WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

August 5, 2013

Withholding Nutritious WordFood

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 5:03 pm

In the latter part of July, I spent about two weeks with dear friends. My friend Jill has always been a good mentor and advisor, and it’s a great pleasure to have extended time with her and her family. I’ve been struggling to finish my third book and this time around her input was particularly valuable in putting the manuscript into perspective, and a new set of eyes was just the ticket needed.

Among her many talents, Jill raises, races, and writes about horses. Most particularly, her breeding stallion Commander, whom she has made into a local and national celebrity by giving him a “voice” in her articles and blogs with his enthusiasm for breeding mares and his sage comments on horse issues. Jill’s regular articles in horse magazines have made her a popular writer, and Commander a popular breeding stallion.

While I was visiting, Jill’s ranch was visited by a couple of men, one of them an African who had never been close to a horse, most certainly not a stallion. Jill brought Commander to the fence and let the men pet him. Commander’s calm demeanor and good behavior allowed both of them to appreciate him, and Jill’s handling of him. Jill took out an oversized pair of sunglasses and perched them on Commander’s face to show off his stardom, and Commander patiently allowed her this bit of fun. Both men were amazed at his good behavior. The Kenyan was utterly blown away.

When Jill came home to tell this story to her husband, I was standing in the kitchen. He stood with his back to her as she recounted, with genuine delight, Commander’s excellent behavior and his positive impact on these two men. How they complimented the horse and her, and how they had come away with such a positive impression of the ranch because of Commander. Jill radiated pride in her stallion and such pleasure that her horse had done such a good job.

Her husband never acknowledged the story. He never said “Yes, he’s a good horse.” He went on with his business and left the kitchen. Jill told me later how much it hurt her when she would come home and relay stories like this, and receive nothing in return. “I heap compliments on him, but he doesn’t return them, ” she said sadly.

We cannot know why people withhold kindness, compliments, recognition. We aren’t privy to their reasoning or their justifications. But when someone does withhold nutritious WordFood, it rots inside, like keeping good fruits and vegetables too long. They go bad. The environment we’re holding them in is toxic, or else we’d have happily expressed pride, pleasure, our own delight at the happiness of other people. Nutritious WordFood spoken aloud graces us as it comes through us, it feeds us as well as the other person, in fact even more so. It makes us glow with the gift of the profferred words of encouragement. They give us power for we are giving power away- which is the source of true power.

Some believe that if you hold back a compliment, you’re punishing someone. The opposite is true. You are punishing yourself. You grow small and mean and negative and bitter when you withhold your grace from others. Whether it’s to a stranger, or, much more challenging, to someone who is difficult for you to like, either way you are making an effort, and that effort pays untold dividends.
The more we withold our nutritious WordFood from others, especially those we love, the more those potentially gracious exchanges turn to garbage inside us. Offer a gift, a kiss, a hug, a compliment to someone today, now, send a tweet, an email. You will be better for it.

December 25, 2012

WordFood for Christmas Dinner

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 6:24 pm

It’s here, it’s Christmas, and in a few hours I’m going to be joining my adopted family for the seventh time for dinner on this most wonderful of holidays. My friend Jill has a large extended family and a number of years ago, they opened up their hearts to invite me to join them for the three Christmas events they enjoy each year. Since then, this 10-day excursion has become one of the most beloved of my annual events. My parents passed many years ago, and my brother died this past year, so the Smith family has become where my heart is for the holidays.

The Smiths open presents on Christmas Eve, so last night we all gathered around the fireplace while the youngest boys struggled to help pile the gifts at the appropriate feet. We start with the youngest first and end with Jill’s mother. This takes several hours, as we all love to ooooh and aaaaaah over what the children get, and take our time exclaiming over our goodies.

When it was my turn, I had a card from Jill’s 93-year-old mother, Deen, which I opened first. Deen can never figure out what to give me, but this time she nailed it. It wasn’t the package of list pads. It was what she wrote in her card. In her spidery hand, she expressed her pleasure at having me join the family every Christmas, and how she saw me as her second “daughter.” Those words were WordFood of the first order, more nutritious that the luscious dinner Jill always serves, more important to me than what we will eat tonight. They cemented my place in this beloved group of people. Nothing could have touched me more deeply. And no gift could have meant more.

As we all sit down to Christmas dinner, it will be food for our bodies and also for our souls, that we share stories and laughter with those we love. And we send prayers for those who have left us this year. For those who are with us, it’s time we give them the gift of words that transform, as Deen gave me. No physical gift can uplift as much as kind words, that enfold and include, and remind us that we are loved.  That is what the spirit of Christmas is truly all about.

