Making a Difference (2014)

Are you making a difference in this very moment?

by Andrea Chilcote

Andrea Chilcote, Making A Difference, This Very MomentMy colleague, author Randy Hain, suggested I do an exercise. He told me to write my clients’ names on a piece of paper (I added close friends), and circle them. Then, I was to write what each one cares most about next to their circled name. Randy predicted that I would see themes.

Did I ever.

Almost without exception, everyone I listed wants to make a difference in the lives of others. How they do it varies greatly. I work with leaders who, regardless their actual job, come to work each day because they’re making a difference in the lives of those they lead. Many, including those in senior executive positions, care most about the impact they are making on the lives of their children, members of their community or even the end-user of the product or service their organization produces. One, a CEO of a thriving non-profit, says that while she’s passionate about the work of her own organization, she does what she does every day to positively affect the non-profit sector overall, because of the enormous impact it has on the lives of those in her community.

There’s a reason why this commonality exists. Making a difference is a fundamental human drive.

Recently I learned of the death of a family friend. He was the owner of an independent grocery store in the small city  in which I grew up. His obituary said the city would have been a  different place without his compassion and the help he offered to his fellow citizens. He offered credit before it was the norm, and he helped many start small businesses. This man knew his purpose, and it was very different on the surface (selling bread and green beans) than in its depth (improving lives). He made a difference, though I’m not sure he would have known he was doing so at any given time. He just followed his heart.

And that is the point of my post today.

As you go about your full lives, it is easy to lose touch with your sense of purpose. It is easy to forget the impact of a small gesture, brief glance or word of encouragement. But even as you lose touch, the energy of it lives on. Every single positive thought or action affords many reactions. In this very moment, as you read this post, you are making a difference. Your – our – power and influence is humbling.

Let the awareness of your impact fuel your future actions. We all need one another.

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This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

Right Before My Eyes

Right-Before-My-Eyesby Andrea Chilcote

What treasures might you find this holiday season if you slow down, become present, and look and listen with a wide-open heart? The following post appeared originally last-year November on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

I am not an artsy-craftsy type, though I admire the handiwork of those who are. So when my friend suggested a project that involved rocks, paints and ribbons over the Thanksgiving holiday (mostly to occupy the children), I said I would enjoy watching, not participating. Until Madison found my bird.

We have an abundance of cactus on our desert hiking paths. When the larger varieties die, their wooden skeletons often break into small sections that have an uncanny resemblance to birds. It’s a bit hard to describe that here – the connected, curved sticks form “wings” and the joints look like a bird’s head – though it takes some imagination to see these birds, even on the trail. Trust me when I say there’s a likeness, one that can be enhanced with strategically placed recycled feathers and a little paint. For some reason I enjoy finding the skeleton remnants and making these birds, and over the years I have created a few for myself and others. I had been looking for one for the past few weeks for a Christmas gift for a friend.

On the morning of the craft party, I waited inside until everyone had the supplies set up on the picnic table on our front patio. When I walked outside, I was once again invited to join the activity. Wistfully, I stated, “I would do so if I had a bird, but I’ve not been able to find one.” Immediately in response, my ten-year-old friend Madison asked:  “Is that a bird?,” pointing to a shape on a little-used patio bench. Right before my eyes, there sat the most perfect “bird” skeleton.

Had I carried that treasure back from a hike more than a year ago? Two years? I can’t even recall doing it, though I’m not suggesting that the thing just materialized that morning. Most likely I found it, tucked it in a relatively safe place in the event I was inspired to bring it to life as folk art, and promptly forgot about it. (Even though I must have walked by it a hundred times since leaving it there.)

How often is what we seek right before our eyes? Recently I was asked to make a small contribution to an upcoming release, the book Something More by Randy Hain.  He asked me to comment on the career dilemma many face when examining questions of fulfillment and purpose in life and realize that their current job doesn’t give them the things they think they want and need. In the chapter entitled “Should I stay or should I go?” Randy, the managing partner in an executive recruiting firm, states: “Some of the issues these professionals were hoping to escape also exist in their new organization … because the problem or issue frequently lies within themselves.” He talks about the importance of self awareness – and self examination – before taking action.

Randy asked about my views on this topic, and I recounted the story of a client who was working with me to decide if it was possible to leave a difficult job. As it turns out, she was also trying to decide whether or not to stay in what appeared to be an unfulfilling marriage. By taking a somewhat painful but honest look at her life, she realized what she was seeking was actually there before her. She eventually left the job but reengaged in her marriage. That was ten years ago and she’s happy today.

Since the bird’s apparent manifestation, I have been “finding” other things that I would have told you weren’t there just moments before. Yesterday I found a friend’s long-lost Maui Jim sunglasses. They were in a desk drawer that I use regularly, and I’ve known she was missing them for a year. Never mind how they got there, which is a puzzle in itself – how did I not see them before now?

