Being Human

Being human is our birthright not a skill.

My largest response over the summer from my writing was the following brief LinkedIn post with over 6,571 views of the  post 

My name is David Zinger, I am human.

The elephant in the room is that we are already human.

Imagine my confusion when I received an email from the Harvard Business Review with the title: “How to be Human at Work.” I did not think I needed how-to instructions on something I already am! 

The Economist 1843 had an article on how to edit a human. Do I now have to be wary of a biological misplaced comma?

I scanned an article on the 6 traits of human beings that began, “One of the most important – but often forgotten – elements of customer experience is that it’s all about human beings. Customers are human beings, employees are human beings, and executives are human beings.” Really? We have forgotten that we are human, this is sure news to me!

You see — I am human. I feel. I bleed. I blunder. I blush. I smile. I work. I play. I talk. I listen. I love. I laugh. I have not forgotten I am human. I do not need editing. Don’t you dare sell me manuals on how to be what I already am, a human.

George Kemish LLM MCMI MIC Director and Principal Consultant – HR Strategy & Workforce Planning – Adding Value Through Pro-Active Business Planning

I am not sure that it is a case of whether or not we are human.  When looking at areas such as Customer Service, the customer seems to have been left out of the loop on many occasions and yet it is the customer that is going to have the biggest effect on the ‘bottom line’ and on the return to investors. Everything that HR does, from workforce planning to attracting and retaining talent, should be undertaken to support the Value Chain and in determining the value chain you need to work from the customer back through the organization.  Unfortunately this has rarely been the case – hence the poor customer service that we experience in the UK.  One advert on television just about sums this up: ‘UK Car Hire with American Customer Service’

George Kemish LLM MCMI MIC Director and Principal Consultant – HR Strategy & Workforce Planning – Adding Value Through Pro-Active Business Planning

David Zinger.  You are correct.  However, it is the value chain that they should be supporting.  If they do not there will be no bottom line or ROI.  Nuria Rojo.  If poor customer service is a worldwide ‘accepted’ sickness, and a UK company feels that American Customer Service is better than that provided by most UK organizations, then I can only presume that customer service in the UK has reached rock bottom.  Sofia Reis.  I totally agree – organizational behaviour is nothing new – have we lost the ability to manage this important aspect?

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D. CPF, CPT Designer of tools for teambuilding and performance improvement, including Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

These days, I am thinking I would prefer a robot that is mildly intelligent. I literally have spent THREE YEARS trying to get information about my Mom’s Life Insurance policy from AIG. Mom still lives and is still paying away and they keep changing the demanded payment and, until maybe a month ago, would not ever explain why.  Calls now got to voicemail, always, because they do not want to talk with me. Not even the NJ Insurance Commission can get any reasonable response on all this. A robot would probably just give me the information.

Trevor Hubert Director, Talent & Organizational Development at Investors Group

Nice post David. You are one of my favorite humans. Love your posts and thought leadership.

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

Thank you Trevor. You have seen my fallible humanity and also trying to do the best I can. Nice to have you work up the street.

Ihsan Mert Employer Brander | Keynote Speaker | Award Winning Talent Recruiter | Digital HR Innovator | A Canadian in Istanbul

You are one of the best human beings David.

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

Ihsan, it would take one to know one!

Jordan Mulholland Senior Relationship Manager at Farm Credit Canada / Financement agricole Canada

You know, I couldn’t agree more. I to feel that there is a tendency to ‘dehumanize’ people in society and even in the work force. In the work force this leads to low morale, poor culture and constant churn of employees. At the risk of sounding old fashioned, can we not just treat others (coworkers, customers, executives) the way we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes? Perhaps it is idealistic of me. It would create stronger companies and relationships. 

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

I like the sound of “old fashioned.

Johanna Nelson Associate Director, Communications at Punter Southall Aspire

Hahahah and there we all were sat thinking we were aliens! Thank goodness for some clarity on the matter! 

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

I was torn between alien, robot, or perhaps I might awake as a Dung Beetle as salesman, Gregor Samsa, did in Kafka’s novella, Metamorphosis. 

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D. CPF, CPT Designer of tools for teambuilding and performance improvement, including Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

Let’s see the results of your Turing Test, David.

