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  • feedwordpress 13:50:06 on 2018/09/18 Permalink
    Tags: Philadelphia Business Journal,   

    Impression Management 

    The client wanted me to turn eight unprofessional storytellers into professional storytellers in four hours. At completion, her company had hired a professional video crew to tape these people telling their stories in two minutes or less, based on the tips we shared with them. The plan was to show their finished video stories at a corporate meeting. The crew was available for two hours, so the client said surely, I had plenty of time.

    Realizing she didn’t understand the time frame wasn’t realistic, I offered options including bringing multiple coaches with me, so we had more time to help each individual shape, craft and practice delivering their stories.

    The client didn’t want to pay for multiple coaches.

    I suggested that we prepare over multiple days.

    The client said they didn’t have more than a day. She said when they recorded their stories on video, I would be there to coach them through, so they would be receiving professional help.

    Besides, she wondered, if eight stories are less than two minutes long, that’s sixteen minutes. She pointed out the camera crew is there for two hours, so even if it takes some longer than others, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to have everyone tape their stories. She said that’s what her boss wants.

    No matter who her boss is, it’s not realistic.

    Telling a clear, crisp concise story is not a born trait. It’s something learned, honed and practiced. With instruction, worksheets, some pre-work and a very structured session plan, I was confident I could help them tell their stories more effectively than when they first walked into the room.

    However, even seasoned professionals often need multiple takes and on-the-spot coaching requires starting and stopping. Expecting people with no real experience to sit in front of a camera and recite their stories on video to be shown at a corporate meeting is completely unrealistic.

    My client is what some would call a very ambitious worker who simply wants to know how to move a project forward in a way that gives the impression she is right on top of it. She wants to appear cutting edge.  The one who comes through. The term for this is impression management.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a great impression. Most of us try to put our best foot forward so people will like us or feel they can count on us. Impression management is very important for leaders who want others to follow. But there must be a balance between authenticity and impression.

    In this case, the client could inadvertently be setting me up to fail, which will backfire on her. Instead of nailing it and impressing her boss, if we don’t deliver exactly what she wants, she will look bad. She will blame poor outcomes on us, even though she failed to heed our advice or speak up on our behalf.

    Impression management is defined as: “a process whereby someone tries to influence the observations and opinions of others about something”. For example, a manager might attempt to control information provided by a consultant, to give their boss the most favorable impression about what they can deliver.

    Baylor University Professor John Carlson has studied this behavior in the workplace and calls it “deceptive impression”. In his research, he labels people like my client “sycophant” which typically means brown noser. Carlson calls sycophancy the most highly used form of impression deception. He says these people do not provide genuine opinions or honest feedback to their superiors, for example, enthusiastically endorsing their superior’s idea even when they don’t like it.

    Interestingly, he concludes that sycophancy, has no significant effects on the relationship between the supervisor and supervisor’s evaluation of the subordinate’s performance.

    That leads me to believe the real losers are program participants and other employees, who could be reaping far more benefits if their superiors communicated clearly.

    In a similar event earlier this year, our team was hired to provide presentation training for a senior group of leaders. The client wanted us to teach her team how to become better presenters and provide “techniques to communicate messages”. Yet, she was unavailable for planning calls, didn’t respond to e-mails and despite repeated calls, failed to provide materials to help us prepare.

    After the program she said, “this was a terrific program and we all benefited greatly”, but observed the agenda “didn’t allow enough time for new comprehensive message development to be incorporated into the training”.

    On Sunday night, the evening before the program, she sent our lead trainer a multi-page wordy document of talking points and potential messages. No direction, no context. It was lengthy, written in corporate speak and difficult to understand. Then, without informing us, she sent the same document to her team. She instructed them to read it, use it to develop and write their own messages and bring it with them the next morning.

    These are people who have no experience with message development. They came to the program confused, stating they didn’t understand what they were supposed to do.

    What the client wanted and what she communicated to us were very different. Had she explained she was after comprehensive message development and subsequent presentation of those messages, we would have advised and structured differently.

    Like storytelling, message development takes time and is critical to an organization’s branding and marketing. Trying to do everything in one day is not realistic.

    Marge Piercy wrote a poem called To be of use. In it, she talks of people who strain in the mud and muck to move things forward. She writes “The work of the world is common as mud. Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.”

