Get Reworked Podcast: Why We Need More Kindness in the Workplace
How do you stay positive in the middle of a tragedy?
It's a question that became all too real for our next guest, who found himself at the scene of the mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Ill. that left seven people dead and scores wounded.
In this episode of Get Reworked, Howard Prager, executive coach and author of "Make Someone's Day" shares how times of trouble are exactly when we need to focus on the needs of others and tells us what exactly we can do at work to make each others' lives better.
Listen: Get Reworked Full Episode List
"Negativity just breeds more negativity both within us and with others," Howard said. "I believe that when we can make others feel better, I know that we too feel better because of our mirror neurons creating what I call the boomerang effect."
Highlights of the conversation include:
- How to stay upbeat amidst tragedy and bad news.
- Why we need more kindness in the workplace.
- How to practice gratitude and recognition at work.
- How leaders can make time to make others' days.
- The role of recognition in hybrid and remote work.
Plus, co-hosts Siobhan Fagan and Mike Prokopeak talk with Howard about bringing your whole self to work, if nice people do indeed finish last and why the tuba is the most underrated musical instrument. Listen in for more.
Have a suggestion, comment or topic for a future episode? Drop us a line at [email protected].
- Howard Prager's website: howardhprager.com
- Howard's book: "Make Someone's Day: What It Can Do For You and Your Organization"
- Howard on LinkedIn
- Marshall Goldsmith's website
- Doug Conant's website
Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.
Siobhan Fagan: Hi everybody, and welcome to today's Get Reworked podcast. Today we're going to be hearing from Howard Prager. Howard is the president of Advance Learning Group. He is also an author. And we brought him on to speak about his book, "Make Someone's Day, What it Can Do For You and Your Organization."
Howard brings a rich background as a speaker and executive coach and leadership consultant. And, Mike, I know that you've worked with Howard for quite a few years now, right?
Mike Prokopeak: I have, and I've been trying to get Howard on the podcast for a few months now. Because I just felt like the message of his book, Make Someone's Day, What it Can Do For You and Your Organization, is just a message I think we all could have a little bit more of in our life.
What I didn't expect is that this conversation would take on extra poignancy in the aftermath of the shooting that took place at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill. I bring it up because Howard was actually there, he was on a float in the parade ready to proceed through the main drag of Highland Park when the incident happened.
So he tells us a little bit about that experience, and how that has affected him and his community, but also shares what it means for the rest of us, and how it has really made him appreciate the message of his book much more deeply.
So just a quick warning, before we throw it over to Howard, we will be discussing the shooting in the first few minutes of this conversation, so anyone who may want to skip that part of it, feel free to skip ahead, you go to about 10 minutes, and we should be moving on to talk a little bit more in depth about his book.
So I hope you find this conversation insightful, and I'm looking forward to bring it on Howard.
Welcome to the podcast, Howard.
Howard Prager: Thank you, Mike, thank you, Siobhan. Pleasure to be here.
What It Was Like in Highland Park on Independence Day
Mike: As I mentioned, we've been trying to have this conversation for a few months now, the message of your book, the theme of this conversation is one that we all need to hear more of, and have more conversations about this idea about caring for one another and in being able to make someone's day.
But it really has taken on much more relevance in the last week, Howard, because you're a resident of Highland Park, and the Fourth of July, there was a shooting at the Independence Day Parade. You were actually at that parade. And so I'm hoping if you could start us off and just tell us a little bit about the morning of July 4th. And how did that morning unfold from your point of view?
Howard: Sure. Thanks, Mike. And I'm actually not a resident of Highland Park, but I've spent a lot of time there. And I've been in the parade for about 30 years. So we were excited, you know, with the pandemic, keeping parades and things closed, this was the first parade there in two years. And I think there was a lot of anticipation.
Many of us are in parades for various reasons or watch them. For me, it's a bit of a side gig, a side hustle, because I am a musician, and was able to be playing on a float in the parade. So I think we're all excited about just being able to, to be there and entertain the crowd.
So here we are at the staging area, and we're making our way into the start of the parade. And it was about, the parade started to 10, and about 10:10 a.m. our float was directed to go into the parade. So we are on the street just around the corner from Central — Central was the main street in Highland Park that the parade goes down.