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

I guess I better get into a room and you fire questions. As a counselling psychologist I always liked the early computer counsellor ELIZA who did a good job of keeping clients going for a while.

Claude Silver Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia.

Mic drop! David I don’t know you but I want to. 

Kerry Brown VP User Adoption | Speaker, Thought Leader and Strategist passionate about making employees successful at their jobs

Ditto and well said.

Aga Bajer Culture Strategist • Author • #CultureLab Host • I help companies cultivate a culture that brings their vision to life

Brilliant, funny, a bit sad, very true! Thanks for sharing your human thoughts!

Faran Johnson Making Britain a great place to work.

David. Would love to chat with you! Have sent a LinkedIn request.

Mike (MJ) Vacanti • FollowingCxO Adviser. Team Performance. Leadership & Culture Transformation. Growth Catalyst. #HumansFirstClub. Speaker. Author.

David Zinger, you have a wonderful body of work helping people.

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

Thank you Mike, you are very kind. 

Lee Lester, Video Producer and Mindfulness AdvocateFacilitating positive communication through meditation, mindfulness and moving image.

Surely the point of all this is not to remind the customers, employees and executives that they are human – they’re often only too aware that their needs are not being met. It’s for those business leaders who choose or are pressured into forgetting that profit is driven by happy, imperfect humans, not just efficient ones? 

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Even In This Cynical World, Trust Is Worth It

You’ve been betrayed by people you trusted and it has shaken you to the core. Time and time again you’ve opened yourself to the risk of trusting, only to be disappointed repeatedly. You’re hurt and bruised; mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and maybe even physically. You question if trust is worth it.

You’re trapped in a downward spiral of distrust. Doubt and suspicion permeate your relationships, causing you to keep others at arm’s length. You fall further into states of anxiety, fear, and self-protection, until the only solution you see is to build walls around yourself to keep the pain out. It works. Your walls keep the pain out, but trap the loneliness inside. You question if trust is worth it.

You know that life without trust is unfulfilling and you want more. You deserve more. The safety, strength, freedom, joy, and happiness that comes with trust is waiting for you, so you resolve to try again. Baby steps perhaps, but you will start again. You believe that trust is worth it.

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5 Ways Leaders Try to Lead Right in The Wrong Way

Right-way-wrong-wayFew leaders wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “I wonder how I can screw up today?” Most leaders have good intentions and earnestly try to lead in the right ways, but sometimes the actions they think are helpful to their team actually cause harm or frustration. They’re trying to lead right in the wrong ways.

Here are five common ways leaders try to do the right thing in the wrong way:

1. Valuing results at the expense of relationships—Leaders are responsible for achieving results, and a common mistake is to pursue those results at the expense of relationships. Meet the sales quota…close the deal…finish the project under budget, on time, and with top quality…all important goals to achieve in and of themselves. But how do leaders achieve them? Through the efforts of the people they lead. What good does it do to run roughshod over your people to achieve a short-term goal? It may produce immediate success but it will destroy your long-term effectiveness. Leading right in this instance means valuing results and relationships. Take care of the needs and concerns of your people and they will take care of your customers, projects, and business.

2. Treating everyone the same in order to be fair—Leaders have to balance myriad issues and one of the trickiest is treating people fairly. Playing favorites is a huge trust buster! It kills the morale of your team and makes people suspicious of your motives and decisions. One way leaders try to avoid this problem is by treating everyone the same, and quite frankly, it’s a leadership cop-out. Most leaders do this because it’s easy, expedient, and causes them fewer headaches. Leading right in this case means treating people equitably and ethically given the particular situation. Of course, there are some policies and procedures that need to be universally applied, such as health, safety, and operational business processes, but leaders have more opportunities than they realize to increase employee loyalty and engagement by treating them as individuals with specific needs rather than just another nameless face that needs to toe the line.