    Chances are, both clients want to do well. Like many, they are probably inundated, overwhelmed and buried in more work than they can handle. Hiring you is something they were told to do. Now that they’ve checked that box, they just want you to show up and deliver so they can focus on other things.

    The key to any successful project is clear concise communication. If outcomes fall short, sometimes it’s not a reflection on the work your team is doing, which is not to say that all of us should always be open to suggestions that help us improve.

    In case you’re wondering, the storytelling program was a huge success. Given the limited amount of time to turn inexperienced communicators into great storytellers, they did exceptionally well. The client said she was happy and her boss was pleased. However, she added, this should have been spread out over several days as they really needed more time.

    As for the other client, who was also trying to do so much in so little time, we set up a call and she took our advice. She wants us to allocate more time to facilitate message development with multiple teams before trying to help them deliver.

    Go figure. Sometimes, things just work out as they should.

     
  • feedwordpress 03:09:45 on 2018/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , Philadelphia Business Journal   

    Staying Present in the Moment 

    It was early January and everyone in my family was sick. It was that awful coughing, sneezing, wheezing respiratory wipe you out type sick. In my case, it seemed all I could do was sleep. No matter how much sleep I got, I needed more. I would sleep twelve hours and then need to take a nap.

    I started to worry about myself, but everyone around me kept telling me to listen to my body. It had been an emotional and stressful time as my father had just died. My mother was staying with us. People were constantly in the house paying their condolences and there were a lot of details to attend to.

    I decided to heed the advice and give myself a break. So, I slept and slept and slept some more. I felt a little better, but the fatigue hung on. I told myself it would just take time.

    Fast forward to about ten days later. My husband and I were invited to a surprise birthday party for a close friend. I still wasn’t feeling well but didn’t want to miss it. I said we would just stay for a little while and I would take a couple of Tylenol before we left. As I was about to pop the pills into my mouth, I burst out laughing and said to my husband “I am such an idiot”.

    Without knowing it, I had been taking Tylenol PM on and off all day every day for about ten days. Thinking it was regular Tylenol, I would simply open the bottle without looking at it and pop the medicine in my mouth.

    It made me wonder, like absentmindedly reaching for Tylenol, how often do we just go through the motions without really paying attention? Our children might chatter on about something that happened at school, but we don’t really hear them. You’re on the phone with a friend, but don’t remember what they said because you were cooking dinner or checking tomorrow’s weather forecast.

    Blame it on multi-tasking, technology or having a long to-do list that challenges our concentration. According to a Harvard University study, it’s a serious problem. The study says almost half of our waking hours are spent not living in the moment. Maybe, it’s not that big of big of a deal. After all, we all get distracted without grave consequences. But, what if I had fallen asleep at the wheel? What if paying attention to a conversation could have shed light on a serious problem that might have been prevented?

    That’s why I now think of the PM in Tylenol as an acronym for ‘present moment’. How can we be more present, so we stay more emotionally connected to others and fully appreciate the now?

    Perhaps the best lessons can be learned from mindfulness such as yoga and meditation where you focus on your senses, so you are physically, spiritually and mentally connected to the moment. While we can’t always drop everything to practice mindfulness, there are a few things we can do to become more present.

    Start with your phone. Studies say even if you turn it to silent and place it face down, it is still difficult to resist the urge to check it. If you want to be fully present with family or friends, you might want to consider putting it where you can’t see it, so you don’t use it.

    Single Task. How often do you eat while answering e-mails or run the treadmill while reviewing an important presentation you’re delivering at work later that day? I do it all the time and should stop. If we focus on one task at a time, we will begin enjoying what we’re doing that much more.

    Do nothing. When you’re working, raising a family and trying to juggle it all, it seems as if there are not enough hours in the day, so doing nothing does not seem like an option. Yet, if you take a few minutes out of your day to sit down, be silent and focus on your breathing, you will teach yourself how to slow down and savor the moment.

    Take a walk. Sometimes a change of scenery is the best medicine you can ask for. A brief break such as enjoying nature can rejuvenate you.

    Mind the music. Turn on your favorite music and close your eyes. Even immersing yourself in one song can ease tension and help you relax.

    You don’t have to be a mindfulness expert to apply these present moment tips. Think about things you like to do and focus on that one thing when you’re doing it. It might be playing tennis, reading a great book, watching a movie, writing an article or eating a hot fudge sundae. When you’re doing it, you’re not thinking about being present. You just are.

