From the moment expectant parents see the positive pregnancy test, they begin to imagine who their child might be. Fewer times are more fraught with hope and joy mixed with nerves over the many unknowns. When a pregnant woman is referred to Dr. Nicolaides, it is never a good sign, and hope is rapidly replaced with fear. Dr. Kypros Nicolaides is a world-renown pioneer in the field of fetal surgery whose discoveries have revolutionized the field.
The Netflix docuseries “The Surgeon’s Cut” films several interactions with Dr. Nicolaides as he meets, diagnoses, and performs intrauterine surgeries on the unborn. In one case, the expectant parents listen as the doctor shows them via ultrasound the issues facing their identical twins, neither of which is expected to live more than 1-2 more days due to twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. The only hope is to perform a laser fetal surgery procedure immediately. This will give the bigger twin the best chance, however, the doctor patiently and kindly explains that the smaller twin may still not survive.
Could there be a more emotionally loaded situation for expectant parents? Hope to fear – back and forth – and absolutely everything is out of their control. I can only imagine the racing thoughts, increased heart rate, tears, and prayers. The situation feels impossible but as is the case with most parents, there is only one choice – do what it takes to give my babies a chance.
The mother is awake during the procedure. The doctor talks the parents through each step, what to expect, and checks in with them frequently. Do you see? Do you understand? This is what we will do next. This is the tool I am using. After numbing the mother’s abdomen, the doctor does one small thing that changes everything.
He asks the mother to hold the hand of her partner and to hold the doctor’s arm with her other hand. And at that moment, the mother breathes again. She becomes part of the solution. The doctor gives the mother agency in that small gesture. It is as though she is assisting in performing the procedure to save her babies. The doctor continues to include the parents in every step. They trust him not just because he is smart and world-renown, but because he involves them. He sees them. He acknowledges them. The doctor is honest with them.
It seems to me that in the multifamily industry we often connect with people who are in heightened emotional distress. That moment presents the opportunity to do the one small thing that changes everything. To see, to hear, and to acknowledge the honest pain/fear/distress in front of us and to meet it with compassion. From residents to team members, I encourage you to lead with the humility to say to yourself, what is the one small thing I can do such that this person feels seen and heard.
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Over the last several decades, Sesame Street laid the foundation on many topics for children and their grown-ups. The song “Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?” is catchy enough that many parents probably know the words to the chorus off the top of their heads. It reminds us that the people in our neighborhood – the grocer, the doctor, fireman, postman, etc. – are the people we meet each day. But how often do we make an effort to greet and get to know those people in the background of our daily lives?
My morning routine is predictable and includes time for hydration, reflection, prayer, journaling, and exercise. I am a runner. Before covid, I ran on the treadmill at the gym. Now, I run around my neighborhood. I begin my run in the pre-dawn hours, so dark I can’t see the sidewalk beneath my feet. I greet the sunrise most days while putting in the reps that sharpen my focus and keep me feeling healthy and sane.
During my daily run, I noticed a man walking around our neighborhood 3-4 times a week, purposely, diligently, step by step, working his exercise plan. I took note of his features and saw that he carries with him a small bat tucked into the palm of his hand and ending at his elbow , and he wears a reflective vest, the kind that can be seen from far away in the headlight of any vehicle passing by at that time of day. I wondered if he carried the bat for personal protection.
Whenever I saw him, I lifted my hand in a small wave of acknowledgment. It buoyed my spirits to see him , and over time, my small gesture turned into a more significant two-handed wave. As I ran past him from behind, I called out, “On your left!” not wanting to startle him and hoping he heard my voice over whatever played on his earbuds. In my mind, I wrote a story about who he was and wondered if maybe we had more in common than a shared appreciation for exercise and greeting the daybreak.
Today, it was on my heart to introduce myself, and so I did. I said that I look forward to seeing him every day when I run. He asked me how many miles I run and told him, then he shared that he walks to work out his frustrations and to keep stress at bay. I told him how inspired I am by his dedication. We chatted a little longer and then went our separate ways.
Today, I met Ken!
I am thankful that I did. No longer a nameless stranger, Ken became more real to me today. Our interaction was just a few minutes long, but it was enough to turn two strangers into something a little bit more.
As we go about our daily lives, there are countless opportunities to engage with people more genuinely. I encourage you to go out and meet your Ken today.
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Driving around many major metropolitan areas poses any number of road hazards. Most drivers have experienced the shock and chagrin of hitting an unseen (or seen too late) pothole while traveling at a clip. Or accidentally curbing a tire in a tight space. Both situations are startling, embarrassing – and quickly forgotten in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Sometime later, the car starts to pull to the right or left or the tires begin to squeal, and you realize the car is out of alignment. It may not be an emergency but letting it go for long means that the tires will wear very quickly or unevenly. The steering wheel might even shake and vibrate making it uncomfortable to drive.
