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Posts Tagged ‘september 11th’

Retaining Employees is Everyone’s Job

Questioning Your Purpose

What to say about September 11th, this year, didn’t come to me until I was standing in front of a client’s leaders, talking with them about retaining employees and what they could do to become an even better place to work.

Their office isn’t too far from Shankesville, PA, where flight 93 crashed on September 11th, so they seemed like the right group with whom to share my story. Then I decided that perhaps I should share it with you too.

I bought my first house in Denver in 1999 and went on vacation shortly after closing on the house. Right before I left, my manager told me he had too many direct reports and was putting a layer between us. I’d have a new boss when I came back from my vacation.

Two weeks later, I returned to my new manager and found her to be defensive, paranoid, and irrational – in short, impossible to work with. I did everything I knew to work well with her, calling on our HR department and the EAP counseling available to me, for help. Despite that I led communication skills training for the company and taught conflict resolution, I couldn’t work with her, and let my old boss know I’d be leaving.

I suspect he already knew my new boss wasn’t going to work out (I wasn’t the only person struggling to work with her), and offered me a position in our New York office. He told me that if after 90-days I wanted to return to Denver, I could. Ninety-days in New York with all my expenses paid or unemployment with no plan? The choice was clear. I went to New York and moved into my office in Tower Two of the World Trade Center, where I worked on September 11th.

I’m not proud of uprooting my whole life for a manager I couldn’t work with, and it’s not something I recommend others do. But it does demonstrate the difference one person can make. I never actually lived in that first house I bought. I accepted a permanent job in New York, but wasn’t ready to let go of my life in Denver. So I struggled with the decision of whether to stay in New York or return to Denver, for three years.

It’s normal to question our purpose and wonder if we make a difference. If you ask these questions, consider all the people you work with on a daily basis and how you impact their daily lives. We spend a huge portion of our existence at work, and how we interact with coworkers, customers, direct reports, and vendors impacts their happiness, or lack thereof, in a big way.

Don’t underestimate the difference you make when you smile at someone in the hallway at work, or don’t. When you thank someone for making your job easier, or don’t. When you take the time to teach someone a quicker way to do something, saving him countless of hours, or don’t. Regardless of your title and position in your organization, you impact the people around you in a huge way, every day.

During last week’s training in Pennsylvania, I talked about the four things essential to retaining employees.

Retaining employees –the four things employees need to be satisfied and engaged at work:

  • I trust the leaders who run this organization.
  • My opinion means something. I am listened to.
  • I feel respected (by my manager). We have a good working relationship.
  • My work is challenging and interesting. My career is going somewhere here.

If you’re a manager working on retaining employees, spend time with your employees. Ask questions about their career goals. Take the time to coach and give feedback. If you’re a senior leader committed to retaining employees, be visible. Walk around your office(s), addressing employees by name, and asking about their daily work. And if you’re not in a position of leadership, be easy to work with by keeping your commitments, being a short cut and providing information when you can, and offering to help employees who are overwhelmed. Retaining employees is not just a manager’s job. Every person we work with impacts our daily lives more than we know.

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Commemorating September 11th

Every year on September 11th I appreciate being alive and wonder why I’m not dead. I worked in the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001. Tower Two. I was out of town that day. I easily could have been there, but was not. And each year I ask myself the same questions.

How is the world different because I lived on September 11th when others died? What have I done in the last 12 months to make the world smaller and to build community each time I get on a plane, walk in a store, meet someone new and have a conversation? Where have I played small?  Said yes when I meant no?  Said no when I wanted to say yes? Or didn’t say anything at all?

The further we get from September 11th the more it impacts me. I’m struck by the people who died and didn’t finish what they started. I’m struck by human being’s continued approach to solving problems with violence. And each year I debate how to mark the day.

I think about marking the day privately, in my own way. But I always feel compelled to reach out. For me September 11th is the outcome of a lack of community and thus it is a public conversation.

Each year I reach out to my friends and colleagues at OppenheimerFunds who shared the days after September 11th. I let them know I’m grateful for them and I’m happy they’re alive. I remember my mother’s panicked call needing to confirm that I was indeed out of town on September 11th, and what it must be like for a parent to fear her child is in harm’s way. And then I reflect on my year.

Perhaps September 11th is my day of atonement. It is the day every year on which I reflect on my contribution to the world and how the world is or is not different because I am in it. What difference have I made, will I make? What am I doing that I love and who am I doing it with?

I will leave you with this. What are you doing that’s important to you, today? What are you doing that’s not? How did you make the world smaller, today?

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