“Homework” (Readers Write)

Below are comments from readers about working remotely and how it’s going.

Janet IlkoTeaching from home has been the greatest challenge but also a time for growth. I have learned to persevere, to unmute, to get over my fear of the camera, and ultimately to connect in new ways, High schoolers are funny, patient and amazing co-learners as we navigate the Zoom life. Bonus, my pups make the best four legged writing coaches and stress counselors for both my students and me.

Caroline Steven BrewerI started working from home in late March but our office was all called back on July 1. I missed the office but I really liked my commute downstairs in my comfy slippers. Hubby is still working from home and loves it. No idea how this will play out!

Carolyn MillerI never thought that working from home was for me. I’m not disciplined and love human interaction. But I have discovered that I am capable of self-discipline and I focus more on my work because I don’t have the distraction of conversations around me.

Paige Smith MetzDon’t take for granted the people who are next to you for the work that is virtual. Make sure your relationships are the priority.

Joe SchwalbeWhen I worked from home for the first time in my life when Covid 19 Stay at Home Orders were put in place, I made the decision right away to have a plan, have structure and be committed and really disciplined to the plan, and it worked.

Monica FayI am ALOT more productive working from home! And love saving money on gas and meals. I am loving it. Got a raise because of how well I am doing.

Bill LopezThe phrase “Out of adversity, comes innovation “ rings true. One of my departments processed about 80-100 paper invoice packets a month. We went from 100% paper to 100% paperless in around three days.

Shells BellsI have worked from home for a few days a week, for years. So it was not a huge switch for me like it was when my husband was sharing the living room with me. The number one thing we should all consider is that a laptop moves around and anyone should be able to run into the kitchen if a last minute meeting comes up for example. Here in California, many of us live in small homes, I do, an 800 square foot home near the ocean, but we make it work.

Elyse LoweToday, while working from home for one of the 1st times, I started a MS Teams call as I exited the shower. Purposely put my phone down so I didn’t accidentally turn video on while I was changing!

Laura ThomasAt first I hated it, I felt rudderless. I was concerned that without structure I would stay that way, an extrovert trapped. As I got into a routine, it got easier. Now I’m in my busiest time of year. The lead up to my big conference (all virtual now, which has it own set of issues) when I routinely work 12 hour days. It’s so much nicer to end those long days in my own home, rather than in a big empty office building that I have to drive home from…All in all I’m grateful to still have a job.

Alan ArmstrongIn March, our entire organization was forced to work from home. We embraced this aspect and we took the task head on and have been very successful in managing the work at home mentality. I find that intensity to work more as I can get more done in a day due to less distractions, and that is just my work ethic. I see myself continuing to work from home in a hybrid approach as I do need to be in the office some times to handle essential duties that cannot be addressed from a home environment.

Jeremy AkersEvery morning we sit in a circle on the floor, holding hands and synchronizing our breaths. We ground together in order to align attention and energy. While doing that, we review the agenda for the day, so we know what to expect and offer the opportunity to collect input about what we’ve planned. Then we do our best to use the plan as inspiration and abandon our expectations. We surrender to the opportunities in front of us throughout the day.

Nathan SchulhofI’v been doing all my projects from home on Zoom or other platforms, some of which include virtual keynotes and consulting. Covid 19 has drastically changed our lives and forced us to find new opportunities to utilize existing innovation, and create new uses to adapt to all the challenges that COVID has given us.

David HammerWebEx virtual backgrounds are really cool to obfuscate your messy house. But when somebody moves around in the background they kind of look like a ghost.

“Homework” (Readers Write)

What Goes Around . . .

Jimmy Buffett says, “We are the people our parents warned us about.” Working and living from home reminded me of what it was like when I was growing up. 

My father would wake up really early and go to his warehouse (our family has been in the office supply business for three generations) to pack orders, then go see customers during the afternoon, and write the orders up at night (at home). Around the same time (after dinner) I was in my room playing the bass—loudly. My father never once complained.

Now I’m the one working at night and my boys are the noisy ones. I’m honoring my late father by letting them live their lives (loudly) and making do the best I can. I have a feeling I will miss them when they go off to college. The house will be quiet, too quiet.

What Goes Around . . .

No Shortcuts

My mentor, Brain Tracy once told me, “Lee, after you’ve given 500 speeches you should be ready to charge a fee.” I was thinking, “What?” He was right. When I went on the road for SkillPath seminars doing six-hour seminars, five days a week, that’s when I got good. I did that for five years, and left to do bigger and better things, but I couldn’t have skipped that step.
 
Our band is now adding side two of Abbey Road to our set list. As I break down Ringo’s drum parts, I have a newfound respect for him—and the band. This was their final album and they were at the top of their game at the time. Yet, the Beatles began by playing thousands of hours in tiny clubs before getting their big break—and when it came, they were ready.

Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers) points out that to be the best (or an expert) in your field takes 10,000 hours of practice and preparation. That’s a daunting number. I’m not disputing it, I’m just saying we should celebrate each stage of our growth, take pride in where we are and what we can do now, and stay hungry to be better and keep trying to better ourselves.