Proper alignment is necessary for a vehicle to handle well. The same can be said when sourcing for talent in your organization. Too often, the talent acquisition process centers on just the specific job skills needed for a particular assignment and neglects the intrinsic importance of cultural alignment.
There is a lot of news about the high number of open jobs in the US creating concerns over a labor shortage. The pressure to fill vacant positions quickly can lead to cultural misalignment. On the day a newly hired employee starts work, the company attempts to assign its core values to that team member without considering or understanding if its values align with the personal core values of the new hire. In that case, the talent acquisition process may be flawed. When organizational and personal values are in conflict – are out of alignment – you may begin to see signs of wear and tear within the individual and on the workgroup as a whole.
When sourcing for new talent, consider that alignment is better than assignment. Alignment is born out of shared core values. It is important to note that shared values are not related to age, race, religion, or any of the other equal employment opportunity protections. For example, one of our core values is Caring. All applicants are capable of caring and very few people will state that they don’t care in a job interview. In this case, learning what caring means to an applicant and how much value they personally place on it is an integral part of the talent acquisition practice.
If we agree that organizational culture matters when building a high-performance company, then it increases the importance of finding and correcting culture gaps. Failing to do so erodes employee faith in the organization and can lead to team member disengagement. Don’t wait until the tires wear out before you assess and repair anything that is out of alignment in your organization.
The world watched in wonder this week as Richard Branson made history in the Virgin Galactic space plane Unity. The hour-long flight took its passengers 53 miles above the earth, provided 4-5 minutes of weightlessness, and even earned astronaut wings for those aboard. Although the price tag (estimated to exceed $250k/person) remains well out of reach for most people, it does pave the way for private space travel in the future.
Traditional astronauts must complete more than a decade of advanced education and wait even longer for the rarified experience of flying a space mission. There are many dangerous components in a mission. The now retired space shuttle program experienced many successes and recorded some horrendous disasters and loss of life. Two of the biggest risks happen at launch and again at reentry earning the statement that a space shuttle is both a lifeboat and a death trap. Reentry is the final most dangerous hour.
As the pandemic begins to wane and the options for gathering safely together expand, companies and the individuals who work for them face their form of reentry, and it is trickier than it seems. Sixteen months ago when the coronavirus forced the closure of most offices, companies scrambled to put together business plans that protected customers and team members while keeping the business functional. Everyone was asked to remain flexible, to rise to the occasion, and to make it work. By and large, team members did just that even as their personal lives were also upended. Schools closed, childcare was disrupted, and fear of the unknown was rampant. People adapted to working from home, and we all become a lot more tolerant of the occasional pet or child interruption during one of the endless video conference calls.
As we approach the time for bringing office capacity up to more traditional levels, there are more considerations than it may seem. From my perspective, I think it’s important to put as much thought into the reentry plan as we did into the work from home model. Flexibility and a lot of critical self-reflection are key to this next chapter. It’s not as simple as picking a date on the calendar and issuing a mandatory back to the office memo. There are many moving parts to the coming transition including major technology components and the physical prep of office spaces to handle significant capacity changes. Those are the easy pieces.
Reentry is complicated primarily because of its impact on humans. Although it was filled with pros and cons, team members adapted to the WFH cadence that allowed them to work without the time, expense, and stress of a daily commute. Of all the things that people missed about working together, I’d be hard pressed to name a single person who says they really miss sitting in traffic, burning through fuel, and wearing out their vehicle. Working from home gave people the chance to manage their households with small tasks between work or meetings. Toss in a load of laundry, walk the dog, or check over homework all while keeping work on pace gave a little breathing room for people who were juggling a heavy load. It also meant fewer hours spent getting ready, not worrying about forgetting something, and lower dry cleaning bills.
People are out of practice and need time to acclimate to the process of preparing to leave home for 9-10 hours a day. Working together side by side is bound to feel strange after so much time apart. As leaders, we need to be prepared to give grace during the reentry period. We should to ask good questions, listen carefully, and allow that it will take time to adapt to this new world that looks familiar but doesn’t fit exactly like it used to. Decide how much in-person time is essential to the business. Is it all or nothing? Or is there a hybrid model that is effective and possibly more efficient?
I don’t suppose that any of us know all the answers yet, but I am confident that the same people who were so flexible and thoughtful when everything changed sixteen months ago will come together and figure it out.