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Archive for the ‘Thought Leadership’ Category

Young at heart.

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Lauretta Taggert of St. Paul, Minnesota gives new meaning to the phrase ‘young at heart’ by becoming an exercise instructor at age 100. While most of us accept the trials of aging, Taggert attributes her vitality to a positive attitude and never letting her hair grow gray.

How often do we get caught up on the mundane day-to-day tasks and forget to enjoy life? Lauretta reminds us that we can live life to the fullest, no matter what our age may be. As a society, we have become obsessed with anti-aging and looking and feeling younger. The media tells us that we have to stop the hands of time in order to feel confident in ourselves. Millions of dollars are poured into marketing campaigns every year on the latest anti-aging creams that are supposed to ‘rewind the clock’, but is that really what we want to do?

We have lost respect for aging and the wisdom that comes with it. The more time we spend on earth, the more we grow from the past and develop into better people. Should your life be defined by your biological age, or how young you feel? At what point do we loose ourselves in this fixation with youth, and forget how beautiful aging really is?

The older we get, the excitement we once felt as children when our birthday arrives becomes replaced with dread and fear. Why is that? Very few people get to celebrate a 100-year mark on this earth like Lauretta, so why not celebrate every year that we are given the chance to make more memories? With every year that passes we gain more experiences that make our journey complete, and that should be celebrated. We get to choose what we do with our life, so let’s make the most of it. Take the time to do the things that make you happy, and never forget to stay young at heart. In the words of Charles Dickens, “To a young heart everything is fun.”

Is working from home still the future of business?

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

A flexible work environment is currently one of the most valued aspects of a job. Employees want to be able to work from home, make their own schedules, and find harmony in work-life integration. In recent years, many companies have made a transition to more flexible work schedules and an increased number of remote employees in hopes of cutting office costs, boosting moral and productivity, and attracting new talent. Although many companies have had success, some are finding there are unforeseen downfalls to this latest business trend.

IBM recently announced they’re discontinuing their popular program that allows employees to work remotely. Ironically, IBM was a pioneer of remote work technologies and structures, so the announcement was surprising to many of its remote employees. IBM believes that bringing employees back to the office will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work, and they’re not alone. “IBM may be part of a broader rethink of remote work under way at large companies, as corporate leaders argue that putting workers in the same physical space hastens the speed of work and sparks innovation,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

However, as these companies implement such decisive actions against the remote work trend, they’re taking a risk. Especially when other large companies, such as Aetna, are drastically expanding their work-from-home programs. Many employees, especially younger talents, list flexible work schedules and the ability to work from home as one of their most desired job benefits, putting these companies at risk of missing out on new talent.

However, while employee satisfaction and morale are certainly important, companies must find a balance that ensures work processes are as productive as possible. And while technology allows us to accomplish a lot, it simply doesn’t replace a human connection. Collaboration and communication are more fruitful and productive in person. There’s so much you get out of an in-person meeting that simply doesn’t yet translate on an email, phone call or via Skype, such as body language and the collective energy of progress. So while a remote job position is convenient, it may be a dying trend of the past, instead of the future of business as predicted.

Starbucks is discontinuing its best product – the original coffee shop experience.

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

There are a lot of places to grab a good, quick cup of coffee; and Starbucks is certainly one of them. However, Starbucks’ skyrocket to success wasn’t a result of its coffee. Since opening in 1971, Starbucks was inherently different from most coffee shops because it focused on creating a community experience and human connection. Howard Schultz’s (Starbucks chairman and long-time CEO) vision for Starbucks was a place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home. And the mission of Starbucks is ‘to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.’

For years, this idea of focusing on the customer experience and human connection was evident in Starbucks locations throughout the world. In 2008, Annamarie Ausnes, a regular Starbucks customer who suffered from polycystic kidney disease was in need of a kidney transplant. Her Starbucks barista, Sandie Andersen, noticed a change in Annamarie’s sunny disposition. Usually, Annamarie was friendly and upbeat; sharing stories of her grandchildren and even bringing Sandie vacation souvenirs. When Sandie asked what was wrong, Annamarie shared her story and need for a kidney. Sandie immediately got a blood test, and when she found out she was a match, told Annamarie that she wanted to donate her kidney. A few months later, the kidney transplant was a success!

But Starbucks has begun to lose sight of its fundamental roots that are responsible for its success – good coffee and a human connection. Today, the focus on relationships and customer experience is taking a back seat to convenience and speed. The main objective has become ‘how quickly can we get customers through the line’ with very little interaction between customer and barista. This has only been intensified by mobile ordering, which further moves the “experience” to focus on convenience. Now a customer doesn’t even have to talk to an actual person to get a coffee – how is that inline with the mission of inspiring and nurturing the human spirit?