    Thanks to my Tylenol PM experience, I am trying to be more mindful of slowing down and not just going through the motions. For starters, I marked that bottle with big black letters that say PM, so I don’t make the same mistake again. Sleeping through a week of my life reminded me that when we don’t work at being present, we may inadvertently slumber some of life’s important moments.

     
  • feedwordpress 14:32:56 on 2018/05/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Philadelphia Business Journal   

    Leadership Lessons for Loudmouth Jerks 

    I was in line to board the plane home when I heard a man about four people behind me speaking loudly into his phone.

    “Yes, we got this deal Jim. I really put a good one together. I did this, and I did that and let me tell you more about me.”

    Well, those were not his exact words, but you get the picture. As we trekked into plane, people kept looking at him as he kept talking loud enough for anyone in line to hear him, but he didn’t seem to notice.

    I was in row 10, aisle seat when, still barking into his phone, he motioned for me to get up, so he could get through as he was also in row 10, window seat. Lucky me.

    Still talking for most seatmates to hear, he informed Jim that he had “not for publication” information. He said his company was cancelling the sales training due to financial reasons and then broadcast how much would be saved.

    The woman across the aisle looked at him, then looked at me and rolled her eyes.

    Again, he warned Jim, this is “top secret” information that only he knows. All I had to do was kick his carry on over and I could see who he worked for.  But, it’s top secret so I left his bag alone.

    As we were about to take off and he was temporarily silenced, I started to watch a movie on my iPad. Because the window shade next to loudmouth was up, it was casting a glare on my screen and I couldn’t see.

    So, I tapped him on the arm and asked if he could lower the shade just a bit. He stared at me for a second, then looked away and completely ignored me. For a moment I thought about giving him a piece of my mind but didn’t want to end up being one of those nasty airline passenger stories that makes the news.

    I waited, thinking once we got above the clouds, the sun glare wouldn’t be an issue. I was wrong.

    About fifteen minutes later, as he buried his head in his computer, I tapped him again. Nicely, I explained why I couldn’t see my screen and again asked if he would lower the shade just a little.

    “I really like looking out the window, he said. Maybe later in the flight.”

    Then he returned to his computer screen.

    Maybe. Maybe this is a guy who gets inspiration from the clouds. Perhaps the serenity of the sky helps him crystalize his vision and strategize ways to inspire others. Maybe, but not likely.

    The woman on the aisle across from me had watched the scene unfold. To make sure others could hear, she bellowed “I hate people like him”.

    Then she invited me to sit with her. She gave up her aisle seat for me and moved to the window where she slammed the shade shut. Loudmouth pretended not to notice.

    For the next two hours as I comfortably watched my movie, I glanced at him from time to time. Not once, did I see him look out the window.

    Most of us would just classify this man as a rude jerk and leave it at that. However, I believe there are some significant leadership lessons to be learned from jerks.

    Here’s a guy who is intoxicated by the sound of his own voice. He’s self-important, condescending and likely talks over others in meetings. My guess is he puts others down if he thinks it will make him look good. Like gesturing his finger at me to move over because he’s way too busy to speak, it’s doubtful he values the importance of communication.

    Leaders like this can infect entire organizations. They have little interest in what others think or say. Typically, they are so arrogant and controlling, that they don’t comprehend how toxic their behavior can be to others. Like a bad flu season that infects even the healthiest people, patronizing superior conduct can contaminate even the most positive employees.

    Research conducted by UC San Diego’s James Fowler and Harvard’s Nicholas Christakis suggests that behavior is contagious. For example, if you are friendly with someone happy, the probability that you will be happy increases by 25%. The researchers say if you have overweight friends, you are more likely to be overweight.

    In a Harvard Business Review article, writers examined how this affects leaders and found significant correlations between the behavior of managers and their direct reports. They found if you’re a good boss, you probably work for a good boss.

    After two decades of coaching and consulting leaders, I have my own take on what contributes to the success or failure of a leader. While there are multiple behaviors and circumstances, truly successful leaders have one thing in common. To them, leadership is a philosophy. They understand that leadership isn’t about being in charge; it’s about behavior.