I call it, “Compound Improvement” and unlike thinking about how long it will take to get to 10,000 hours, we simply focus on being a little better each time we do something. For me, learning to build websites was a series of baby steps. I’m interested in hearing about something you’ve become great at that took a lot longer than you thought, but now that you’ve mastered it, it seems well worth the effort. leesilber@leesilber.com
RINGO STARR TRIVIA (TRUE OR FALSE)

  1. Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh are brothers-in-law and both stopped drinking years ago.
  2. Ringo’s real last name is Starkey and his son Zak toured with the Who as their drummer. 
  3. Ringo is left handed, but plays a right-handed drum kit.

(All of the above are true.)

No Shortcuts

Chicken Soup For The Remote Worker’s

I don’t know about you, but I could use a little positivity. This article contains several short stories of how people from all walks of life are making the most of the position they find themselves in.

MOTHER AND CHILD REUNIONWith the oldest of two away at college, and all learning now remote learning, Susan (mom) and Garrett (age 15) set out on a one-month work/school/golf road trip up the coast of California to Oregon (and beyond). The pair would get their work done in the morning, play golf in the afternoon, and explore the area late in the day. It was the trip of a lifetime, and only possible because of our current situation and the ability of being able to work and learn remotely. 

EVERY DAY IS CASUAL DAYNot everyone enjoys the camaraderie that comes from going into an office to work closely with others. There are a great many introverts that dread interacting with co-workers, customers, and their boss. It would take Lynne a ton of time to get ready for work each morning because she wasn’t exactly fashion forward—and couldn’t afford fashionable clothes even if she knew what they were. She feared her co-workers made fun of her makeup, hair, and “fashion” choices behind her back. She had anxiety attacks in the parking lot before forcing herself to make the trek to her desk—avoiding as many people as possible. She faced her fears because she loved her job. Now that she is a full-time, stay-at-home worker, she has it all—exciting and challenging work that she can do on her own (if you don’t count her cats) and very little interaction with others.

THE COVID FIFTEENTodd is half the man he used to be. When Covid hit many of us put on the pounds. Not Todd. He lost a substantial amount of weight by making lifestyle changes. Even though he’s in the booze business, he took a break from beer and started getting up early every morning to take long walks, and surf with his kids in the afternoon. He embraced his grilling skills and started making and eating healthier meals. In fact, people line up in their cars to get Todd’s grilled meats and veggies to-go twice a month. He’s an inspiration to those of us who went the other way during the lockdowns and downtime. 

HEY, COACHSean’s day used to start at 4:45 AM, when he woke up to get ready for his one-hour commute to work. He didn’t mind the ride (there was no traffic, it was just a long haul each way). He had the weekends, but when the time changed he left in the dark and returned in the dark and missed doing the outdoors things he loved so much. When his employer requested (and eventually required) he work from home, he was thrilled. It changed his life for the better. Now he has more time to spend with his kids—coaching both of their teams. He spends a lot less money on gas and food and he and his wife can now afford to do a date night every Friday. Since he was used to driving so much anyway, he volunteers to drive his kids wherever they need to go and cherishes the time together—the talks in the car, getting to know their friends, and making memories.

Chicken Soup For The Remote Worker’s

Upside Down

“You’re gonna kill each other in under a week,” is what a friend said when I told her my wife is now working from home (alongside me) and my kids are also learning remotely. So far, we’re all alive and well in our house with only one dedicated office. There is an upside of working from home when everyone is home.

1. I didn’t realize how important my wife’s work is and how good she is at what she does, until she started working from home. She’s a Human Resource Professional and I see how hard she works and I can hear how smoothly she handles the hard stuff she has to deal with. I have a newfound respect for her and what she does.

2. I’m much more aware of what my kids are learning, how they learn, and their study habits—and I’m here too help if they need it. I also added a class of my own (it’s mandatory) about how things work. They’re learning how to cook, clean, and fix things so they’re more prepared when they live on their own.

3. I’m actually less distracted now. When I was home alone I would take frequent breaks to watch television, eat, and futz around the house. Now I have to be quiet and I feel guilty if everyone is working on something but me, so I’m more focused and productive than before.

I’m not sure how my wife and kids feel about our new arrangement, but I love spending more time with all of them and watching them work. I enjoy making breakfast and lunch, and taking our breaks together so we can catch up for a few minutes. Maybe most of all, the closeness that comes from being in close quarters has been surprisingly wonderful. There is an upside to remote working learning.

Upside Down

In Your Neighborhood

One high school was offering an elective titled, “Home Economics”. The class included all the skills one would need to know to live on their own. Not one male student signed up. The principal changed the name of the course to, “Bachelor Living” and the class filled up fast. 

With my kids being schooled at home, I added a class to their curriculum I call, “Lessons With Lee.” Part of what I am teaching them is how things work around the house—and how to fix them. It seems to me like being handy ended with Baby Boomers, but I’m bringing’ it back. 

How handy are you? Take this quiz and see what you know about how things in your home operate, and how to troubleshoot some of them when they don’t. Don’t worry, I made this really easy to pass. 