Starbucks has not only lost sight of its focus on the experience, but also its commitment to its core products. Starbucks coffee is coveted because of its reputation for being a quality, high-end, valuable product. However, through its newest promotions, Starbucks has offered its prized coffee to customers for free with the purchase of non-fundamental menu items, such as sandwiches. What kind of message does it send to give away a prime product that was once viewed as valuable, all to promote an average breakfast sandwich? If the coffee is so invaluable that it can be given away for free, how can Starbucks continue to justify its higher industry prices?

If a consumer wants a breakfast sandwich and coffee fast, why wouldn’t they just go to McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts or any of the other countless fast food options focused on speed and convenience over quality and customer experience? Without the commitment to customers and human connections, Starbucks is no longer a treasured community experience – its just another humdrum fast food joint that will start to seem severely overpriced, without its unique vibe and prime product status.

Cut the small talk.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Do these phrases sound familiar? …

“Good morning.”

“How are you?”

“Good, how are you?” 

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

“Can you believe all of this rain we’ve been having?”

“It looks like it’s going to snow.”

…It’s likely that you’ve already used some variation of these phrases 50+ times today – when you arrived at the office, when you bumped into someone at the water cooler or restroom, when you sent an email, when you left the office, when you ran into someone at the grocery store, and everywhere in between.

If we were to add up all of the time spent verbally and electronically participating in meaningless small talk so far this year, how much time do you think has been wasted? Of course, it’s nice and enjoyable to communicate with the people around us, but why do we automatically default to futile chitchat? What if we all skipped the small talk dance and made an effort to connect with each other by sharing insightful, meaningful information? How much more could we accomplish? How would our relationships evolve and grow?

Picture this instead…

“Good morning, how are you?”  

“I’m actually really great, my daughter took her first steps last night!”

“Oh! You have a daughter? I have a one-year-old daughter too. We should do a play date sometime!”

…Much more engaging and fruitful than talking about the rain, don’t you think?

Or how about this water cooler conversation…

“How are you today?”

“I’m actually really struggling to pull those numbers together for the meeting.”

“Last month I had the same issue, but I figured out a workaround that saves a ton of time; want me to drop by your desk and show you?”

When we’re in the comfort of our own home with family and close friends, we rarely engage in small talk; likely because we’re already very comfortable with those people and we’re busy getting down to the business of running a household and maintaining those relationships. But what if we took that method of the communication out into the world? We would all likely form more meaningful relationships that matter.

Do we really need everything right now ?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Social media sites address us personally and feed us information based on our personal lives and interests, Amazon suggests the products we need and delivers them to our homes in a matter of hours, Netflix pre-selects shows we enjoy based on our viewing habits and delivers them to us instantly, pre-prepped frozen meals and fast-food restaurants make meals to fulfill personal cravings in under five minuets, and 3D printers allow people to create anything they want, when they want it. While all of these modern conveniences are, well, convenient; is there such a thing as too instantaneous?

The virtues of patience and compromise are imperative to the success of any well-adjusted adult today. No matter how far technology advances, it will never fix all of life’s hurdles. But, as we become more accustomed to everything on-demand, will we become increasingly more agitated when things don’t go our way? Some people become infuriated when their Internet connection goes out and they have to choose from the basic channel selections. Or, some adults feel entitled to belittling and scolding restaurant staff when their food isn’t served to perfection. As technology and personalization efforts continue to advance, will the inability to adjust, problem-solve, and cope with unforeseen situations become the norm?

What about the generations to come? Instead of being taught to wait patiently for their food at a restaurant, many children are given electronic devices that contain their favorite games, shows or other forms of entertainment to occupy their time. Instead of being forced to eat whatever is on the table at dinnertime, many family meals are now made to order, with children getting their choice of whatever frozen meal they prefer from the freezer. There’s even now a new 3D printer that can create food toppings and dessert decorations that match a child’s favorite color or character, so each child can have their own personalized cookie for dessert. When they have a science project due the next day that they didn’t prepare for, they can simply Google the steps and order the items from Amazon to be delivered within an hour. Some children are raised to believe the world revolves around them, and they should be consistently catered to and these new technologies are only enforcing that behavior. But what happens when today’s kids are asked to practice patience or compromise? What happens when there is a world full of adults unable to wait for a table at a restaurant or throwing fits because a storm hindered a package delivery time or Internet connection?

As technology makes our lives easier, how can we continue to embrace the important virtues needed to deal with life’s uncertainties, and how can we pass those virtues down to our children? How can we teach them that the world doesn’t revolve around them, when almost everything in their world is seemingly made, just for them?