Giving In the Workplace: Make It Work For Everyone!







I’m on Vacation. Enjoying the summer breeze, time with family and friends, swimming, barbecuing and listening to classic summer music like Seals & Croft, The Go Gos’ and The Cars.

I’m also volunteering. Working in the service of others is core to my spirit: who I am today…and the man I strive to be. It also gives me time to re-energize, re-fresh and re-engage with the clients and teams I work with every day.

In my recent article Next Time: Make It Fierce, I shared a few of my favorite things, including my favorite book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. As I was thinking about my next post, I came across one of my favorite articles about giving back to the community: the October 8, 2012 issue Forbes Making It Big – Giving It Big: The Titans of Philanthropy.

Insights from the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet and Steve Case made a strong impression. I encourage you to read it. It may motivate you to rethink how you and your organization give back to the community, and the role of volunteering and philanthropic giving in employee engagement.

The Forbes articles demonstrates the need and power of ‘giving’ in the larger scheme of things. It helps us to think globally while acting locally. Katherine Fulton, President of Monitor Institute, brings it even closer to home in her TED Talk, You are the Future of Philanthropy, by speaking about “the democratization of philanthropy: where collaboration and innovation allow regular people to do big things, even when money is scarce.”

While I have not yet been invited to TED and share “ideas worth spreading,” I have volunteered, bench-marked and worked with companies to deploy programs that engage employees while giving back to the community including: speaking with other Cable Industry leaders at the 2004 Communicating Cable’s Value Forum session on Empowering Your Employees: HIV/AIDS in the Workplace and working with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and KNOW HIV/AIDS Campaign.

So, what I have learned? Over the years, I’ve identified three common themes that successfully link company giving programs to increased levels of employee engagement:

Ask, Listen and Learn: Your employees want to give back to the community – and they want their companies to do the same. In fact, 81% of employees want their company to offer matching support programs for non-profit charitable organizations, whether locally or on a larger scale, and to provide opportunities to volunteer during work hours (2011 Cone Cause Evolution Study and Workplace Giving Works! Make It Work For You).

Connect Your People With Their Passion: Many companies offer one or very limited options for volunteering their time, financial resources and receiving matching contributions. The result is low participation in volunteer activities and, in many cases, dissatisfaction with their employers. Companies that truly invite their employees to align their time and financial resources to causes that have personal meaning have higher participation rates in fund-raising and volunteer activities than those that don’t. Matching contributions to causes that employees choose themselves (that fall within company guidelines and approval processes) are the most meaningful and contribute to higher levels of satisfaction and engagement. For more information, visit Volunteer Match.

Use Giving Back as Opportunities to Re-Connect and Re-Energize Your Teams: Whether it’s working together with Habitat For Humanity, walking or running in The Race for the Cure, volunteering to help individuals and families coping with terminal illness through The Hospice Foundation, or partnering with the The Clinton Foundation to bring health services to communities decimated by HIV/ADS around the world, the opportunities – the need – to help and give back to our communities are endless.

Oprah Winfrey once said: “When you go to Nelson Mandela’s house, what do you take? You can’t take a candle.”

Giving is personal. The logical next step is to make it personal to you…and the company you call home.

Until next time,

Connect, Collaborate and Create! ®


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Take an Inspiration Break: An Unlikely Lesson From an ’80s Sitcom

you are your inspiration





Nell Carter, the star of the hit ’80s sitcom “Gimme A Break,” has been haunting me.  Okay, she was haunting me.

Not in a scary way.  It’s was a happy and humorous haunting.  I knew it would be the moment I heard her ghost sing that familiar tune:

“Give me a break, I sure deserve one. I want a happy ending. I’m tired of pretending. I wanna piece of the cake…give me a break!” 

It was fun to have her ghost around.  I laughed.  I sang.  I even danced a little. I did wonder, however, why she decided to haunt me.  I’m sure Nell Carter’s ghost had better things to do than hang around while I worked on client projects, wrote articles and updated my Facebook status.  After all, I was just doing ‘stuff.’

Then it hit me.  I was always busy.  Doing things.  Getting things done. Productive?Yes.  Inspired?  No.  That’s what she was trying to tell me:  I needed an inspiration break!

So, I set out on an inspiration quest and stumbled across Inspiration Break: Creative Confidence by Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO. The article, along with Nell Carter’s booming voice, reminded me that lack of “me time” often comes at a very big cost: losing your passion, creativity and confidence.

So, how do you find, or rediscover, that creative inspiration? You don’t ask for it. You seek it out. You own it. Tom and David Kelly, in their article Reclaim Your Creative Confidence, sum it up this way: “creative confidence is the ability to come up with breakthrough ideas, combined with the courage to act.”

And what about Nell Carter and her early pleas to “gimme a break?” It turns out that “Nellie Ruth” (Carter’s character on the show) found her creative confidence somewhere between Season 1 and Season 3. Nell found her ‘voice’ and the theme song evolved from a victim’s plea for help to a triumphant anthem announcing to the world that she made her own ‘breaks’ in life.

Here’s a glimpse at the transformation that made Carter’s character a role model for anyone who has the courage to discover and claim their own creative inspiration:

  • Season 3 Opening Theme (partial lyrics): “Give me a break…’cause now I know what it takes. I’m putting a face on the old one…I’m showing the world nothing can get me down. Give me a break!”

Nell Carter’s ghost doesn’t haunt me anymore.  I miss her laughter and joy, but her message is alive and well:  no one will give you a break unless you have the courage to make your own first.

How ’bout it?  Are you ready for an inspiration break?

Connect, Collaborate and Create! ®


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