And we're playing and playing an upbeat lively song. The people are kind of smiling and dancing too. And a couple of minutes into the song. We saw some people start running our way. And I didn't think anything of it. At first our piano player was a little more concerned. She said something's up, I said no, let's keep playing. And so we did. And about a minute later that crowd moved from a few people to many people, many people with panic and terror in their eyes running, running not only towards us, but past us to get away.
We didn't know at the time what they were trying to get away from, but we stopped playing. And we heard the shots. We heard the latter part of the shots.
Mike: So what's going through your head at that point?
Howard: So what's going through my head is, what the heck is happening? This is just incongruous. This is July 4th, it's the day that all Americans, no matter what our side of the aisle is, we all come together to celebrate the beauty and independence and democracy of our country. And I thought, what's happening?
And of course, was trying to figure it out, well we've got to get away from here, we don't know what's going on, but we couldn't, we're on a float in the parade. And there are people behind us, in the front of us. So we had to look and see, what can we do to get away and we waited about a minute or two. And finally, there was an opening, and our float was able to make a U-turn, and get back to the staging area.
It was numbing, I think, I and so many others just kind of froze. We didn't know what was going on. And what was funny is one of the things I thought about was the orchestra on the Titanic playing. And we kept playing as we saw in the movie, and the ship is starting to sink and I wonder if they knew they're sinking? And, you know, others did. Maybe the orchestra didn't at first. That's how I think I felt too. We didn't know at first what was happening, and we kept playing.
Mike: So what have the days since been like, because you know, as you mentioned, it was sort of numbing in that moment you there's both confusion, there's chaos. But then, what have the days since been like, both for you and as well as those who are who are around you, how would you describe that?
Howard: First of all, I understand now how many people are affected by an incident. It's not just the people who are shot, or the people who are killed, it's all the others around, from family to friends to to viewers, the people in the community. And I realized the large, large effect that any shooting has, we all feel awful, every one of us about any shooting that takes place.
But now I realize how much larger the community that's directly affected is. And I said to myself as the information was coming out about the shooter, and being lonely and aloof. And I thought, what if we could have done something so he didn't feel so isolated and alone with whatever ugly evil thoughts he was having that caused him to do this in the first place. And we're still waiting to find out what the motivation was, what his motivation was.
I really think that this is a cry for "Make Someone's Day" unlike any cry I've had about it, that we need to change the tenor of conversation, we need to uplift one another and support each other, both at work, and outside of work.
How to Maintain Positivity Amidst Negative Events
Mike: So Howard, if I can ask you, I want to get into the message of the book because obviously, we invited you on this podcast before this happened, because we felt it was a message we wanted to be able to share with our audience.
But how do you, personally before we kind of get into what the message is, how do you personally keep upbeat when something like this happens? And I know it's only been just over, it's been a week?
Mike: So I mean, how do you personally grapple with this and maintain your own positivity, to come and talk with us, for example? You know, a lot of people would probably want to retreat a little bit and just say I need some time. You are very actively going out there and choosing this time to talk to people about it.
Howard: I think we have to take advantage of openings and experiences that we share, Mike, to realize what can be what we can do. And absolutely, I was angry, devastated, upset at first. And I thought where can that energy go.
Negativity just breeds more negativity both within us and with others. And I said, that's the problem. And that could be why this and other shooters go off on these awful, awful shootings. That maybe what we need to do is stop our brains default, our natural default, it's easier to go negative than to go positive, we have to work a little bit to turn that spiral downwards into a positive forward spin.
And I believe that when we can make others feel better, I know that we too feel better because of our mirror neurons creating what I call the boomerang effect.
So I know that if we all went out, to try to do something every day to make someone's day, anyone's day, that that's gonna have multiplier effects, and we're going to be able to impact more people than ever.
The Roots of "Make Someone's Day"
Mike: So when you're talking about this concept of make someone's day, it really kind of comes from your own personal experiences and your own narratives that kind of brought you here, this is your life's work kind of coming out in a way through this book.
What were some of the really formative experiences for you that made this message so important that you felt like you needed to, not only write a book about it, but go out and really share that with the world?
Howard: You know, Mike, in fact, it's funny, you should ask that. Because when I started drafting the book five years ago, many examples were mine. And I thought, after I had written that first draft, I said, this is not a biography, I need to make this about everyone.
And then I started researching and saying, Who else has experienced this? Where has it been written? And I found lots of other examples. But let me share just a couple of really simple examples of ways that I experienced make someone's day in my life.