June 14, 2012

Costly Toxic WordFood

On a beautiful day in Boulder, Colorado I went to lunch with one of the most powerful women in the state. My friend Meg is a serial entrepreneur, a brilliant businesswoman. She has sat on some of the boards of the biggest banks in the country, created jobs, and been a powerful force for women in her state and the business community for years.

I’ve known Meg for more than thirty years. I don’t know how old she is, somewhere in her late 80′s, I’d imagine. But she won’t tell anyone her age because of incidents like this one.

She was traveling with a business group in Viet Nam a while back when they had missed a return flight to Hanoi. One man in the group offered to rebook the flights and took their passports to get this accomplished. Afterwards, he approached her in a huff.

“If I’d known how old you were I’d never have allowed you to go on this trip,” he said condescendingly, and with force.

Meg has been an athlete all her life and she still is. She works out with a trainer, runs, does yoga, has a personal chef. She is up earlier than most of us and looks perhaps seventy. She still climbs mountains. She is likely in better shape than this dope.

What he didn’t know was that Meg was considering him for a job in one of her companies. His toxic WordFood and obvious age discrimination cost him a significant opportunity. Typical of Meg, she didn’t mention it. This fool will go on in his self-righteousness, clueless about what his ugly words cost him.

Our prejudices can be expensive. Age prejudice can make us overlook, ignore and bypass some of the most amazing and brilliant people all around us.  And our assumptions, based on those prejudices, can cost us the chance to learn from the richest resource in our society.  We may worship the young as a society but I’ll take Meg any day.

We owe our most respectful WordFood to those who came before us. Many of the things we take for granted, they put there for us. The inventions, buildings, highways, infrastructures that we depend on. And oh yeah, us.

Pick up the phone, email, go to a senior center, make the time and feed an elder the WordFood they so rightfully deserve today.

June 11, 2012

WordFood for Top Performers

Are you lucky enough to have great performers on your team? Are they highly independent, self-starting individuals? Are you glad that you can pretty much let them do their own thing and leave them alone?

Then you may be making a big mistake.

It’s very easy to assume that these top performers don’t need feedback or management oversight. Sure, they don’t want micromanagement- they are, after all, intrapreneurs. They might even tell you that they don’t need you to look in on them. But this is largely untrue.

Your top performers all have egos. And they want to know you’re paying attention to their work. That doesn’t mean looking over their shoulders all the time. What it does mean is that you do check in and acknowledge them. Notice their achievements. Ask them their opinions and involve them in the development of new people. Watch their numbers and express your appreciation.

Don’t be fooled by their independence. Our highest achievers want positive WordFood from you. They want to know you’re paying attention to what they do. If you don’t, they will find somewhere else to work where they will get that pat on the back.

All too often well meaning leaders make the assumption that their best people don’t need attention. The opposite is true. These are the people who deserve the most acknowledgement. This teaches your lowest performers that to get more of your support, they have to step it up.

Many a great employee has left because he or she got ignored. Make sure you are giving Energy Enhancer compliments to those who are making your company successful. Find out how they want to be valued: everyone is unique.

Feed your best performers rich WordFood and they will continue to reward you.

June 8, 2012

WordFood for the Tough Jobs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 3:05 pm

This afternoon I was doing research for one of my WordFood leadership programs and was interviewing a manager at BNSF about her work. She has a demanding job that requires her to be pretty independent, and to take a lot of responsibility for her own results. I asked her, being as much as a self- starter as she is, how much she needs to hear that she’s doing a good job.

At first she said she didn’t need to hear much at all. “I really don’t need that kind of acknowledgement,” she explained. Then the more she thought about it, she added, “but you know, it would be nice to hear once in a while that people know it’s tough out here. Demanding and sometimes thankless. When we go over and above, it’s nice when that’s noticed. So, yes. It matters.”

When I turned the tables and inquired about how she took care of those who attended to her needs, it was a different story altogether. She shared one situation where she needed help from the IT department. She gave fair warning starting in January that she had a drop dead deadline on April 30th. Due to a series of circumstances, nothing was done and she ended up with a brand new IT person helping her at the last minute. This person had other, higher priorities, and often was dragged away. At key moments in this process my client would tell this overstressed IT person “You’re my hero today.”

This front line, brand new, overworked IT kid probably only heard this from my client but it was probably the best thing he heard all day. And he got the job done- at the last possible moment on April 31st, right at the drop dead last second.

While my client may not always think about her needs to be fed nutritious WordFood, she knows how to feed it to others, especially those who do the tough jobs on the bottom rungs. Sometimes we can forget the demands place on people in these positions, and get frustrated with them. Acknowledgement, thanks and recognition go a long way towards helping us meet our goals and making friends for future support.