1. A noisy refrigerator could possibly just need to be re-leveled.
T or F

2. One reason clothes may not be drying is a clogged lint filter.
T or F

3. An electrical outlet that suddenly stops working may just need the GFI switch to be reset.
T or F

4. If a deadbolt lock on a door is stiff, a shot of lubricant can usually loosen it up.
T or F

5. If your TV remote stops working (or anything requiring batteries) even after replacing the batteries, it may just need the contacts to be cleaned of corrosion.
T or F

The correct answers to all of the above question is “True”.

In Your Neighborhood

Exceed Expectations

Good customer service is simply meeting the customer’s expectations. Outstanding service that customers rave about exceeds their expectations. In 2020, these companies do it best. Who do you feel gives exceptional service? (leesilber@leesilber.com)

Publix

The theory is, the better you treat your employees, the better they treat your customers. That is the case with Publix. They consistently win awards for being a great place to work.

Valvoline

Sometimes winning over customers is simple, and if you go in for a quick oil change, you’ll usually see it in action. They smile when you drive up, they work fast, but not too fast as they thoroughly check everything and then explain it to you with respect. 

Nordstrom

Nordstrom hires good people—because it’s hard to train empathy, attentiveness, and niceness—and instructs them to use good judgement and find ways to say, “Yes” to the customer. This often means allowing people to return most anything, which increases sales and builds longterm loyalty. 

Trader Joe’s

When we wait in lines at stores, the DMV, or the airport, it’s often due to a lack of staffing. At Trader Joe’s, they overstaff so the lines aren’t long and employees are free to interact with customers. (Granted, during Covid, customers have had to wait outside, but during normal times customers encounter a friendly, knowledgable, helpful people staff and short lines.) 

Neiman Marcus 

You may be surprised to learn that a 113 year-old company is a leader in the use of technology to enhance the customer experience. They use simple things like private lockers you can charge your device in while you shop, and digital dressing rooms where customers control the lighting and can request different sizes and all check out without leaving the fitting area.

Exceed Expectations

Small Acts of Niceness

I’m always looking for little things to do that are quick and easy, but make a difference. Here’s my short list of action items for you to consider trying when you have a spare minute or three.

  1. Scroll through your contacts and choose a person you haven’t spoken to in a while and give them a call or send them a text.
  2. Fill out and send a thank you card to someone who deserves, it but likely doesn’t expect it. 
  3. Learn something new by reading an article, watching a video, or doing something you’ve never done before.
  4. Ask someone (preferable an older person) to share a life lesson they learned the hard way. Do it through Zoom or FaceTime so it’s safe.
  5. Do something nice for another person—pay for their coffee order, pay them a compliment, or pay attention to their social media posts and write a complimentary comment.
Small Acts of Niceness

In Your Neighborhood

On our podcast, “The Faster, Easier, Better Show” my co-host and I are starting a series that includes lessons learned (on efficiency) from Firefighters, Administrative Professionals, and Restauranteurs. Here’s a few of the tips we discovered. 

FIREFIGHTERS

What if we all woke up and slid down a pole into our outfit and our work for the day and equipment was all laid out and ready to go? In all seriousness, what we can do is simplify our systems (if we have one) to make getting going quicker with the least amount of steps and distractions so we hit the ground running. Another thing we can borrow from firefighters is the fact that they constantly clean and check their tools. Many of us (or our family, friends, or co-workers) put things away dirty or broken (with dead batteries, a dull blade, or a glitch). Time spent maintaining our equipment is time well spent.

ADMINISTRATIVE PROFESSIONALS

As someone who’s mother was a former executive assistant, I’ve seen how attention to detail, a can-do attitude, and left-brain thinking are superpowers. I’ve also witnessed amazing feats of resourcefulness, herculean efforts to meet unrealistic deadlines (not of their making) and an innate ability to work well under pressure. How do they do it? For one thing, they embrace technology (regardless of their age). They also work smart. They automate when possible, and save and reuse things like letters and forms as templates to save time and energy. They are meticulous and believe in triple checking things so they don’t have to be redone due to a mistake. Lastly, since they work for a boss (or bosses) they know to leave white space in their schedule in case they are asked to drop everything and deal with an unexpected project.

RESTAURANTEURS

There is so much we can learn from eateries and those that work there, I’ll skip the preamble and just jump right in. On those restaurant makeover shows on TV one common problem with failing restaurants is they have too many different items on their menu. The reasoning is, the more you offer the more ingredients you have to order and the more tools you need. Instead, focus on what you do best, what people like and want, and what’s most profitable. (Think: In and Out Burger.) Or, being able to use the same ingredients to create different dishes makes sense. (Italian restaurants can use the same sauce for a dozen different dishes.) Tools that do more than one thing also save time, and make the utensils you use the most, the easiest to get to. (I just saw a commercial for something called a Spurtle, a spatula / spoon / does-everything cooking tool. I ordered one. Just sayin’.)

Podcast: http:www.leesilber.com/podcast

In Your Neighborhood