I’ve written about the skewed perception that occurs during the split second it takes for data to move from the receptors of our eyes to the interpretation of our brain. I’m going to hold the discovery of a cactus remnant and pair of lost sunglasses as a metaphor to remember to ask if what I seek is already mine. Surely my lifelong goal to show up, fully present, and pay attention to what’s before me will serve this new endeavor. Certainly my practice of listening to my heart first will allow me to avoid at least some of the tricks my clever mind likes to play.

What treasures might you find if you slow down, become present, and look and listen with a wide-open heart? The exercise is not limited to inanimate objects. In fact, it can change our lives.

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Thought Leader Interview Series—with Randy Hain: This fall I began conducting a series of interviews with thought leaders in diverse fields. See this interview, featuring my colleague Randy Hain, focused on the topic of relationships and confidence.

Thought Leader Interview Series — with Randy Hain, Author of “Something More: the Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life”

 by Andrea Chilcote

This fall I’ll be conducting a series of interviews with thought leaders in diverse fields. This one, featuring my colleague Randy Hain, focuses on the topic of relationships and confidence.

Randy, you’re masterful at forming and nurturing relationships. What do you think are the key factors for success in this area?

RandyThank you for the compliment!  I certainly have tried throughout my career to build strong relationships.  I would suggest a pervasive lack of self-awareness and an unbalanced focus on our own needs are the biggest contributors to poorly done business relationships. On the flip side, I have long argued that authenticity, transparency and selflessness are the keys to building successful relationships.   Strong relationships must be built on trust and trust requires authenticity.  Don’t be afraid to be yourself!  I find transparency is also critical for relationships as it not only fosters trust when you are willing to be vulnerable, but it allows the other person to feel safe in responding candidly and openly as well.  Finally, if you desire to build a relationship that lasts, frequently ask:  “How can I help?”  This is a wonderful way to be selfless and pay it forward.  It also reflects a spirit of generosity.  There are certainly other factors to consider, but these three are the ones I consistently observe in helping people form and nurture relationships.

Trust is of course a critical component of strong relationships. When we look beyond the obvious reasons we extend trust to someone (they keep their word, walk their talk, etc…), there are more subtle, interpersonal ways in which we convey trust. Do you have an example of a way in which you or someone you admire does this?

RandyGreat question.  I think my father has long been my role model for how to build trust.  Why?  He is one of the most humble, honest and selfless men I have ever known.  He will always tell you what he really thinks in a kind way and is always the kind of person who wants to help others.  People have always been drawn to my father because he has a well-deserved reputation for being completely trustworthy.  I frequently use him as an example for my own sons as someone they should try to emulate.  In fact, I dedicated my third book, ‘Something More: The Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life” to my father.

How important is genuine self-confidence in being able to forge strong relationships with others?

RandyIn my experience, I have noticed people are typically drawn to confident people.  A self-confident person will typically be able to overcome reservations and fears about reaching out to others, especially people they don’t know well.  This confident reaching out, coupled with transparency and a selfless desire to help others, can form the necessary building blocks to lasting relationships.

You help clients increase the quality and quantity of their business relationships. What are the top mistakes people tend to make in this area, and what do you advise them to do differently?

Randy: I actually have a list!  In my opinion, here are the WORST Business Relationship Practices:

  • Only reach out when you need something.
  • Only talk about yourself.
  • Mistake connections through social media as substitutes for real relationships.
  • Avoid being personal.
  • Fail to be transparent about what you want.
  • Go from “hello” with a new contact to “I want…” without building a trusting and open relationship first.
  • Keep score.
  • Abuse your network with frequent requests.
  • Don’t follow up appropriately.
  • Fail to show gratitude.

What can you do differently?  Try these four actions:

  1. Reflect on your last five encounters with people in your business network.  What were the results?  Be honest. What can you improve? How many of your actions were on the Worst list?
  2. Ask the most honest and candid person you know to give you feedback on how you conduct relationships. Do not seek encouragement or validation. This exercise requires brutal honesty.
  3. Ask for feedback from a failed business encounter.  Ask how they perceived you. Ask how you might have approached them differently. You may not always get feedback (or like what you hear), but if they respond, the lesson is invaluable.
  4. Of course, the most obvious action is to do the opposite of every practice listed above!

Randy Hain is a Partner and co-owner of Bell Oaks Executive Search, a 43 year old national search firm and the Founder and Principal of Serviam Access, a business relationship coaching firm.  Randy serves on the boards of Growing Leaders and the Catholic Charities Atlanta Leadership Class.  He is an award-winning author with three published books and a fourth book, “LANDED! Proven Job Search Strategies for Today’s Professional” due in September. You can learn more about Randy Hain and his work at www.randyhain.com and follow his blog at The Huffington Post.