    It’s about looking people in the eye. It’s about truly listening when someone is speaking to you. It’s about making others feel valued. It’s about providing positive reinforcement. It’s about welcoming input from others. It’s about developing people skills. Strong leaders appreciate diverse personalities and use their people skills to bring out the best in each person to maximize productivity and results.

    During some of our communication programs, we create scenarios intended to put people on the defensive. It’s an excellent exercise to assess how individuals communicate when under pressure. Typically, when challenged, they react defensively. When you push them, they often speak in negatives instead of focusing on positives. They talk about what isn’t happening, instead of what is. We teach them how to communicate more effectively to resolve problems and use the right words to avoid confusion and misinterpretation.

    As our flight came in for a landing, I thought about saying something to loudmouth, but clearly, he wouldn’t be interested in what I had to say and there was no point in wasting my energy except for my personal satisfaction of telling him off. Besides, as exited my seat, he was already on his phone loudly discussing important business that for all to hear. He was a man in charge.

    Even when coming down from the clouds, his head appeared to remain there; out of touch, in a bubble and unaware of those around him.

    Strong leaders keep their feet on the ground to cultivate relationships, seize opportunities and enlist the support of others. When you only consider yourself, you’re probably not as great as you think you are.

     
  • feedwordpress 14:26:37 on 2018/04/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Philadelphia Business Journal   

    Are you hearing me? Listening Skills for Leaders 

    A few years ago, my husband and I bought a kitchen table from a reputable furniture company. Within a week, we noticed a few flaws in the finish. I called the help desk and was instructed to buy an extended warranty policy. They said I would get priority treatment, have a direct dial in line for assistance and would be entitled to additional maintenance past the standard time period. So, we purchased the policy.

    A repairman came to our home and touched up the flaws. A few months later, more of the finish started peeling off. I called again. Another repairman fixed the problem. It happened two or three more times. Each time, someone came to touch up the table. At that point, I should have insisted that the company replace the table, but I didn’t. About two years later, the problem re-surfaced. This time, the company said my extended maintenance contract had expired so there was nothing they could do. They advised me to go buy furniture finishing sticks.

    Fast forward to today; I use those furniture sticks often, but now the table is warping. I contacted customer service. We exchanged multiple e-mails. A representative called me. She was responsive, apologetic and said she was forwarding her notes to management and would have someone call me. She did, and it went something like this.

    “You have a problem with a table?”

    “Yes,” I said. Did you read the notes from the emails and the person I spoke with?”

    She didn’t see any notes. I described the saga again.

    “Well” she responded, “we sent people to your house and everything was fine.”

    It wasn’t fine I stated. If it was fine, I wouldn’t have kept calling back.

    “What” she asked?

    I repeated myself.

    “I’m looking at your file and everything was fine.”

    Now I was annoyed. Again, I explained the situation. Again, she told me everything was fine. “Are you listening to me?” I asked.

    “Yes, she said. I see that every time we sent someone to your house, everything was fine”.

    Tired of talking to someone who wasn’t paying attention and didn’t seem to care, I told her I would never shop at her furniture store again. She said that’s unfortunate. I said it was fine and hung up. I don’t blame this company for failing to replace a table that is out of extended warranty. I do blame their management for failure to listen to their customers. I blame them for lack of empathy. And I blame them for not making communication a priority.

    There are several ways to tell if someone is really listening to you. In person, they will maintain eye contact, so you know they’re listening. They often angle their body toward you which signals they are in the conversation. Engaged listeners typically don’t fidget, tap their fingers or shift in their seats.

    When you can’t see someone, there are verbal clues that will signal if they’re paying attention. Ask a question or ask for their opinion. If they respond with “what” or ask you to repeat yourself, they probably weren’t listening. Then ask them if they’re listening. If they’re caught off guard or continue to repeat the same thing over or over, that’s a good clue that they’re not really listening.

    At work, poor listening skills translate to poor performance, poor relationships and poor productivity. That’s why listening is such an important skill for leaders to master. It actually takes more concentration and focus than speaking. When you listen, you show interest in others and make them feel valued.

    We worked with a candy company that manufactures and sells products in more than eighty countries around the globe. Despite the enormity of running this company, several times a month the CEO joins employees for lunch in the cafeteria so he can listen and stay in touch. It’s not a complaint session because most of his employees are happy. While they talk shop, much of the conversation focuses on families, current events and what’s happening in their lives.