So, Marshall Goldsmith, as many of your listeners know, he is a great leader, executive coach and management thinker. And I was at an OD conference where he was the keynote, and I got there early one morning, and it was basically just me and him. And I went up to Marshall, I heard him previously, I don't think he remembered me because he's got so many followers. But I had to tell him how much I admired not only his work, but his generosity, because his material is available for free on his website, versus so many others that have content under lock and key.
His ideas make such a difference in the world. And when I did this, Marshall thanked me. And then he did something that I just thought in disbelief around. He invited me to a seminar he was giving in New York the following weekend.
He saw something in me, that turned out to be an invitation to be part of his MG 100 Coaches, hundreds of the leading coaches and executives from around the world who would have the opportunity to learn from Marshall's experiences and from each other. I know that 16,000 people applied for these 100 spots. And the fact that Marshall just invited me to join blew me away.
It's the greatest experience I've ever had professionally, because I met and now know stellar coaches, leaders and executives. And it motivated me to think what book am I going to write to share my insights and knowledge.
I met CEOs such as the CEO of Lindt Chocolate, Italy, and Garry Ridge, the CEO of WD-40. And both of them were kind enough to endorse the book. That's how easy it is to do, it just starts off by me going up to Marshall and saying thank you. And then it unleashed a series of things that led to us amazing opportunity for me. I've got tons of other examples. But I just want our listeners to hear how easy it is to make someone's day.
Now I'm not saying that everyone you go up to is going to invite you to a seminar or whatever. But you know what, take the opportunity to try, take the opportunity to make their day by telling them how much they influenced or helped you. They will love it, you will love it. And you'll never know what might happen if you go ahead and do so.
How Do We Create Incentives to Make Someone's Day at Work
Siobhan: Howard, I'm curious if you think that our current workplaces with the competition and potentially with the way that people are rewarded, is in any way incentivizing people to make other people's day. You know, I think a lot of people when you suggest something like that, they're like what's in it for me?
And you make a very clear case, and we've all experienced how making somebody else happy is sort of a mutually rewarding experience, you both people get a lift, but I'm just wondering in the workplace scenario, does it come sort of against people's natural inclinations in the job?
Howard: I think there are two questions here, Siobhan. So let me answer the second one first, then try to go back to the first one that you asked. So the questions are, is it in the workplace already? And the second question is, what can we do to get it there?
So I believe that it is in some workplaces, but it's not in a lot of workplaces. You know, the companies that have it, the companies that believe in it, are the ones that we all know and recognize and admire. The Wegmans, the Zappos, the Southwest, Pike Place Fish Market. These are all organizations that are rated high for caring about employees and making a difference. So yes, it is absolutely in some companies, but it needs to be in more. It needs to be a part of them. And let me tell you why.
It's not just a nice thing to do, it will increase productivity, because people will be excited to be there and do the work, if they feel that this is an organization that cares about them and others, and cares about kindness. It will increase motivation, because they'll want to give them they're all gonna want to put in the extra effort that so many of us do, especially when we're working on major projects and milestones, I'll give an example of that in a minute. And finally, one of the greatest challenges that organizations are facing today is retention.
Well, if I've got a choice of making $5 more an hour, or having a place that appreciates me, and shows gratitude and encourages kindness, my decision's made, I don't need that $5 Extra an hour if I can feel good about who I am, who I want to be, and the fact that they care about me.
Balancing Criticism With Recognition
Mike: So Howard, this idea of making someone's day and you know, showing you care about someone, I know, it's not antithetical to the idea of constructive feedback and criticism, because, you know, we need to be able to provide people with criticism, we need to be able to tell them, give them honest feedback that sometimes they don't want to hear, how do you balance that with this idea that you should be making someone's day that we should focus on how do we make them better? How do you? How do you balance those two pieces of it, this idea of making someone's day with having as a leader or a manager to provide some sometimes difficult feedback or have a difficult conversation?
Howard: Yeah, Mike, I think you're right, they're not opposite one another, we can be inclusive, it's just the question of how the manager group goes about it, right?
A manager who goes about it in a way that's caring and developmental versus manager that goes about it in a way that it's a stick and a punishment. I know, feedback is some of the hardest things that we have to be able to hear. And so how it's delivered, makes all the difference in the world.
And in fact, I encourage people to do what I call a fourth step in my model. And that's to provide feedback to themselves through reviewing and reflecting on what they did when they made someone's day. It's a way of growing their own practice, and becoming better at it. So it's a way in a sense of self feedback.