Who does the tough jobs for you? How can you thank them today?

May 31, 2012

WordFood of Love

My friend Lori is extremely busy. She left a demanding job as a partner with a tile company a few years ago to take a break and found herself even busier, taking on responsibilities working at a hospice, learning and then teaching Italian, getting and then training a dog to be a companion to those in need. Now she is deeply involved with animal rights issues.

Our friendship has spanned thirty years. As Lori has gotten older she has taken on bigger and more complex projects. Her time is more precious. We don’t talk very often and when I do call, I usually find her in a highly preoccupied state.

Today, I called and got the usual. “Hi honey, look I don’t have time to talk, my Italian student is late, I have a deadline to meet, she knows this drives me crazy, can we talk later?”
“Lori, I only called for one thing.”
“What’s that?”
“To say I love you.”
“Oh. Thank you darling.”
“You’re welcome.”

We can get so in love with our busy-ness and our activities that we forget to make room for those we call our closest friends. Sometimes we need to just take a moment and breathe, and let someone love us.

When a child wants to hug you, are you too busy to take that extra few seconds to cuddle? When your mom wants to say something to you on the phone, are you in a hurry to hang up to get on to more important things? These ARE the important things.

When we look back on the times that were important, we think about the exchanges we had with those most precious to us. Not the big deals, the contracts won, the high fives with the guys at the office. It’s the WordFood of love that we were fed by our children, our parents, our beloved friends, our family members.

Who in your life needs five phone seconds from you? Who is so busy, so preoccupied, so busy in life that an “I Love You” message would be a bright spot in their day? My beloved friend Lori reminds me that I’m the one who needs to call her.

Whose life can you brighten today?

May 25, 2012

Women and WordFood

This week I was in New York City at a huge formal bash. It was a big black tie event put on by the National Minority Supplier Development Council and everyone was dressed to the nines. I had flown in from Denver, where we are pretty casual much of the time, and I was having a lot of fun being surrounded by all these women in flowing gowns and men in their sharp tuxedos.

About halfway through the evening I was working my way through the tables and came across a woman in a particularly stunning dress – it crisscrossed her body and made her look like a million bucks. She was facing away from me, and I touched her arm to get her attention. “You look absolutely amazing in that dress,” I told her. “You’re a complete knockout.” Her face lit up. “I really needed to hear that,” she said. She went on to tell me that she doesn’t hear that kind of thing enough- and that my compliment made her feel really good.

Women can sometimes be a little catty with each other, especially about appearances. “That dress is too tight,” “Her makeup is too theatrical,” comments that tear each other down behind our backs. What we all need from each other is support and love: outright support, acknowledgment face to face. I love to compliment women: on their clothing, their hair, their strong arms, everything about them. What their warm reactions teach me is how hungry we all are for acknowledgement. We want to be seen for how hard we work to be pretty or handsome or to do well.

Those seconds it took to give this lovely woman a kind word made ME feel like a million dollars that night. The gift was to me as much as to her for her graciousness. It’s a constant reminder of how powerful our WordFood can be.

May 19, 2012

Words to Improve Relationships

My neighbors, Marge and Everett, are in their seventies. Since moving here in 2006, I’ve visited them every so often and we’ve had a good connection. I’m single so sometimes I’ve had to ask Everett for help around the house, often using his long ladder to climb on the roof to dust the heavy snow off my dish during football season.
Just the other day when I again asked Everett for help with a recalcitrant spigot, he told me that Marge was beginning to have problems with my requests for his help. She’d been on meds that made her memory problematic and she was increasingly insecure, so she didn’t like my coming over and dragging him off. In addition, I hadn’t been over just visiting as often lately.
So yesterday I went next door and asked to see Marge. Twenty years ago Marge had been a senior manager in the health care system. We sat down in their living room and I asked her for help. She was a little confused. “I am developing a proposal for Catholic Health Initatives,” I explained. “And I could use your insight, opinions, background and knowledge about the healthcare industry.” Marge flustered a little, but then her face lit up. “I can do that,” she said. “Let me give it some thought. I’d like to help you.” I said I’d be back in a week with a notebook and pen and we’d get to work.
The truth is I could use her help and I really do have the potential for this work. And including Marge on this proposal is perfect for us both. This solves the problem of Marge’s discomfort with me, and it also gives us a great way to work together and she is likely to give me great ideas for my upcoming work. What a win win.

I had gotten selfish in using Everett for my own needs, and stopped thinking about how Marge also needed attention. Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we don’t consider others’ needs, especially those of older people, parents, people with so much still to offer.
Where might you create a WordFood opportunity to engage someone to make them feel valuable and important to you?

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