Published May 29, 2014 by
Start At The Same Place, Reconcile Your Differences, Move Forward

Over the last several months, I have received many request from people asking for all sorts of advice.  The requests come from young people just starting out, mid-career people looking for a good next step, and senior people asking me about how I made my career transition after a long corporate career.  Some of the people I know and some I have never met.  Many are coming from people who read this blog, read my book, or found me on various social media outlets.  I am flattered that people think I can help.When people come to me for advice,  I like to start out using my mantra “help me help you.” A good leader, teacher, or coach who truly wants to help others should start out with a sense of what the individual believes they need to improve or what they need to do to change the course of their career.  Getting an individual’s self assessment gives the manager the raw material to get started.

Organizations typically refer to these efforts as “development.” Think of how many times you have heard about “child development” or “professional development.” Many organizations actually have a position called something like “Director of Learning and Development.” Yes, it might be good to have such a “department” responsible for guiding people along, but getting better at what you do
and making sure those around you do the same, should be everyone’s responsibility.


I am not trained in development. I became good at it simply by doing it. I tried lots of things that didn’t work so well and some that have worked very well for many
years. I have had the benefit of the occasional training class on this sort of thing but most of my advice to you comes straight from my own experiences. Remember, my
whole career evolved not from planning but simply from being willing to “do whatever it takes,” admitting what I didn’t know and then figuring it out.

Remember that all ships really do rise together.  Look around and see who you might help.  Don’t wait for some bureaucrat to tell you to go to a class or worse, that same bureaucrat one day tells you that you are not performing as expected.  Ask Ask Ask

Son of a Postman


Available now in paper on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com and in Kindle format
 


 

Mentoring

Published May 28, 2014 by

Appropriate Questions, Wrists Flapping, Focus Only On The Positives

Picture me at a dinner seated at a table for 11.  The table consisted of 5 couples and me, the perpetual single.  Even at my advanced age I still get pangs of anxiety when I attend events primarily populated with couples.  I have previously written about the challenges that “the single” faces both socially and in the workplace.

Several of my dinner mates were long time friends while others were hopefully to become my new friends. A good time was being had by all and suddenly one of my new friends addresses a question to me.  “Are you gay?”  Pause. Breathe. Breathe Again.

Please note that I was not wearing a dress, makeup, or unmanly shoes.  I don’t recall my wrists flapping excessively and I didn’t wear an ascot nor do I own one.   Oh well.  Pause, Breathe, Deeper Breath, Respond.

My mates and I discussed this harmless question and we didn’t think it was mean spirited.  It was a reflection of the openness and kindness that I strive to display when meeting new people.  It usually helps newcomers feel comfortable in my company.

We pondered other scenarios.  If a woman sat at our table wearing a wig or having her head covered for a religious or medical reason would someone say “are you an orthodox jew?” or “do you have cancer?”   Are these questions the same as saying  to someone “when did you get that tattoo of a woman’s breast put on your face” or “do you have an eating disorder because you are painfully thin?”

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions but I do know that I did feel somewhat uncomfortable with the question.  I don’t fault the questioner but myself for momentarily thinking the motivation was macho or condescending.

When you are gay, you often get this question positioned as an attack to remind you that you are less than normal, or perhaps your contribution is somehow to be discounted.  It can take a lifetime to get it in perspective and learn to just let it go.  At this event, I know that my conversation was interesting and very amusing.  Perhaps the questioner just wanted me to yield the floor so he could speak?

I tell this story to amuse you but more importantly to remind you should always be mindful of the things you say in front of your students, teammates, children, and your employees.   When you are in a position of leadership, everyone is always listening.

Say what you like to strangers but try to be compassionate and kind.

Son of a Postman

Available now in paper on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com and in Kindle format
 

Best Practices

Published May 27, 2014 by

The Rules?, Your Attitude, Your Long Happy Life

Friends of mine were recently married and I attended their wedding. Some other friends joked that I shouldn’t be going to weddings any more. “At your age you should be going to retirement parties.”  I am unaware of the guidelines related to age appropriate social events.  Perhaps I can purchase a manual?

When I tell people that I have “retired” they think that means I am sitting on a beach and no longer have any interests or stress. We all know that “retired” has a new meaning for most people whether it happens at age 50 or 80.  Most “retired” people are now busier and have more opportunities to learn, grow, and help others ever before.