And on my website at howardhprager.com, people can download worksheets, and they can choose the one that they feel is best to help give them that feedback and information themselves.
The VIP Model for Recognition
Mike: Let's stay on that for a second. Because you do have a model, it's called the VIP Model: View, Identify and Plan Can you can you walk us through those three steps?
Howard: Yeah, absolutely. So the V is, first of all, I came up with the idea because who doesn't want to feel like a VIP, right? And when you make someone's day, they are feeling like a VIP. They're feeling special.
So as you save the V is for view and observe what's going on around you, what are you noticing? What might people need? The more that you know them, the better, you're going to be able to do something that could make their day. So that's where bosses who know their employees, they are in a much better position to make someone's day than someone who just casually knows them. And yet both situations can work.
So V is view and observe. And that includes online, because I know we're going to be talking about, what about people who are remote workers or hybrid workers. This works both ways, in person and online.
I is identify and consider, what actions might you want to take? What might you want to do?
I didn't go to that conference, thinking that I'd have an opportunity to have a conversation with Marshall Goldsmith, I went to learn to observe, probably to blog, a few things about it few lessons, but I didn't think I'd meet him. So I viewed and observed the opportunity to see him, I identified and considered what I could do. And I decided to take advantage of it.
And that's the third point of the VIP, plan and act. And so I immediately planned I said, I'm just gonna go up and I'm gonna tell him how much I appreciate him, and what he has been able to do for so many of us, and that's where the whole thing opened up. So VIP, view and observe, identify and consider plan and act.
And after you've done that, then comes the R, so the VIP is what you do, the R is how you review and reflect what happened so you can learn and grow your make someone's day practice.
Siobhan: Howard as part of your executive coaching, do you ever come up against leaders who sort of push this off as soft skills or something that they don't really need to learn as a leader?
Siobhan: And how do you handle those cases?
Howard: Well, oh, so one of the things I say to them is, how do you feel about your top talent, your high potential talent, and how would you like them to work for your biggest competitor?
Because when you decide that make someone's day is not something you're going to do, it's not going to fit with your culture. And these people are looking for where they can feel that they can contribute to the workplace and where the workplace can contribute to them. They may be looking, and certainly they're being recruited down the block, right? We don't have any fantasies that they're not getting calls. My stepson works for an M&A firm, he said he's got he gets call every week. So the calls are out there, they know who they are, especially your top talent, you want to take the risk of losing them go right ahead.
How Leaders Can Learn to Recognize People Better
Siobhan: Is this a skill that they can learn? I mean, if if this is new to them, how would they go about identifying those opportunities?
Howard: Oh, that's a great question, Siobhan. And I think they can identify those opportunities. I say, start simply, start simply with a smile with a kind word. It doesn't take much to make someone's day, but it's very situation and person specific independente, one size does not fit all, much like clothes, you go and buy clothes that are one size fits all and said, Yeah, this doesn't fit me. And it's the same thing with make someone's day, one size does not fit all.
So I say start simply start practicing. When I do workshops for companies around this, I spend time specifically on practicing, viewing and observing, and then checking in where they write about what they viewed observed. Then the identifying considered options, and then we went back and checked, where those options were some of those options preferable.
And then finally, the plan and act, and of course, then we have to have them go through and actually do something. And then we go back and sit down and say, what did we think about what did we learn. And actually, I've added a second P to that. Because too often we do knee jerk reactions to, to situations that we face. So I say we need to plan, pause and act. And that pause might just be a second or two. But just enough for us to catch the breath before we send that text, before we respond, before we jump into action. And just make sure that we're clear on what we're doing.
So again, whether it's a couple seconds, or if it's a bigger way that we want to make someone's day, maybe it's gonna take some time, it gives us a pause to really plan out what we want to do so we can do it right.
Siobhan: Howard, can I ask you a question about scale? I'm wondering if these interactions I mean, so many of the examples, all of the examples that we've heard so far, are on a one-on-one basis, it's between individuals, is there any way where you could do this on a wider scale? Or is that intimacy and that individuality important to make this effective?
Howard: Another great question, I believe it's the intimacy that's important, the individual recognition.
