Author Archives: Karen Snyder

Employee Engagement - Leadership

Low Battery, Low Performance, and the Maccabees

Tonight is the fifth night of Hanukkah. It’s a celebration of the Maccabees’ victory over a tyrant king in Damascus. The story, retold for 2,200 years or so, is that the Maccabees fought for their freedom for three years. When they won, they wished to rededicate their Temple and to light the symbolic menorah, the flames of which must never go out. Unfortunately, there was only a small quantity of oil to light the menorah, yet that oil miraculously lasted eight days. In those eight days, the Jews were able to acquire more oil and the flame never stopped burning.

Now that was a struggle. The modern day equivalent is when you wake up in the morning, dash off to work and then notice that you forgot your phone charger, your phone is at 13%, and you need your phone to make it to your appointments. Yet by some miracle, your phone stays “alive” for you all day. It’s a miracle, only it’s just a miracle for you, not your entire tribe. And it didn’t involve years of oppression, so maybe it’s not a great analogy, but it’s still a bit of a miracle.

I am amazed at how that miracle of belief and encouragement shows up in the workplace. In November, I conducted a presentation skills class and one participant was terrified. Her partner helped her practice, encouraged her, and generally helped her see each thing she was doing right. At the end of the course, she was able to stand on her own, literally, and make an effective and interesting presentation.

How can you provide the miracle of light to another person in your workplace who is struggling?

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What If Tomorrow It Is Gone?

Years ago at a presentations skills program I attended, my mentor, Glenna Salsbury, instructed us to do the “What If Tomorrow It Is Gone” exercise. The exercise is rather simple: “What if you woke up tomorrow and everything you failed to be grateful for today was gone?” Think about this for a few moments.

Answers can range from the people you love, to your material possessions, to the foods you enjoy, to the outdoors and nature, to your spirit guides, and to the practicalities we take for granted such as clean water and heat. It can also include the special people who maybe you aren’t particularly close to, but who you enjoy, like the smiley clerk at CVS or the UPS driver who always waves. Don’t forget your wonderful pets and your friends’ pets too!

I have been doing this exercise for years. When I am with a troubled group, I think about all the people in the group who contributed and added value to the day. When I feel sick, I think about the parts of my body that are well. It’s a great exercise to fall asleep to or to take a walk with.

And it works in a group very well. You can do it for hours. Do you love the Thanksgiving souffle? How about the eggs that went into it? And the chickens that produced the eggs? And the farm that raised the chickens, and the truck driver who transported the eggs, and the grocery store that sold the eggs, and the cook who shared the recipe?

As I said, this exercise is endless. Have fun with it and remember that you can never be too grateful.

This Thanksgiving, as I coordinate flights, find a fresh tablecloth, and prepare for a few days of non-work, I turn my thoughts to you. I am grateful for my readers – to those of you who have passed through my life and have honored me by reading my blog, and to those of you who are still an active part of my life. Thank you all for being a part of the circle that is my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Communication - Conflict Resolution

To What Extent?

Last year, I took an excellent course in group facilitation. Terrence Metz was the instructor for the program, and he taught our class the incredible phrase: “To What Extent.” Now, you may be reading this and thinking, “What’s the big deal?”

I am sharing the phrase because it is helpful when groups meet. Here is an example:

“This idea will cause outages!” the programmer shouts.

“To what extent?” asks his colleague.

“Well,” the programmer shifts in his shoes, ”It happens a lot.” The group decides to get data before they make changes.

Another example:

“There will be huge budgetary discrepancies and we will become unable to operate,” says the chief financial officer.

“To what extent?” the board challenges.

And then the chief financial officer backs down.

“To what extent” is the phrase that pays because it helps team members focus on getting data rather than being reactive and possibly exaggerating consequences.

I encourage you to add the phrase to your information gathering repertoire.

How do you focus on gathering information?

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