Bottle up that Holiday Cheer – it’s Contagious!

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By, Cari Desiderio

I’m sitting here fat and full, enjoying the joy of this simple day, a hearty meal, time with family, songs and relaxation. Yes, it is the holidays. For me that is a precious time to simplify and celebrate the gift of forgiveness, joy and faith. But today is otherwise not too different from the rest. The weather is cold and damp and not too pleasant. Nothing is marvelously changed about life. But it is different all the same, isn’t it? It is the holiday season and so that substantially changes the environment due to the meaning of the season. I feel cheer because of what that symbolizes.

Which makes me wonder. Why should this day be so unique? Why should a holiday day really be different than any other day?

So here is a challenge I put forward today. Make every day something special. Don’t be complacent and accept the status quo. For those in the business world, the challenge is this. Bring more than work back to work. Bring some purpose and bring some fun. As Seth Godin says in his book TRIBES, be a heretic, “Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements.”

I will never forget the fun bag one of my bosses who did this well gave me at a healthcare company I was at a few years back. She was a VP of Finance, not known to be the more energetic of professions. But she defied the status quo of what COOs and Finance VPs were supposed to be. She was a heretic you might say, after the Godin definition. She brought laughter everywhere she went. The fun bag was literally a bag with a clown nose in it, and a book about how to bring joy and fun to each new day. Many of us on her staff received this little gift, which symbolized something she wanted us to remember. She taught me to not let the status quo, the should be, the dreariness, the boredom of corporate America, stifle the wonder of life. She made work fun and appreciated the value in relationships. To this day my best friendships from the workplace are from this company. Because when you let your guard down and approach business and life not as a place to win and conquer and “perform” so hard, but a place to cultivate relationships and find joy, something happens. You are that heretic that Seth Godin speaks of. You are a magnet for followers. You are joyful. And you lead engaged teams. It was in this place of work that I learned to hold fiercely to the principle of positivity and relationship. Yes we will face obstacles to this. I have in fact faced strong resistance when I have held steady to the principles of relationship based management in environments a bit more cold to this, where distance based control and fear management was preferred. But in the end, loyal employees win out and engaged teams are the ones that produce the most profound things. When you lead with a little joy, with a little focus on others before self, you wind up with a loyal group. A tribe as Godin would put in. And these tribes equate to high retention and high performance in the workplace.

So, enjoy this holiday season all! And bring a bottle of that celebration with you to work in 2015!

References:

Godin, Seth. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Heroes in Learning!

Last year I had a very special opportunity to spend a little time doing mock interviews with some individuals who had recently come to the United States due to very difficult circumstances in their home country.  Sponsored for a period of time by a non-profit organization and a number of loving souls who helped them settle into the US, they began a difficult journey to seek permanent employment and make their way in our country. Some knew little to none of our language.  Some had never been in a city as big as Chicago before.  Many had entire families here; many mouths to feed.  All were courageous and bold and heroes in my eyes. All were determined to master and learn all of the skills required to succeed in this journey.

I have to say that this day I volunteered was incredibly moving and as the saying goes I received more personally (by being part of this experience) than I was able to give.  The fierceness of the human spirit to overcome adversity and rise above circumstance was fiercer in the spirit of these brave individuals than in any other human beings I’ve ever met.  Each one of the individuals I met with was seeking to pursue career opportunities and I was honored to spend just a tiny bit of time lending them coaching support and advice as a HR practitioner.

The ripple effect of this one short afternoon has been pretty impactful in my life.  Each time I launch a training initiative in a corporate setting as part of my occupation, and often when I set out to read and write for my own university studies, I think about how simple my personal training and development experience has been compared to the obstacles these heroes I met have faced. If you would like to read a few inspiring stories, check out this website http://www.refugeeone.org/stories.html. You will see quickly why these are stories of heroes.

I thank all the heroes of the world who have faced adversity and stood their ground, who have stepped up to meet brilliant challenges, who make learning and growing a part of their life calling, and who inspire us with their stories of overcoming.