to them.

They fooled us in the interview.

They lied about their past performance.

They embellished their skill sets and motivations.

They didn’t do the work necessary.

It’s them, it’s not us. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Well, anyway, I gave them the exact same thing I’ve given every hire before them.

Maybe they needed a bit more than all the hires. Maybe they needed something less, but different than the other hires. Maybe a one-size-fits-all training, development, performance doesn’t fit every size.

Okay, Yes, there is dual ownership over failed hires

That means, if someone has failed, under your leadership you must first look inward to what part you truly owned. What you didn’t do to help this person succeed. I’m depressed after every single termination I’ve done in my career because I know somewhere along the line, I failed as a leader. There was a point where I could have made a difference, and instead, I made an excuse.

I become a better selector of people and a better leader if I internalize each failed hire and try to better understand the part I played in this failure. Did I hire someone who had fewer weaknesses, but no real strengths? Did I believe that giving this person the “same” was good enough? Did I see this person start to fail and not address it immediately believing that a “great” leader would not micromanage and give this person freedom?

Great to crap isn’t a one-person journey. It takes a lot of failures and people to make a great person into a crappy hire. What role did you play in your last bad hire?

Developing Process in Theory vs. Real World

I was traveling this past week and took a flight on Delta Airlines. I’m a big Delta fan. I’ve flown on just about every airline in the United States, and I will go out of my way to find Delta flights. One of the perks is, as a frequent flyer, you get upgraded, etc.

This week I was in first-class, as a frequent flyer perk, in if you’re flying back from Florida, during Covid, on a mid-week, mid-day flight, I’m most likely getting upgraded because it’s not a full flight. At the end of this flight, the flight attendant in the first-class came around to thank each person for their business.

20 first-class seats, about 2/3 of the seats were full. She came to each person seated in first class and said this exact same phrase to each person:

“Thank you for your business, we appreciate it.” 

So, within about 3 minutes, in a fairly small area, I heard “Thank you for your business, we appreciate it” fifteen times. While I completely understand the theory of wanting to let your best customers know they are appreciated, this exercise was a bit comical!

How did we get here? 

I’ve been flying Delta for years. So, it’s not uncommon when I’m on a flight to have a flight attendant stop by my seat and thank me for my patronage. It doesn’t happen every flight, but enough that it doesn’t surprise me. It’s usually very personal, and discrete. “Mr. Sackett, I want to thank you for flying with us today, I hope your trip was pleasant…”

The pandemic has been really rough on the airline industry.

My guess is someone at Delta, probably some executives, were sitting around and looking at data and they were like, holy crap, we need to keep our frequent flyers! They are the ones who will come back first, and we need them now more than ever! How do we “retain” our best customers!?!

Brainstorming commences. Ideas flow. The corporate machine starts to work and do its thing. Out the other end of that machine comes an edict, “From now on, every single one of our first-class passengers will be told we appreciate them!”

Sounds good in theory, not so much in real life. 

“Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you””Thank you for your service, we appreciate you”…

A broken record skipping over the same lyric fifteen times. It doesn’t feel thankful or appreciated, it feels like you’re making a person do this, as a condition of employment.

Again, I love Delta and the Delta brand! I will continue to fly Delta and go out of my way to fly Delta. This is a story not about Delta, but about how management doesn’t always understand what’s really going on in the field.

In theory so much of what we do as leaders make sense in the conference room. Makes sense in the email we send. It all sounds so good! “Look, we are going to make our best customers feel appreciated and wanted!” Yes! We must do that! We need to do that! It’s going to sound like, “Mr. Sackett, how are you today? Is there anything I can get you to make your flight more enjoyable? Also, please let me tell you how much we appreciate your continued business during this trying time. We couldn’t do this without you.”

That sounds nice, thoughtful.

What edicts have you sent down from up on high that sounded awesome, but totally failed in execution at ground level? How often are you asking yourself this question?

You could just say “Yes!” to everything!

I tend to say “Yes” at about a ten to one clip of saying “No”. So far it’s worked out well for me. Most of the time I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen when I say “Yes”, but it usually works out just fine. Some of the coolest things I’ve ever been apart of were because I just said “Yes” and didn’t worry about the details.

What can go wrong when you say “Yes”? 

  1. You can take on too much and get overwhelmed and stressed out
  2. You could be taking time away from more important things in your life: family, working on stuff that is more financially viable, you-time, etc.
  3. You hate the thing you said “Yes” to,
  4. Some moron will try and take advantage of you.

What can go right when you say “Yes”? 

  1. You might actually find some really great stuff you love.
  2. You might meet and work with some awesome folks you never knew.
  3. You might find some business opportunities you didn’t expect.
  4. It just feels better in your soul to say “Yes” to others.

I’ll be honest, I probably say “yes” too much. I often have people try and take advantage of my propensity to say “Yes”. Will you do this thing? Sure! And then that “thing” takes up a lot of my time that is valuable, and the time I’m giving up is mostly benefiting the other person, and there is probably nothing they’ll do for me in return.

Pro-bono work feels great until it doesn’t.  It’s when I start questioning my life strategy of saying “Yes”. Everyone wants some free work from you, believing that it’ll all work out for the best in the long run. Which in truth, it usually does for the person getting the free work!

How can you say “Yes” more, but stay sane? 

That is really the question, right?

I think the biggest thing is to have personal boundaries you don’t compromise. Knowing when the “yes” becomes a “no more”. The reality is people aren’t trying to take advantage of you for the most part. They just are trying to do their thing, and if you don’t have boundaries they’ll keep doing their thing without much regard for your things.

Know your value. I say “yes”, but I also usually let the person know what I’m giving up to say “yes” to their thing. Even when I’m being paid. “Hey, thanks for the offer of “$X” and Yes I want to do this and help you, but normally I would be getting “$X+”. Why do I do this? It’s a boundary thing. This is my real worth, I like you or what you’re doing, I want to help, but let’s be clear, here is my real value. The value I’m giving you.

This is really hard because most people get uncomfortable with this. They don’t want to tell others what they are worth and they don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable that they aren’t paying you what you’re worth. But, if you want to say “Yes” more, you kind of have to come to grips with this!

At the end of the day, I still like saying “Yes”. I like trying new things and working with new people. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try!