I have stopped using the word “retired” when describing my life.  It seems to prompt people to say things that can feel insulting.  I now focus on a short summary of the work I do now rather than even mention things of the past.   It feels more comfortable to focus on today with an eye toward tomorrow.  Yesterday is over.

I find it fascinating when people tell me that they could never “retire” from their life long career because they fear that they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.  These people should focus on all the amazing opportunities to mix things up, expand their brains, and even help those in need.

Who makes these rules? For all of my life I have lived by my own rules, my own schedule, and my own sense of age appropriate.  I continue to believe that we should all live in a “room without a roof.”  You should continue to believe that you can do whatever you desire. 

I am doing research for a book on “diversity” and one of my focuses is on working with and managing “older” people.  We all know the list of reasons why the workforce in aging.  Recently, I have been reading a book called “Aging As A Spiritual Practice” by Lewis Richmond.  If you want to know what you need to do to remain vital as you age, this is the book for you.

Richmond cites that you need to conquer “the Five Fears”.   They are Fear of Death, Illness, Losing One’s Mind, Livelihood, and Fear of Public Speaking.  This list may feel overwhelming but if you pause and think about each of these, most are not so difficult to overcome especially if you maintain a life rich with “work,” endless possibilities, and healthy relationships.

I find the more important and constructive advice from Richmond’s book to be about the “lifestyle” things your should be doing to keep yourself happy, healthy, and relevant.  Many of these are obvious like attention to diet, exercise, stress levels, recreation, and fostering healthy relationships both with others, yourself, and spiritually.

I especially like the advice to spend more “time in nature” and to serve others.  I continue to find spending time outdoors (and taking lots of long conscious deep breaths) to be extremely invigorating and reignites my sense of endless possibilities.  Serving others may have been something I have always done in some form,  but serving those less fortunate than myself has always given me a turbo charge.  I believe that I get more personal satisfaction and happiness than those I am hoping to help.

Its great when a young person asks me “how did you get so good at this” or “how can I be like you.”   I always tell them that there is no reason they can’t be even better………regardless of their age.

Son of a Postman

 

 

Experience/Seniors

Published May 23, 2014 by

Anger Management, The Enemy Is You, Learn How To React

I have spent much of my life actively dealing with anger issues. It gets activated when I don’t like how I am being treated or if I feel the need to defend others.
The good news is that I recognize my reactions and I am working to pause
consciously and breathe before flipping out.   I have worked so much on “self-regulation” and I know it is working.  My relationships with others is so much better now.

I just finished reading a book titled “Love Your Enemies” written by Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman.  I hope you are not surprised to hear that the only real enemy you have is yourself.  Others that you believe are your enemies are only that way because you let them have that affect on you.   Simple!  

“There is a story about the Buddha that points to such wisdom.  One day the Buddha was walking across a plot of land when a man came up and angrily started shaking his fist in the Buddha’s face, saying he has no right to be walking there.  The Buddha looked at the man a said, “Tell me, if you prepared a lovely gift for someone, and you reached out to give it to them but they refused to accept it, to who, would the gift belong?”  “To me, of course,” the man replied.  “Just so,” the Buddha said.  “I’m not accepting your gift of your anger.  Therefore, it remains with you.”  (from “Love Your Enemies”)

If you expect to parent, teach, coach, or manage others and get the most out of them, using anger as a motivational tool will not be effective. It has always amazed me that so many people don’t get this at all!

Anger-based
responses never work, are counterproductive and alienate people.
Reactions based on anger also degrade a manager’s or leader’s
effectiveness and credibility. 
Plus, you just feel real bad after you do it.

Son of a Postman

Best Practices Conflict

Published May 22, 2014 by

John Travolta, Remembering Names, Go With The Flow

Surely you heard about how John Travolta screwed up that name of the singer Idina Menzel at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony?  It got so much attention.  It is the best thing that ever happened to this woman’s career.  She has been on every talk show, news program, radio show and in every newspaper, magazine and social media outlet.  Good for her!

This brings me to the topic of remembering names.  So many people struggle with this especially when in business or social situations where you are introduced to several people all at once.  Why is it that some people are really good at this?  Are they really good at it or do they have techniques for going back an asking a second time?  Do they have someone over their shoulder helping them like the character Meryl Streep played in “The Devil Wears Prada?”  Those who are truly good at this are truly blessed.  I don’t know one of these people.