3. Not developing relationships in order to maintain professional distance—This can be a particular challenge for newly promoted leaders who find themselves leading people who used to be their peers. In an effort to establish leadership credibility, leaders become reticent to develop personal relationships with those they lead. This results in a lack of connection with people, lowers their trust, and reduces commitment and engagement on the job. Research has shown that one of the twelve key factors of employee work passion is “connectedness with leader.” People want to have a personal connection with their leaders. They want to know and be known. Learn what makes your people tick, what’s important to them, their hopes, dreams, and fears. Leading in this way will gain you trust, loyalty, and commitment in spades.

4. Hoarding information—Why do people hoard information? Because information is power, power is control, and leaders love to be in control. In a well-intentioned effort to maintain proper control of their team, leaders can lead in the wrong way by playing their cards too close to the vest. Lack of information sharing leads to suspicion and distrust. Leaders build trust by sharing information about themselves and the organization. On the personal side, sharing information about yourself allows you to be a little vulnerable with your people and they get to know you as a person, not just as a boss (see #3 above). Sharing information about the organization allows your people to make smart business decisions. People without information cannot act responsibly. In the absence of information people will make up their own version of the truth. However, people with information are compelled to act responsibly.

5. Micromanaging—Micromanagers are like dirty baby diapers—full of crap and all over your butt. Ironically, most leaders don’t realize they’re micromanaging. They think they’re helping someone out by telling them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. That’s fine when a person is first learning a task or skill, but once the person demonstrates competence and commitment in doing the work, the leader needs to back off and let the employee be in charge of the task or goal. Micromanaging competent team members kills their initiative and morale, and over time, creates a state of learned helplessness. They give up on using their brain because they know the boss is going to tell them how to do it anyway.

Most leaders have good intentions and want to lead right, but sometimes we go about it in the wrong ways. Take time to pause and think about your leadership behaviors before you jump into action. If you don’t, you might be causing more harm than good.

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6 Ways Leaders Bully People Without Realizing It

Bullying at WorkIn the latest edition of Leaders Behaving Badly, the University of Maryland has placed multiple members of the men’s football team staff on administrative leave, including head coach DJ Durkin, while the school investigates their role in creating a toxic culture that contributed to the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair in June after a football workout.

The ESPN report cited these examples:

  • There is a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation. In one example, a player holding a meal while in a meeting had the meal slapped out of his hands in front of the team. At other times, small weights and other objects were thrown in the direction of players when Strength and Conditioning coach, Rick Court, was angry.
  • The belittling, humiliation and embarrassment of players is common. In one example, a player whom coaches wanted to lose weight was forced to eat candy bars as he was made to watch teammates working out.
  • Extreme verbal abuse of players occurs often. Players are routinely the targets of obscenity-laced epithets meant to mock their masculinity when they are unable to complete a workout or weight lift, for example. One player was belittled verbally after passing out during a drill.
  • Coaches have endorsed unhealthy eating habits and used food punitively; for example, a player said he was forced to overeat or eat to the point of vomiting.

There is absolutely no room for that kind of behavior in sports, school, or the workplace. Leaders have to be held to a higher standard.

Bullying is not just verbal or physical intimidation of someone. Especially in the workplace, bullying can manifest itself in many subtle ways. Any behavior you use to intimidate, dominate, embarrass, harass, or purposely make someone feel inferior could be considered bullying.

Here are six subtle ways you may be acting like a workplace bully without even realizing it:

1. You are condescending—When you act in a condescending manner, whether it’s patronizing someone, being dismissive of a person’s contributions, or minimizing someone’s accomplishments in order to highlight yours, you are sending a message that you believe you are superior to the other person.

2. Wounding with sarcasm—I like sarcastic humor as much as the next guy, but there is a huge difference between sarcasm that highlights the irony of a situation and is self-deprecating, versus sarcasm that is intended to belittle and injure another person. Next time you’re ready to drop that witty, sarcastic joke, pause and consider if it will build up the other person or tear her down.

3. Being cliquish—Cliques aren’t only for high school. Unfortunately, many adults carry that same behavior into the workplace. Purposely excluding people from activities is a bullying behavior intended to send the message that “you’re not one of us” and “we’re better than you are.” Trusted leaders look for opportunities to include people so they feel valued and appreciated.