I know you all know about Doug Conant and his book and his work. And one of the things that Doug did when he took over CEO of Campbell's Soup, is he said, how do I turn around a culture that's in the red in more than just the tomato soup. And he realized that he needed to write and recognize people throughout Campbell's that were doing the right thing to help move the company and culture in the right way. So he wrote 100 to 200. thank you notes each week.
So one way to do that is, of course, to scale up and to write and notice people, whether you're the CEO, or manager, whoever you might be.
I've got a story that I'll share with you when we talk a little bit about sports, of what someone who's done that who's a maintenance worker. So there's a way to scale that way. You also can do it for teams and recognize teams, realize that the more you're doing it for a group, perhaps the less personal impact it's going to have. Because we all want rewards and recognition in different ways.
So doing it for a large group may be nice, like let's have a party, let's go take the day off whatever it might be, go to a ball game. That's nice. And some people will really feel great about that. If it's tied into what they did. And others will be oh, this is nice. So you'll lose some of the impact that direct impact of doing it one-on-one.
Stories of How People Have Made Someone's Day
Mike: All right, Howard, you brought up the sports metaphor, which is something I wanted to cover with you because I know that you're, you've got some sports writing in your own background, but I believe it was your wasn't your father, also a sports journalist?
Howard: My father-in-law, and believe it or not, my mother were sports journalists.
Mike: So this is a kind of a rich metaphor we can explore a little bit.
I think what I'm hearing you say, when it comes to practicing, make someone's day at work, it's that you want to get as many at bats as you can to put it in a baseball metaphor, so that you raise your average, the more at bats, you have the raise your average of actually making a hit, which has an impact on somebody's life, or, you know, and eventually, maybe that impact has a feedback effect for you, but that's not necessarily while you're there.
What do you do to sort of overcome the skepticism of people who see it just taking these swings, and they're just like, they're just doing it for themselves? This leader is really just in it for themselves. Because you know, when you're talking about toxic cultures, that is it's not just a toxic culture at the leadership level, it's kind of permeated through so, so how do you kind of overcome some of that skepticism amongst the broader employee base amongst the fans who are watching the leader take their swings?
Howard: Yeah, oh, boy. The analogy is so powerful in so many ways.
I'm gonna step aside from that just for a moment. And I want to tell you about someone I spoke to just last week. His name is Andrew Holmes, and he's a maintenance worker. He was delivering flowers to some senior homes around Chicago in Chicagoland, and discovered, not only these seniors, but these centenarians, these seniors who are 100 and above, who had no one in their lives. No one in their lives, to be able to visit them to support them to help them. And he said, I'm going to do something about that. And he decided he was going to start Club 100.
You have to be a centenarian to be a member of this club. And I believe he's also focused on centenarians, who are lonely and don't have family and others for support. And he does activities with them, and treats them, gives them the VIP treatment. And more than just even make someone's day VIP. He rolls out the red carpet, he gets limos for them and flowers. So what he did, talk about the sports is he recently took several 100-year-old women that happened to be to the White Sox game.
And he bought them all jerseys. He made them jerseys with their name on the back, and their age 101, 102, 105, 106. And then the White Sox helped by providing tickets camps and some food. They all came in limos to the ballpark. And their faces were on the big screen in center field. And they had the time of their lives. They felt so good, and fans from around the ballpark came over to meet them, to meet these centenarians, some of whom had never been to a ball game in their lives.
So he is making someone's day with all his actions. Now, he's a maintenance worker. He's 56 years old, Andrew Holmes said, this is a mission for me. And I'm thinking, boy, if I knew an Andrew Holmes, was working for me, and trying to do more, I would find so many ways to support him and help him and have him be as successful as he can be. And just to be fair, because we're talking about Chicago, we've got the north and south side. He's going to take centenarians who are Cubs fans to a Cubs game, but he's hoping in the near future.
Mike: He is unifying the world.
Howard: He is absolutely. Is that not incredible? I mean, a maintenance worker. Andrew is just fantastic. And he's been doing this now for several years. The first time he took 112 year-old gentleman, who had never been to a ballgame. And was a longtime fan.
That's amazing to me. And so yeah, it's a little bit of the sports world because in this case, the Sox were in on it and helped support and make it happen. And you're right with your analogy. When you think about hitters. hitters that get a hit one in four times are often rewarded with great contracts, one in three, they're millionaires, they know what to do, they know all the mechanics, they know they're the best of the best. And yet, as you say, they don't get a hit every time.