I believe you give it your best and then find a time to go back and ask the person for their name a second time.  I think the “I’m sorry, I’ve already forgotten your name” is a great and endearing way to get to know someone just a little better.  They will appreciate your humility and honesty.  This technique should help you then really remember their name.  Even if this doesn’t work, don’t sweat it.  You get many points for trying.

You can take courses, scan the internet, and read books to help you get better at this but I think you should worry about more important issues.  Just breathe, remain calm, and smile.  All is OK.  It is more important that you talk to people, show an interest in them, and be present in the conversation.

For those of you who would like the “John Travolta” translation of your
name there are many places to get that.  My favorite is the “Adele Dazeem Name Generator” where you can “Travoltify Your Name.”    My name is Kayden Allorn!   You try it!

Son of a Postman  (Shawn Orteez!)

 

 

Uncategorized

Published May 21, 2014 by

Giving, Receiving, Sleeping

Recently I have been traveling around having “events” for my
book.  I do a short talk, make people laugh, and then donate the proceeds from the book sales to a charity.  I have a friend who refers to these events as “salons.”  That does sound fancy but the reality is that they are just great parties with a little bit of me and my book thrown in.  I get to see so many people from my past and present all mixed together in one room. 

I have given this “talk” six times.  Last week, I reached out to several people asking for honest feedback.  I want to improve, I am insecure, I know others no better so it is completely natural for me to make this request.  I even got some feedback from people who had only met me the night they heard me speak.  It is great.  I got the good and the bad.  I now have a revised and better talk.  People pointed out patterns in my story telling and important things about the book that I neglected to highlight.

Doesn’t Everyone do this?  I don’t think it happens as much as it should.  People are afraid if they challenge authority it will negatively impact their future.  I know people who live in constant fear of their leaders.  People are reluctant to ask for feedback because they are not sure they can handle the response.  Some are reluctant to offer colleagues feedback for fear of stepping over some boundary.

If it involves honest feedback up, over, or down, many people would rather be miserable and treated unfairly.  The times in my career when I was most unhappy was when there was an absence of feedback.  I would suddenly find out that things had changed or promises were to be broken.  Often, I would then learn that I wasn’t doing as expected or what I was doing was no longer important.  It was all decided before it was delivered.  It sucked.  There was never an opportunity to improve.

A friend asked me what advice he could give to a group of your people in his company.  I told him that the most important thing they can do is insist on getting feedback.  Don’t wait around for some date on the calendar.  Make it happen in real time.  Don’t be afraid to give your feedback to others including your boss. How else can you expect to be noticed?  At a minimum, knowing where you stand will help you sleep better and a rested person is always more productive.

One quick story!  I was coaching a high school student on how to talk about herself for interviews.  I prepared a script based on what she had told me during a previous meeting.  I had her read aloud but she abruptly stopped.  She told me that one of my sentences was poorly constructed and awkward to speak aloud.  SNAP!!!  I could not have been more pleased.  She was totally correct.  Somehow I have created an environment where these kids know they can push back.

Son of a Postman
Available now in paper on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com and in Kindle format

 

Feedback

Published May 15, 2014 by

Leveraging Others, Leave It Outside, I Am Getting Better

As you know, when I read the thoughts of others, I share especially when they are so effectively expressed clearly and with few words.   I often share the ideas of Seth Godin and a recent post of his is great.

EMOTIONAL HANDWASHING

“Emotions are far more contagious than any disease. A smile or a
panic will spread through a group of people far faster than any virus
ever could.
When you walk into the office or a negotiation, then, wash your bad
mood away before you see us. Don’t cough on us, don’t sneeze on us,
sure, but don’t bring your grouchiness, your skepticism or your fear in
here either. It might spread.”
I have been so guilty of schlepping my negative baggage to places where I should I checked it at the door or with some gate agent.  The understanding and practice of Mindfulness has been a huge help in my development.  Just recognizing that you do it will set you free.
Mindfulness is all over the press, corporations are hiring Mindfulness teachers to increase productivity.  (MINDFULNESS AT WORK)

I just find it makes me a more pleasant person.

Son of a Postman

 

 

Uncategorized

Published May 8, 2014 by

Take The Test, Learn The Lingo, Learn About Yourself

You can talk until you are blue in the face, but if people have to struggle to understand half the words you are saying or the expressions you keep using, you shouldn’t be surprised that they are not getting your point.
                                          

This is a big issue to me.  A mantra of mine (among a few others) is: “Speak clearly and use terms that people can understand. Avoid special lingo and acronyms.”  It is
especially true if you work in a global organization or at a place where the people (or students) may speak more than one language (like schools).  


