Friday, October 13, 2017

Are you talking to me or at me?

Ever have someone ask your opinion and then proceed to talk “at you?” Guess what? They really didn’t want to hear your opinion. Basically, they wanted an audience and – at that time – you were just perfect, thank you very much. The exchange was one-sided because they wanted to tell you things not hear what you had to say about anything.

The people that talk at you mistakenly believe they are having a conversation. They’re not. A conversation involves talking with people; having a discussion and exchange of ideas; everyone is equally engaged and actively participating.

When someone continually talks at you, it can get annoying. I mean, really. If you just need an audience, go stand in front of the mirror to deliver your monologue and don’t waste my time. Right? Ever feel that way? Of course, you have. I get it. People need to vent sometimes and that’s okay. If that’s the case, just tell me up front. Then I know the rules. But if you ask my opinion and then talk at me, my non-verbals will surely give away how the “conversation” is going.

Talking at someone is much less effective that talking to or with someone. Think about it. If you are so busy getting your message across, you aren’t thinking about how that message is being received or whether your remarks are appropriate or what non-verbal cues your audience is displaying or reading the messages between the lines.

And, oh the things you will hear – and learn – when you really listen to people and let them share their feedback! Two-way dialogue improves relationships with people; makes you more approachable, makes you real. Just saying.

Now go have a real conversation and have a great weekend.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Friday, October 6, 2017

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, wait. It’s a cloudy and rainy morning and another interesting commute to work is on the books. One can learn quite a bit on the morning commute – mostly behaviors you shouldn’t be emulating. I admit, my driving behavior is not always perfect, but here’s the thing. It should always be about safety – yours and everyone else’s on the road.

Seriously, there are some behaviors that fall into the category of “things that make you go hmmm.” Here are a few.

Assured clear distance – there is no doubt that keeping a reasonable distance between you and the car in front of you is necessary. After all, you never know when you are going to have to unexpectedly hit the brakes. However, nowhere have I found that assured clear distance is defined as the length of a football field. When traffic is bumper to bumper and crawling along, that kind of distance psychologically messes with the person behind you. That leads to anxiety and anger and well, you know where this is headed.

Cruising in the middle lane – NOT. There is something called “lane etiquette” and cruising in the middle lane is a violation. According to the Autoblog, traffic in the middle lane should be moving faster than the traffic on the right. If a faster car approaches from the rear and the right lane is clear – MOVE OVER. When slow moving drivers stay in the middle lane, it bogs down traffic and faster drivers start trying to pass on either side and that’s dangerous.

Multi-tasking – shaving, putting on make-up, texting – you know what I am talking about. Don’t do it! Stay focused, stay aware, be present.

Left lane campers - driving too slowly can be just as dangerous as speeding. Slow drivers that “linger” in the left lane force others to pass on the right leading to confusion, disorganization and accidents.

There you have it. A few interesting observations from this morning’s commute. My point? Be safe. Arriving at your destination a few minutes late is a small price to pay for your safety.

Have a great weekend!

Posted by MJ Thomas

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

“Couldn’t sleep at all last night…”

Anyone remember the oldie by Bobby Lewis called Tossin’ and Turnin’? Didn’t think so, BUT I’m not going to let that stop me today. Why? Because today’s blog is about sleep; more importantly lack of it and the dangers it creates.

Sleep deprivation may mean different things for different people BUT the one sure thing is that it’s not good. Lack of shut eye is linked to some major health issues including an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. And guess what? Lack of sleep can cause accidents!

In the workplace, that’s a problem. Consider these points. Sleep deprived workers communicate less, have slower response times, decreased vigilance, lack focus, make more mistakes, experience short term or working memory loss, exhibit inappropriate moodiness and the inability to adjust and are likely to take greater risks. And let’s talk about driving impairment. Twenty-two hours of sleep deprivation results in neurobehavioral performance impairments that are comparable to an 0.08 percent blood alcohol level.

In this 24/7 world we live in, everyone is trying to do more, faster, harder, non-stop. At one time, not so long ago, being able to function on only a few hours of sleep was like a badge of honor; gave you bragging rights. That’s not a badge I want to wear anymore. There’s too much at stake – for me and for my co-workers.

The National Safety Council just unveiled a Fatigue Cost Calculator tool to help address workers’ fatigue levels and begin to address sleep disorders. Input the type of industry, number of employees and the shifts they work and the tool calculates the annual costs of sleep disorders. And, oh, by the way, the estimated cost to U.S. employers is estimated (by one source) as about $18 billion!

NSC and Brigham Health (who partnered with NSC on this project) know it’s about a lot more than the money. In addition to using the tool, employers should establish sleep education programs and voluntary screening for sleep disorders. Employers need to recognize sleep disorders as a true health problem. Otherwise it won’t be a matter of if your workplace has a sleep deprived related accident but when and to what consequence.

Peaceful dreams.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Friday, September 22, 2017

What do you think?

Today’s blog is about opinions and perspective. For example, if I were to ask what you think the image pictured here represents, what would you say? A butterfly? A lobster with its claws out? A blob of ink? What? The point is there are probably many answers out there. Are they wrong? No, they’re just different. News flash! When you ask someone’s opinion, they won’t always agree with yours! Whoa.

Two people can look at the same thing and see something totally different. There’s always more than one way to get to the same place. Differences are an opportunity for learning. It’s how we handle them that makes the difference.