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So I think would make someone's day. I had not checked the batting average, but I'll bet the batting average for make someone's days over 500. I'll bet it happens more often than not. And that's the experience. I've had experience I've heard from others.
Is It Better to Recognize Others Privately or Publicly?
Siobhan: I can tell you Howard that I currently am experiencing sort of a make someone's day residual glow just from hearing that story about Andrew and the centenarian club.
But I think it actually brings up a question that I was wondering about, if these kinds of recognitions should happen on a public scale, which is happening on a really wide scale with all these people on the Jumbotron. Or if it means more if it's happening, privately, you have any thoughts on that?
Howard: I think the more it can happen publicly, the better we're going to be, the better our organizations are going to be, the better we're going to be as a community, as citizens as individuals.
So I'd say the more can get out there, the better. And that's what I think we need right now. We need in our companies and in our lives, ways of uplifting ourselves and uplifting others.
You know, Siobhan, there are two researchers from INSEAD, the great European Business School, and they did research that found that being kind to others, makes us feel even better than someone being kind to us. Just think about that. I mean, when we think about oh my gosh, what a treat to get this. This was great. Oh my gosh, so nice, Marshall to do this. This is great. Oh my gosh, how wonderful this is happening to me, that's great. But I'll feel even better when I do it for someone else.
And the work that I've done research I've done with neuroscientists say the same thing. We feel the boomerang effect. All we need to do is make someone's day. And we will feel the boomerang effect of there.
I'll tell you how simple it is to do. I signed the petition. That's where the idea really came from. I was taking the train downtown, and a young woman came up to me with a petition to get someone on the ballot. And she said, Would you mind signing? Do you live in the area? I said, Yes. I'm happy to ask her for who it was for. And I knew the name, didn't know what party but I knew the name. I said, sure. Let me sign it. I did. And I gave it back to her. And she had the biggest eyes and looked at me and said, Oh my God, You made my day.
I signed a petition. That's all. That's how easy it is. People think this takes lots of planning and work. And it can, it can we can do something in really big ways and make a difference. But it could be even small things like that being what I believe was the first person to sign the petition for her that can make her day and that whole train ride down. I couldn't get out of my head, how much better I felt for doing that.
Mike: You brought up that very practical tip, Howard, that it doesn't need to be a grand gesture all the time, it can be something very simple. It's just maybe the small gift of your time, or your attention.
But unfortunately, from a leadership perspective, kind of putting in this in the context of work and from leaders who are trying to make this a practice of their day, that they're trying to make someone's day every day. time and attention are the things that are the most in demand for them they have the least of that's the most scarce resource they have. They have access to funding, in many cases, they have people that work on their teams, they have resources at their fingertips, but the one thing they can't create more of his time and attention.
So what are some other practical tips that you would have for leaders to make this a priority? How else can they make it part of their daily practice?
Howard: Make it part of your culture, create a people centered, make someone's day part of your culture.
And as I said earlier, the companies that do so are always rated high in so many places, best place to work, best return on stock value, longest retention of workers, fun place to work. People who have this as part of their culture, get so many benefits from it. And when that happens, all the senior leader needs to do is put this in motion, all the CEO needs to do is approve this.
And there are so many CEOs who live this. Hubert Joly just wrote the book, The Heart of Business. Hubert was brought in to turn around, and I'm just giving this because you're asking about what senior leaders can do, well, Hubert was brought into turnaround Best Buy at a time that so many electronic stores were going out of business.
Hubert had not worked in retail before and he said I've got to learn what it's about, what's going on and why things are happening the way they are. So he went out to the middle of the country went north of us to St. Cloud, Minnesota. And he donned a blue shirt and worked there for a week. His name tag said CEO in training, and he certainly meant it. He talked to everyone from the associates to the security from register and sales clerks to the customers, to the warehouse people and drivers. He wanted to find out what was going on what was right about Best Buy, and what we need to do to turn things around.
Now, many CEOs that come into troubled companies, how do they do it, they slash headcount. They know I can have an immediate impact. If I save some fixed costs right away, if I close underperforming stores. Hubert instead said, I want to learn from the people who are on the front lines, what they think we can do. And he came back and he shuttered very few stores. He gave people what they needed, and the opportunity, and as a result, Best Buy is around today.