4. Thinking you know it all—Have you ever worked with a person who thinks she knows it all? How annoying is that?! Much like behaving in a condescending manner, acting like you are the all-knowing expert is a way to intimidate others to go along with your ideas or wishes. Just stop it! No one really believes you anyway.

5. Being passive-aggressive—Perhaps one of the most subtle forms of bullying and manipulation, passive-aggressive behavior poisons teams, departments, and organizations. A common trait of bullies is expressing aggression in order to intimidate another person. Passive-aggressive people are bullies who express aggression in indirect ways such as disguising hostility in jokes, stubbornness, procrastination, resentment, or giving just the minimum effort required. I perceive passive-aggressive people as double-agent bullies disguised as victims. Watch out for them!

6. Gossiping—Have you ever considered gossiping as a form of bullying? Probably not, but it easily could be considered bullying, and some experts even consider it a form of workplace violence because it’s intended to harm another individual or group. Why do people gossip? It’s to make themselves feel powerful. The gossiper believes she knows something that other people don’t and she uses that information as leverage to elevate herself above others.

Leaders are charged with bringing out the best in their people and I don’t understand how some leaders, particularly sports coaches, believe that bullying is an acceptable form of motivation. It’s not. It’s belittling, destructive, demeaning, dehumanizing, and does nothing but feed the power-hungry ego of the bullying leader.

If you’re a leader in the workplace, whether it’s in an office, factory, warehouse, construction site, or any other place, make sure you’re not being a bully without even realizing it. You’re better than that and your people deserve your best.

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3 Words That Will Revolutionize Your Leadership

Hemingway Quote - Trust Someone“I trust you.”

When it comes to building trust in relationships, someone has to make the first move. One person has to be willing to step out, be a little vulnerable, and place trust in another person. Is it risky? Yes! Without risk there isn’t a need for trust.

So in a work setting, who makes the first move, the leader or the follower? Some would argue that trust has to be earned before it is given, so that places the responsibility on the follower to make the first move. The follower needs to demonstrate trustworthiness over a period of time through consistent behavior, and as time goes by, the leader extends more and more trust to the follower. Makes sense and is certainly valid.

I would argue it’s the leader’s responsibility to make the first move. It’s incumbent upon the leader to extend, build, and sustain trust with his/her followers. Why? It’s the leader’s job to create followership. It’s not the follower’s responsibility to create leadership. In order to create followership—influencing a group of people to work toward achieving the goals of the team, department, organization—trust is an absolute essential ingredient, and establishing, nurturing, and sustaining it has to be a top leadership priority.

When you make the first move and say “I trust you,” through word and deed, you accomplish the following:

  • You empower your people — Being trusted frees people to take responsibility and ownership of their work. Trust and control are opposites of each other. We don’t trust others because we want to remain in control, which results in over-supervising or micromanaging employees and crushing their initiative and motivation. Extending trust means letting go of control and transferring power to others.
  • You encourage innovation — When employees feel trusted they are more willing to take risks, explore new ideas, and look for creative solutions to problems. Conversely, employees that don’t feel trusted will do the minimum amount of work to get by and engage in CYA (cover your “assets”) behavior to avoid catching heat from the boss.
  • You tap into discretionary effort — Trust is the lever that allows leaders to tap into the discretionary effort of their people. People who feel trusted will go the extra mile to do a good job because they don’t want to let down the boss or organization. Being trusted instills a sense of responsibility and pride in people and it fuels their efforts to succeed.
  • You free yourself to focus in other areas — What happens when you don’t trust your people? You end up doing all the work yourself. Leadership is about developing other people to achieve their goals and those of the organization. Does it take time? Yes. Is it hard work? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely! Develop and build trust with your team so that you can spend time on the critical leadership tasks that are on your plate.

Let me make an important point—I’m not suggesting that leaders extend trust blindly. It’s foolish to give complete trust to someone who isn’t competent or hasn’t displayed the integrity to be trusted. I’m talking about extending appropriate levels of trust based on the unique requirements and conditions of the relationship. Leaders have to use sound judgement in regards to the amount of trust they extend and it usually begins with small amounts of trust and grows over time as the person proves to be trustworthy. But the point is, someone has to make the first move to extend trust in a relationship.

Leaders—It’s your move.

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