Different opinions in the workplace are a given. Different strokes for different folks, and so on and so on and scooby dooby doo. What really makes or breaks a situation is how we handle these differences.

Here are a few things to remember when handling different people and their views that I picked up from an article in Economic Times.

·         Respect is paramount – disagreement should never be mistaken for disrespect.
·         Look inward – it’s easy to assume the other person is wrong. But could it be that you’re being too  rigid in your stance? Try to look at things from another point of view. Set stubbornness aside and try  to understand. It could give you a new perspective.
·         Be nice – revenge, sarcasm, anger, eye rolling only serve to escalate things.

As DODINSKY, the New York Times best-selling author says, “Always remember we all have our own opinions and beliefs. We have different ways in dealing with life’s troubles and joys. To survive our differences without hurting each other is what GOODNESS is all about.”

Celebrate the differences.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Keep your eye on the ball!

As I write this, the Cleveland Indians are preparing to face the Detroit Tigers tonight and a chance to make it 22 wins in a row. In case you haven’t heard, the Indians are on a winning streak – a huge one. In fact, one that broke the American League record for straight wins.

Cause for distraction? You bet. It’s all over the media, fans are going crazy, prognosticators are prognosticating; everybody’s talking about it – except maybe the team itself. Sure, they have to talk about IT when someone sticks a microphone in their face and directly asks the question, but if you’ve been keeping track, it’s pretty clear that the team – from Manager Terry Francona on down – is more focused on the “one game at a time, show up and do your best to outplay your opponent today” goal.

Indians' right fielder Jay Bruce summed it up like this, “You know everyone talks about the streak and being consumed with it. What consumes us is the daily kind of schedule and game we have to get ready for.”

It doesn’t mean they don’t acknowledge the success or enjoy it: it just means they haven’t lost sight of the long-term goal. They stay focused. They don’t let up.

Now hang in there with me while I make a leap to connect this with your work safety program. What, you say? Told you it was a leap.

How many times have you walked through an organization and seen a sign that recognizes the number of days the facility has been accident or injury free? It’s a great thing to acknowledge and recognize; let employees know what a good job they are doing keeping everyone safe and accident free. But, you can’t let up, you can’t slack off, you can’t be lulled into complacency by the numbers. A successful safety program requires focus – each day, every day, 24/7.

Workplace safety should always be a priority. Making it so is one of the best decisions your company can make. Stay focused and stay safe.

Now, Go Tribe!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Here’s to the elder statesmen of the family!

This week’s blog isn’t about safety or the latest technology or a review of the latest headlines. It’s about grandparents. This Sunday is National Grandparents Day – a time to “honor grandparents and to help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.” Exactly.

When I think about my grandparents, who have long since passed, it brings back so many great memories and life lessons learned. My grandparents were immigrants from the “old country”; people who came through Ellis Island to America looking for great opportunity. They worked hard. They weren’t school educated, but they were wise, very wise. And that wisdom guided their children (four boys and three girls) and grandchildren to be good people, work hard, do the right thing and cherish family. They survived the great depression, losing a son in the service of his country; illness; and their faith remained unshakable. They lived to be in their 90’s: they were the best. Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a haven for “us kids” as I refer to me, my brother and my cousins. We were fortunate that we all lived close by and during the summer would meet there daily to hang out, play and most likely annoy them to the max. If we did, they never let on. Grandma was a great cook who was always feeding us. Grandpa would hand out what he called “lucky money” – a quarter here, fifty cents there and always with a wink of his eye and the “shhh” sign indicating that it was just between us. And the stories, oh the stories they would tell us; a valuable lesson in every one of them.

They instilled in us a true sense of what it means to be family – through good and bad; ups and downs; when we were lovable and when we were not so lovable. As kids, we thought they would live forever; always be there. Then they weren’t. If you are lucky enough to have your grandparents still with you, don’t take it for granted. Listen to them, learn from them, spend time with them. It will enrich your life beyond expectations.

In the words of Alex Haley, "Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." Big kids too.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

This weekend is commonly known as Labor Day Weekend, culminating in the celebration of Labor Day on Monday. It’s what the celebration is all about. Or is it?

What once was a celebration of the efforts and contributions of working men and women in America, has become synonymous with the end of summer, the start of another school year, the onset of football season, barbecues, a three-day weekend and sales, sales, sales.

That’s quite an evolution from its original purpose. Interesting when you think about how much time we spend at work throughout the year. One study shows that the average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. It also points out that 80 percent of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. When you consider that as of July 2017, there were more than 160 million people in the civilian labor force in the US, that’s a lot of unhappy people! So, what’s to celebrate?

According to the Department of Labor, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Amen. No matter how you choose to celebrate Labor Day 2017, let’s take a minute to remember the real reason we commemorate the day.

By the way, ever wonder where the whole “can’t wear white after Labor Day” thing started? It was a silly rule started with the vacationing elite; the ones who left the city for a summer at the cottage on the ocean or a cabin in the mountains. They could afford lighter fabric, white articles of clothing associated with summer months. But at the end of summer – signified by Labor Day – it was time to return to reality and the summer wardrobes were exchanged for “real life” clothes. If you wore white after Labor Day, it was thought you were still vacationing. Thankfully, that rule has gone by the wayside. Who thinks this stuff up anyway?

Wishing you a safe and happy Labor Day.

Posted by MJ Thomas