Underrated/Overrated With Howard Prager
Mike: All right, Howard, this has been really great so far to kind of hear your perspective on this and really kind of make this come home in our lives at work and just our lives in general. At this point, we want to take a little break and do the game we like to play on this podcast, which is called underrated / overrated.
What we're gonna do is we're gonna throw you a few topics, and you could tell us whether you think that idea is underrated or overrated. You can give a little bit explanation if warranted, and you can even tell us to skip the question if you don't think he got any answer there. But are you willing to play along with us?
Howard: Of course.
Mike: All right. I'm gonna get the first one going.
Howard: Do I get Bill Kurtis's voice on my answering machine if I win.
Mike: Yeah, right. Is this a wait, wait, don't tell me reference.
Siobhan: You get Mike Prokopeak's voice on your answering machine, Howard.
Howard: Bill, eat your heart out.
Mike: Right. All right, Howard, for my voice on your answering machine. The first question is the idea of bringing your whole self to work. This is something that has been coming more and more in the business of you know, the last 10 years or so this idea that we can't compartmentalize our lives like, here's my work life, here's my home life. And we've been told to bring our whole selves to work. Do you feel like that idea of bringing your whole self to work is underrated? Or is it overrated?
Howard: Underrated for sure. As much as we may want to, we can't separate, and the pandemic has given us in a sense that opportunity, people see ourselves they see our surroundings when we're all working remotely. And now many of us are working hybrid — remotely, sometimes in person sometimes. And so when they see you at home, and they see much like remember that British broadcaster whose little child came into his BBC production, and you know, we see what life is like, it's no longer this line of demarcation of you can only be at work or at home. It's now both.
Siobhan: So next up, Howard, you spoke at the beginning of the podcast about the fact that you are indeed a musician, but I don't think that our audience yet got to hear about your instrument of choice. So next up for underrated or overrated, I have tubas playing the melody instead of the baseline. Is this underrated or overrated?
Howard: So I think that's definitely underrated, Siobhan, I'm a tuba player. And so I think the tuba player is an underrated musical instrument. Because it's so beautiful and people just think of Tubby the Tuba, or simple things or just the beat, boom, boom, boom, boom. And there's so much more, especially the great tuba players who can play so beautifully and melodically, tuba is just a bigger instrument but has the same qualities of a violin trumpet or piano.
Mike: All right, Howard, we've already talked about this a little bit. But I want to probe this a little bit with you as well, this idea of sports as a business metaphor. The business world is rife with these, we talked about batting average, you know, there's things like skate to where the puck is, you know, hockey references, despite hockey not being as popular a sport at least in America than other sports. We somehow have this reference that people understand in business, you're skating to where the puck is. So do you feel like sports as a business metaphor is underrated or overrated?
Howard: I think it's overrated, Mike, that's not to say that the metaphors aren't good or aren't appropriate. I think the challenge is that people as you say, you know, there aren't as many hockey fans. So what does it mean to skate to where the puck is going to be? Right? And so I think, needing to be able to explain that a little bit more so that those who aren't sports fans, or that type of sports fan can understand the analogy. I think we owe it to them to do that. So that's why I say overrated.
Mike: It's funny. You just reminded me of the fact that my wife is not a football fan at all. But one time, for whatever reason, she decided to sit down and watch a football game with me on a Sunday and asked me questions about how is this game played? And then she suddenly like about halfway through the game she came back and said, oh, I finally get all these metaphors that people are using it work, you know, all these little things that people just sort of throw out and expect that people understand. If you're not a sports fan, you don't get it. And so it has been kind of exclusionary in a way. So I guess I'm with you on that it is a bit overrated.
Howard: Yes. That's funny. So the question is Mike, has she seen a second game with you now that she understands?
Mike: No, no, I don't think I was able to convince her to continue watching games. But we had a child after that. And now I'm bringing my son watches for sports with me. So I have a companion.
Siobhan: She took away all she needed from that one game, Howard.
Howard: That's right. She understands and now she's able to move on.
Siobhan: Exactly. So Howard, next up for you in underrated overrated? Is the saying nice people finish last, underrated or overrated?
Howard: But I don't know how I could answer that. Because I think it's an underrated, I think. I don't think it's true. I know they talked about that. And that is the saying. But I disagree with that saying so I'm not sure where to whether that puts it as underrated or overrated.
Siobhan: None of the above?
Mike: Well, sorry, on that question, Howard, you lost the opportunity to have me record your voicemail.