I often tell people that they need to communicate as if they were speaking on the evening news.  You want people to hear your message, so it is wise to use words that people understand readily.   If you think using code words, acronyms, or technical terms makes you look more credible, you are mistaken.

As for “text-ese,” I understand that it developed so you could write a quick message without the need to type every entire word into your palm-sized gadget.  The concern I have is that texting has become the only way many adults and children communicate in writing. I wonder, how many children will never fully develop their verbal and written skills and how many adults will lose theirs?

A good friend send me a clever questionnaire from “The Atlantic”  Magazine.  It is pretty clever and it can give you some insight about your use of language and the type of person that you are!

Quiz: What Kind of Office Speak Dominates Your Brain? – Atlantic Mobile

Its a fun midweek this to do!

Son of a Postman

 

 

Uncategorized

Published May 6, 2014 by

Happy, Pharrell Williams, Your Mantra

Since I wrote about “mean” yesterday, it is appropriate that today I focus on “happy.”

You may be practically deaf or a recluse if you have not heard the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.  I find both Pharrell and the song very inspiring.  Pharrell Williams is a long time producer who has an impressive and heartwarming attitude about success, talent, luck, and supporting others.  The song has all kinds of uplifting lyrics about simply being happy.  My favorite line is “Clap Along If You Feel Like a Room Without A Roof.”

I haven’t always felt like my life has been a “room without a roof” but I definitely feel like that now.  Life is now full of endless possibilities.  I have found ways to make people laugh, get inspired, get new jobs, while I explore all sorts of new things.  I do all of this without the constraints of corporate chains or endless meetings.  I am free to do this with whomever, whenever, and however I chose.   I am very grateful for this luxury.

What is particularly great is the immediate feedback from those who consume whatever it is I have on offer.   Those I help, make laugh, connect, or those I try to help better themselves are very direct with their feedback.   They let me know if they appreciate my advice, like what I have written, or appreciate the opportunities I present for them to consider.  I no longer have to wait for some august committee or entitled boss to validate my contribution.  Immediate gratification (or ridicule) and direct feedback are wonderful things.   It all makes me Happy!

The place I get the most immediate and honest feedback is from the NYC High School kids that I am coaching to perfect their interviewing skills.  They tell me about themselves and I filter their honesty so that what they say to others might increase their chances of getting a job or getting into a desired school.  At the end of our work together, each student gets a list of finely tailored talking points that are answers to typical interview questions.

What I love about this work is hearing each student read aloud my written translation of what they have told me about themselves. For them it is like reading their own biography for the first time. The kids smile, some get chocked up, and some shed a few tears. They all seem to think it is pretty cool. Many say, “you really make me sound great.” How can this not make anyone HAPPY?

Last week a young woman came to see me for the first time.  I mentioned to her that she must be a happy person because I had just finished working with her two very happy best girlfriends.  Her response, ” Happy?  No reason not to be!”

As Pharrell would say “Clap Along If You Know What Happiness Is To You”

Son of a Postman

 

Uncategorized

Published May 5, 2014 by

Losing My Rhythm, Commitments, Why Be Mean?


It has been a few weeks since I have posted to this blog.  It has tortured me most days.  I had this sense of performance anxiety.  I feel a strong allegiance to my readers.  This feeling is not dissimilar to the commitment and responsibility that I felt towards those I managed for so many years.  It is a commitment I continue to have to helping so many who call me for advice.

Call me crazy or idealistic or just plain stupid, but being loyal and supportive has always felt right to me.  If you read my book or know anything about me, you know that I believe that your best leadership triumphs and your most profitable business successes come from managing from the bottom up, being available, and nurturing those who work for you.

Lately, I have also heard lots of stories about leaders and managers just being mean.  What is that about?  What does that accomplish?  Mean may get you some short term results but is it worth it to make people feel bad?  Is the mean and nasty leader truly happy?  I saw this often and I never understood it.   The best is when these meanies are perfectly pleasant to those above them?   PAUSE!

I actually thought about discontinuing this blog but I see now that perhaps I have lots more to say!  I am already feeling better just writing this short post.  It has energized me to tell more stories, share others great insights, and get back on my bike (or pedestal) and tell you what I think might help you be a better teacher, parent, coach, or manager.

I am just back from a Yoga retreat and breathing deeply. Namaste.

Son of a Postman

 

 

Uncategorized