    Employees feel that the CEO really cares about them, because he really does. They feel their voices are heard because they are. There is a big difference between leaders saying they want to keep the lines of communication open and leaders who really do.

    An article published in the Harvard Business Review lumped listening into three categories:

    1. Internal listening which is when you are focused on your own thoughts and concerns but pretend to focus on others.

    2. Focused listening is when you focus on others but are not fully connected to them.

    3. 360 listening is what they term “the magic”. Not only are you listening to what someone else is saying, but you are paying attention to how they say it.

    Listening improves productivity in the workplace. If you are truly engaged in a conversation, it is natural to ask probing questions such as “can you elaborate” or “will you share an experience that led to your thought process” or “how can this help our team achieve their objectives?” These are questions that show you are fully present and genuinely interested in understanding and learning more.

    Over the past two decades, we have worked with hundreds of executives. Those who are sincere listeners have several traits in common. They come across as caring empathetic individuals. Employees tend to want to work harder for people that seem to care about them. Leaders who listen embrace people’s differences and try to understand how those traits can be utilized instead of trying to mold them into someone they want them to be. These leaders also tend to be open to new approaches and ideas, rather than thinking they have all the answers.

    Yet, published articles report less than 2% of all professionals have any formal training to help them understand and improve listening techniques.

    The furniture company I mentioned is a textbook example. After I hung up with the manager, I e-mailed a note of thanks to the original customer service representative who tried to help me. I said a manager did call as promised and then briefly recounted the conversation saying she was not helpful.

    The service representative e-mailed me back immediately, but to my surprise she wrote: “Thank you Karen. Did the manager resolve your problem?” At first, I thought I read it wrong. Then I realized, she didn’t read what I wrote. Chances are, her attention was challenged by multiple tasks other than my problem.

    Unfortunately, her failure to read my comments only further cemented my opinion that this company doesn’t really care about its customers. Because service representatives are the front line of many companies, they have a unique opportunity to shape reputations and forge relationships.

    Empowering employees with on-going education and training to improve listening and communication skills will surely reap great returns on your investment both inside the company and when dealing with important customers.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:33:08 on 2018/02/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Philadelphia Business Journal, storytelling   

    Lessons from Chance Encounters 

    I had just touched down in Tampa when I glanced at my nails. Peeling, fading polish glared back at me. With back-to-back speaking engagements in the next few days, I knew I needed a manicure.

    A quick check at my hotel revealed the normally ten to fifteen-dollar cosmetic luxury would cost thirty dollars at the pricey hotel beauty shop. Not feeling that extravagant, I walked to the closest mall in search of a nail salon. That’s when I found De-Ja-Vu. They offered basic manicures for twelve dollars. Sold!

    Waiting for a manicurist to free up, I sat next to a woman about thirty years my junior. As women of all ages do, we struck up a conversation. She was from Baltimore; here visiting her boyfriend and interviewing for a job so she could move closer to him. Sensing she had the ear of someone slightly more experienced, she picked my brain for some interviewing and communication tips and said she felt fortunate we ran into each other. Like a good book you fail to finish reading, I sometimes wonder what happened to her. Did she get the job? Did she move in with the boyfriend? How did her life turn out?

    For those of us who talk to just about anyone, we are prone to chance encounters almost everywhere. I sometimes think about people I’ve met on airplanes, in train stations, on vacation, at the supermarket or waiting in line to see a ticketed event. Most of these people, we never remember or see again. Others, even if we don’t know it at the time, may have crossed our paths for a reason.

    Earlier this year as I was taking a walk, I had one of those encounters with people who had also accidentally encountered each other. It was a cold, blustery day so there weren’t many people out and about. As I turned a corner, there was a couple trying to take a selfie. I offered to help. That’s when I learned they had met fifty years ago at that very hour on that exact street corner in Longport, New Jersey. They had come back to celebrate at the exact time and exact spot where they began their life together.

    When they met, they were teenagers who lived in different states and had come to visit family who lived on neighboring streets. Unlike today, where texts and social media make it easy to stay in touch, they exchanged phone numbers, but long distance calls were expensive back then so they wrote letters. After college, they got together.

    Some experts believe if you prepare yourself to make the most of chance encounters, good things will happen to you. They even say you can significantly increase the chances of finding a great job, meeting your soul mate and creating your own luck. If this sounds like a bunch of malarkey, there is science to prove there could be something to it.

    Psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman wrote a book called The Luck Factor which concludes that not only is luck is a way of thinking and behaving, but it’s also something that can be learned.

    In a post at Oprah.com, writer Ben Sherwood details one of Wiseman’s early experiments where he taped a £5 note to a sidewalk outside a coffee shop. Then he planted actors at tables inside. One actor was a ‘millionaire’; the others were not. Each person was instructed to behave the same way. Next, he recruited two subjects he calls Martin and Brenda. Martin described himself as lucky; Brenda said she was not a lucky person. When Martin walked up to the store, he immediately spotted the money, picked it up, entered the coffee shop and sat down next to the millionaire. They engaged in conversation and even started exploring opportunities to do business together.

    Brenda, however, never noticed the money when she walked past it. She also sat down next to the millionaire, but they never spoke. According to Sherwood’s post, when asked to describe his day, Martin said he had a lucky day. Brenda described her day as uneventful.

    Both people had the same opportunity, but acted differently. Wiseman says lucky people create, notice, and act upon chance opportunities in their lives. He believes that being in the right place at the right time is more than fate; it’s about being in the right state of mind.

    Clearly, every chance encounter isn’t life changing. While you might recognize when someone has made a difference for you, you don’t always know when you’ve made a difference for them unless they tell you. I recall sitting next to a young man on a coast-to-coast flight. He was struggling with personal issues which we talked about for much of the flight. He had saved my business card and nearly a year later, e-mailed me to thank me, saying my advice prompted him to move in a different direction and he was happier than he had ever been.

    Psychologist and theorist Albert Bandura studied how seemingly random encounters change lives. He writes that former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy met when she began to receive mail meant for someone else. She complained to the Screen Actors Guild, of which Reagan was president at the time. They met and were engaged shortly after.

    In a commencement speech at Stanford University, late Apple founder Steve Jobs says if he had not dropped in on a calligraphy course, the Mac may have never evolved the way it has today.

    Thinking back to nearly three decades ago, a chance encounter changed my life. My friend and I entered the same café where we noticed a man enjoying a bite to eat. I made eye contact. She didn’t. At a party later that evening, I spoke to him. She didn’t. She had a negative attitude, commenting he was too old for me (we’re two years apart), was probably married (he was single) and rattled off a host of other assumptions. I was more positive, perhaps more open to luck and chance encounters. That man is now my husband of almost thirty years.

    Bandura says chance encounters are important because they have branching power. That means, they could not have been planned, yet they frequently inspire a chain of events that can shift someone’s life course and open unexpected opportunities.To take advantage of chance encounters, Bandura recommends looking outward to grab the branches within reach. To me, this means the following:

    BE PRESENT
    Instead of burying your nose in your cell phone when sitting alone, look up and out so you make eye contact with others. If I had not made eye contact with my husband, my life would be very different.

    CHANGE ROUTINES
    Like a good workout routine, you need to change things up, so you work different muscle groups. The same can be said for daily life. If you walk to work, take a different route. Perhaps you’ll stop into a different coffee shop, talk to someone new, see a sign announcing an interesting program you might attend. You never know who you’ll meet along the way.

    IMAGINE POSITIVE OUTCOMES
    In the Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers demonstrated that people who imagined a “best possible self” for one minute and wrote down their thoughts, generated a significant increase in positive effect. Simply put, if we are optimistic, we are likely to turn chance encounters into positive experiences.

    Last week, I was seated next to a ninety-year-old woman on a plane. I had work to do and a movie I wanted to watch. Making idle conversation with a stranger was not part of my plan. Only to be polite, as I sat down, I said hello, how are you She burst into tears and said, “I’m scared”.

    Her husband had died. Her children and grandchildren live all over the country. She had never traveled by herself before. She was sad and felt very alone. We talked. I helped her to the bathroom and off the plane, then stayed with her until she was safely seated in a wheelchair with an airline attendant to help her retrieve her bags. She asked for my card.

    When I sat down to write this column today, it was not supposed to be about chance encounters. Then I received her email which read: “Just a note to thank you again for being so friendly and helpful to me on our flight!”

    To me, it was nothing more than being kind. To her, it meant much more. We never know how a chance encounter will influence or change lives. We do know that these seemingly simple moments happen to all of us and if we’re paying attention, they can have a positive life-long lasting effect.

     
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