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Bullet Train

When Passion Gets Derailed

Passion is a bullet train, speeding down a track that you think you know all too well.  Your train is well supplied, brimming with the resources and technology needed to keep it going at full speed.  The path is seemingly predictable, as passion doesn’t deviate from its target, so too does a train not derail from its track.

However, what your train never sees coming, whether because of its velocity or its inherent belief that it can’t be stopped, is the one thing that will always stop it.  For a train, that one thing can be any number of problems or objects, from a mechanical failure to a collision.  Similarly, the derailment of passion can be caused by any number of problems, but they all result in the same endings: disappointment, pain, and disorientation.

My train was derailed last Friday, when I resigned from an organization that I had stuck by for 3 years.  Resigning from any position with that type of tenure is difficult, but resigning from a position that was fueled by passion and love for the organization is even worse.  My derailment began with not being promoted within the organization, despite my passion and its physical embodiments.  Tenure seemed not to matter, nor hard work; being the first one to arrive and the last one to leave meant nothing in this environment.  My plans and ideas, putting pen to paper to express what my passion meant, carried no weight.  My references and what others could say about the quality of my work, my determination, and my accomplishments had no impact.  In essence, my derailment was laid out ahead of me, and despite my best preparations, there was no way to avoid the conclusion.

Now of course there were mistakes of my own.  Did I throw too much coal in the engine?  At times, yes, and I let my intensity get the better of me.  Were my dreams of what the destination looked like too grandiose?  Perhaps, and so my ideas may have been perceived as unattainable or unrealistic.  And while I recognize these shortcomings, I do not credit them solely with my downfall; rather I see them as just a little rust on the wheels, issues I didn’t see until after the crash.

Maybe more importantly, the derailment occurred because the track was broken from the beginning.  Having been with the organization since freshmen year and visualizing the destination, I could never have foreseen the problems and issues that would occur years down the line.  By the time I realized the problems were there, it was too late to divert the train.  My fate had been sealed.

So what’s the lesson here?  To speed down the tracks slower or maybe get a different mode of transportation?  I don’t believe that will solve the problem.  In fact, I truly believe that passionate people get the most done when they are speeding down their defined track.  When everything is working as it should, they are able to cruise along and meet every deliverable, create fresh ideas, and add value at every twist and turn.  Some people will get hurt, as I have, and it will take time to redirect my passion into something else.  At this point, that’s all I can do; I can’t afford to just lay by the side of the track.

All in all, I don’t regret having spent the time that I did with this organization.  I know it’s in good hands with a leader who shares my vision and will be around long after I’m gone.  I have many other opportunities to pour my heart and soul into.  I keep the company of great friends from that organization.  However, I will not forgive nor forget what those at the top did to put me in this situation.  In addition, I can’t say that I will be at the same level of happiness working on anything else, not for a long time anyways.  And despite my best intentions, I don’t know if my new “bullet train of passion” will ever be as fast or as sleek running on a different track.  I just don’t know, at least not until I reach my destination.

Inspiration for innovative employees

Why good employees leave your organization (and how to stop them!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a successful organization when I came across this article on LinkedIn.  In the post, Vartika Kashyap describes a few key reasons why good employees leave organizations and I can’t disagree with any of them.  Between unnecessary rules, not recognizing contributions, promoting the wrong people, and neglecting their personal growth, organizations and companies that practice these bad habits (including organizations I’ve worked for), put themselves at a real disadvantage when it comes to hiring and retaining talented associates.

However, I’ve also worked for some really great employers.  Employers who fix all the above faux pas of their lesser counterparts are definitely ones to keep your eyes on.  These organizations know the value of human capital, and they won’t disregard the contributions or talents of their star employees.  All in all, I think Vartika hits the nail on the head with why an employer would drive away quality employees, but this article would be pretty short if I didn’t add a fifth element.

Encompassing all the above factors, the fifth reason why good employees leave organizations is that the organtizations themselves are not innovative.  How can innovation contribute to employee retention and goodwill?  By promoting and fostering the other four factors!