All right. So Howard, to kind of close out this conversation. We've talked about this a couple times, already. This the moment we're in at work, which is remote and hybrid for many of us and, and want to spend a little bit of time with you talking about how this idea of your work that makes someone's day idea plays out in those environments.
So can you tell us do you see it remote in hybrid work, changing anything about how you practice make someone's day at work?
Making Someone's Day in Hybrid and Remote Work
Howard: It's funny, I don't think I would have said this before the pandemic. But since the pandemic, I'd say yes, believe it or not, doing it from a hybrid remote standpoint, you've got more opportunities to make someone's day, not less, which is truly remarkable.
I've got a chapter in the book that talks about make someone's day for introverts, and so talks a lot about doing things online. And I've seen examples that have happened to me where people have texted me, emailed me, even responded to me on Facebook, believe it or not to a comment I made. And they said you made my day.
Because those four words are the strongest words people can say to you, you made my day. And so seeing that just absolutely lights me up. So I think that hybrid remote just provides even more opportunities for people to take an opening to make someone's day.
Mike: It seems to me that you just need to be more explicit about it. When you're away from somebody, you know, you're when you're away from the interpersonal cues that we're used to, or, you know, have the chance to actually walk up to somebody and give them a pat on the shoulder, that you just need to be actually be more open about it.
Because there's, we've talked on the podcast a couple of times about this idea of working out loud, that you know, when you are working remotely, you need to make much more explicit, you need to talk to people about how you're doing things, rather than just kind of expect that it kind of gets absorbed in the environment. Do you feel like that idea applies here as well?
Howard: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, it's so much, I don't know about you, but I feel inundated by social media, at times, it's so easy to just check the like button and move on. But it's when we respond and when we comment that we actually open ourselves the opportunity to make others days.
And so I say take a moment and take the pause and you're going to do that you're going to look at social media, learn from that, hear what they're saying, and respond in a meaningful way. You'll be surprised how many times not only do people feel that you made their day, but they'll either say it, or they'll feel it inside themselves. And the next time they see you or the next time you correspond, you're gonna find out that you did.
You know I'm talking about doing things online, and still great to hear those words and to see the expression. So of course online, you're missing seeing the visuals of how someone truly is feeling. But I'm so amazed how it can still work and still be powerful.
Wrap Up and Final Thoughts
Mike: All right, Howard. So we're just about to wrap up the conversation. Do you have any final stories or thoughts that you'd like to share with their audience?
Howard: I do. It's going to be actually it's a little of both Mike.
Mike: All right.
Howard: First of all, I'd love listeners to share stories with for me, and let's go, make someone stay in our lives and the workplace. And here's one way you can do that. Thank a boss who helped you in your career, it can be recent, or it can be from the start of your career, or maybe someone else has helped you get to where you are. There's no statute of limitations on being able to say thank you, and they're gonna love it. It's gonna make their day just by doing that. Whether you send a note, or call, or take them out to coffee or lunch, that's possible, and whoever they may be, if you let them know that.
So a colleague of mine, Arlene had that happen to her. She was a teaching accounting. And one of our students came back to her years later and said, Arlene, I wasn't sure I wanted to be an accountant, but your course so inspired me that I've had a really successful career. And it's all because I was in your classroom.
What an amazing example, what a lasting impact that make someone's day can have not just that a person in the moment, but a person's life.
So as soon as you're done listening, think about who you can go back to, and say, oh, my gosh, you made my day You made my life, you made my career. And you will feel great, and will they. And you'll see that the power of make someone's day is not limited by time in any way.
Siobhan: Howard, I think this is the first time on our podcast that somebody's given our listeners a homework assignment, and this is the best homework assignment ever. So I very much hope people follow through on it.
If they want to learn more about you, where exactly should you go? I know that that you shared your website earlier, but can you do it again, please?
Howard: Yes, thanks. Siobhan, howardhprager.com is the place to find me. You can also use that if you want to find me on social media, as well. But that website will give you direct contact to the information to the free worksheets, you'll get a all you'll do is you'll get a monthly non-soliciting email that I'll tell you about some latest make someone's day stories and examples. And I'd love to hear your examples as well. So please share them with me, because they will inspire so many others, just for us to hear them.
Siobhan: Excellent. Thank you again, Howard. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Howard: It's been a pleasure, Siobhan. And Mike, thank you. Great questions. Great discussion.
Mike: Thank you, Howard.
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