Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Sussie a Day...

My head is swimming from all the big ideas I picked up from speakers during my company’s annual meeting in mid-February. Themes from the talks are sure to come up in future blog posts but today I’m going to write about humor. (Mostly because I am in a humorless mood today!)

I’m not talking about one’s ability to tell a good joke, or put on a lampshade and become the life of the party. I’m talking about one’s openness to joy, laughter and lightheartedness even when the world seems to be crumbling down around you.

Peter McLaughlin, a management consultant for Fortune 500 companies, listed humor as one of four requirements of a successful executive or organization (the other three points being energy, positive emotions and happiness). I’d venture to say all four are interconnected.

So, despite heavy workloads and stressful work environments, McLaughlin stated that employers who put a high priority on humor and laughter had more effective and productive employees.

Let me share two examples: one work-related and one personal.

When I was in my early 30s, I ran the publishing division of a large nonprofit in Washington, DC. My boss would regularly bring staff to tears with her shouting, changing moods and unrealistic expectations. The three managers who worked for her (myself included) had to work hard not to let her negativity trickle down to our own staffs. On an especially tough day, I bought each of the women who worked for me a roll of Lifesavers candies. The levity it created buoyed us (sorry for the pun) the rest of the week.

My sister, Tessa, has been one of my greatest teachers when it comes to finding joy on a daily basis. She is known for her “sussies” or surprises — little gifts she gives to people to make them smile. She once told me she tucks a sussie into each room of her home. Whenever Tessa catches a glimpse of one, it reminds her to smile. It may be a funny photo next to her computer, or a goofy looking stuffed animal on a bookshelf. The photo to the right is a sussie that Tessa gave me. This silly looking fairy hangs above the toilet in my guest bathroom — and has brought smiles to many visitors.

Do you look for joy on a daily basis? What shape does it take? Do you think humor is an important part of your workplace?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Busy Bee, Just Be

I’m in that weird space between books – meaning I’ve finished writing one and don’t feel like starting another just yet. The manuscript is now out with a few beta readers and then the revision process will begin.

I think this ebb and flow of energy and creativity is something we all experience. We put in time and effort toward a goal – all hands on deck, so to speak – and it’s natural to feel low energy when the goal is accomplished.

It’s also natural to feel like we’re being lazy if we don’t jump right back in and DO something.

Alas, it’s the human BEING versus human DOING dilemma. The state of just being can feel unnatural because we’ve been wired (taught?) to go-go-go from morning to night. Busy, busy, busy bees, buzz, buzz, buzzing around.

So…Mondays are my dedicated ‘writing day.’ I didn’t write today – at least not fiction. I slept in, had coffee, watched the snow, baked Valentines cookies, had tea with a friend and read a book. Nothing I did had anything to do with productivity or accomplishment! Hurrah!

I even managed to ignore my work emails for most of the day.

My wish for each of you this week is to take a break from doing – at least for an hour – and just be in the moment. If we practice, maybe it will start to feel natural.