Innovation that Inspires

Think about it:  an innovative company will create rules and guidelines which don’t hamper creativity and productivity but foster it.  Innovation means recognizing the amazing contributions of fellow associates and promoting them to realize their full potential.  Innovation also means creating engaging and stimulating activities, processes, and systems which enhance the personal growth of employees.  When a company or organization fosters a culture of innovation, it strives to do its best by its employees, and in turn promotes a co-creation of value between the two; a symbiotic relationship forms with mutual benefits between individuals and the larger governing organizations that encompass them.

Constant, Gentle Pressure

As for how to stimulate this symbiotic relationship and create a culture of innovation, I’ll take a page from one of my idols whom I’ve written about a few times before.  Danny Meyer, restaurateur and entrepreneur extraordinaire, invented the idea of a “constant, gentle pressure” for implementing change within an organization.  Through employees and managers who strive for continuous improvement, never forcefully but always consistently, an organization can strive to be its best and never rest on its laurels.  This type of culture is one that’s inspiring to employees, not off-putting, and one that will attract and retain the best talent, not drive it away.

At the end of the day, associates deserve an innovative culture because it’s the fountain from which the other attractive qualities of a compelling organization flow.  When you add in that constant, gentle pressure, you get a fountain that overflows with the stuff of great organizations.

Kindness means Business

The Business of Being Kind

Like most everyone, I’ve received a lot of advice over the years, coming from a variety of sources and spanning the spectrum between incredibly useful and incredibly useless.  Furthermore, and not to get too technical here, but all the advice I’ve received lines up on a bell-shaped curve, which is slightly skewed toward the “bad” advice end, with only a few good solid pieces sticking out as outliers over on the “good” side.  Some time ago, I came across some really great advice from one of my supervisors where I currently work and I only recently began integrating that advice into my life.  Furthermore, the advice is so simple, so easy to implement and yet so important to my current situation and future aspirations that I am kicking myself for not realizing and taking to heart that advice sooner.

So what is this magical piece of advice?  Be kind.

Just two words, but two words that have so much impact and so much meaning if utilized to the extent that they are meant to be.   Being kind means having compassion and consideration for other people and things.  Being kind means empathy, not apathy.  Being kind is so easy to do if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and reflect on their experiences the best you can.  Finally, and here’s where the lesson comes in, being kind is extremely beneficial in the workplace.

Don’t believe me?  Well we all know you might despise Craig from the marketing department or that you think your boss Jeff is a moron, but research from a variety of universities shows that a workplace culture that stresses kindness and forgiveness translates into higher productivity, higher self-worth and confidence, and a better-perceived image of management.  This type of research comes to fruition and bubbles to the top through conferences like those held at Stanford University (https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/psychology-kindness-workplace) which held a “Compassion and Business” conference back in 2013, bringing together the best of psychology and business to stress the need for kindness in the office environment.  It’s fantastic when businesses and universities can conduct and support this type of research and share their results for the benefit of so many people.

What is even more fantastic is that I think my company has a terrific culture centered on kindness toward employees and other stakeholders.  As an employee, my supervisors take great care to make sure I’m doing work that I like, that I get the necessary time off I need to take care of my other commitments, and that I’m happy too.  That level of care translates to more productivity on my part, in addition to a higher overall level of happiness.

Moreover, being kind has implications for what I hope to accomplish and how I hope to behave in the future.  As a hospitality professional, being kind and considerate to all guests is paramount to guest satisfaction and repeat business.  As I wrote in my last post, one of the ways to add hospitality to your own life is to be kind and considerate, and that goes for employees of hospitality organizations in addition to the everyday person.  My kindness in every guest interaction is so important, so reflective of my own personality and the culture of whatever company I represent, that it should take on more meaning in organizational culture that I believe it currently does.  For many organizations, the emphasis on kindness and the guest experience is there, demonstrated most beautifully when I worked for Marriott International.  For other organizations, the emphasis is not there and I think we’ve all worked for one organization or another that has that lack of focus on kindness.

Unfortunately, the lesson in kindness has come too late in my life to rectify mistakes I have made, some quite recently.  The good news is that orienting oneself towards being kind doesn’t take that much time or effort to do and I’ve begun trying to do just that for myself.