Save An Angry Customer With These Three Words And Other Trust-Building Moves

Labor-Community Coalition activists march down...

Trust is easy to lose in business, but can be recovered. Does JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon know how? (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)

“How can I get my employees to be straight with me?” That question came from the back of the room a few weeks ago while I was delivering a workshop on leadership presence. We were addressing concepts of approachability and influence, and the participant raised a frequent complaint about the employee-manager dynamic. Often it’s a relationship that’s passable but not very open or rewarding.

And while we would all benefit from straightforward communications, there’s usually more static than clear reception. More often than not, the culprit is trust.

Trust is the gatekeeper in any relationship. But in those where an inherent guardedness exists, such as with sales or management, trust plays an even greater role. In my book, The Power of Presence, I dedicated an entire chapter to the concept of trust, based on my favorite model of trust from The Trusted Advisor. (More in this prior blog.) With its factors  of credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation, the authors’ trust equation is both a prescriptive and a diagnostic for enhancing trust.

I recently sat down with fellow Forbes blogger Andrea Howe, co-author of the Trusted Advisor Fieldbook with Charles H. Green, to discuss how to build more trust into relationships.  Howe travels the country helping organizations — including many professional services companies — lead with trust.

KH: What did you set out to do with your latest book?

AH: The goal was to create a book that combines inspiration and practicality. We wanted to further demystify and discern common issues that professionals encounter on a day-to-day basis, and define what trustworthy responses look like. For example, how do you build a trustworthy organization? How do you develop business with trust? How do you deal with a client who seems to be a jerk? We outline specific situations and show how you can look at them through the lens of trust.

KH: What does trust have to do with your career?

AH: Everything. If you look at all the angles of a career — your personal advancement, doing what you need to do to get ahead, creating connections, building a network, leading people, being a thought leader — trust has a greater and greater impact. I don’t know how you do those things in an extraordinary way without cultivating trust along the way.

Without high degrees of trust we can all muddle along. If you want to differentiate you need to make trust part of your everyday thinking and actions.

Being a trusted advisor is a term that’s used widely, like “Xerox.” But it’s really about setting yourself apart.

KH: What are some typical or recurrent trust-testing situations?

AH: I work with a lot of people in client-facing roles, such as in professional services. One big trust-testing moment occurs when you’re in a business relationship with someone and they confront you with a question when you either don’t know the answer or are unsure how your answer will land with the other party. Whenever this happens, this tests our ability to establish intimacy and take risks. While we naturally feel afraid about the outcome, this is actually one of our most important trust-building opportunities.

My co-author Charlie Green always says, “The thing we’re most afraid to say is often what will build the most trust.” Especially for leaders, this means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

In general, trust-testing situations happen when we’re afraid…of looking badly, losing the deal, stepping into a territory that’s outside our comfort zone. That’s what drives our high self-orientation. Fear kills trust in the moment if we don’t manage it and overcome it.

KH: Are there tips to take the trust path in a pinch if you feel that fear?

AH: First recognize you’re in that moment of fear. If not, you’ll be driven by it. How you manage it varies widely from person to person. This can range from taking a deep breath to acknowledging or thinking out loud. It’s okay to say: “Boy do I wish had a beautiful, articulate answer for that. Let me think out loud about it.”

Getting curious is a great antidote for high self-orientation, as it requires you to get away from yourself and into the other person’s world. If you can find ways to acknowledge what’s going on over there, and ask questions to find out more, this shifts your attention.

For example, if a client comes at you angry or dissatisfied, a typical reaction is fear or anxiety. Instead you could acknowledge that you’re disappointed in the result as well, and ask to hear more about the customer’s experience. Say, “Help me understand.” And be genuine. Set an intention in the moment to get the whole world of the other person.

KH: How do you handle building trust when it’s been eroded, such as from an undermining colleague or a deal gone bad?

AH: We all have examples like that, where things have gone south and we’re prepared for the worst. But it’s how we handle it that makes or breaks trust, not the circumstances.

There’s a poignant story in the Fieldbook that involves an unhappy customer who has endured significant staff turnover on his account. The project manager had to call the customer and say that, yet again, there would be a change in resources. In this instance, the project manager let the customer vent, acknowledged his frustration, and offered to help him find a better service provider. Not only did the project manager’s empathy and courage de-escalate the situation, but the customer, in turn, affirmed his loyalty to her firm.

Most situations are far more recoverable than we think. We try to recover by showing our competency, but instead we need to show more vulnerability. It doesn’t work as a tactic, but by being real. All kinds of situations can turn for the better in an instant. It’s normal to be convinced in our own minds that things won’t change, or to conveniently rationalize that it won’t make a difference because then we don’t have to lean in and do the hard thing. The only catch is it simply isn’t true that we can’t recover. The question, more often, is are we willing to do what it takes to recover.

KH: How can companies strengthen their ability to be trusted employers?

AH: Companies that have a trusted culture live the trust principles. They are other focused, collaborative, drive medium- and long-term perspectives, and are transparent. Many companies say they do this, but most don’t. The ones who have trust at their core live it out. For example, when a scandal hits, they say “we messed up.” They aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. They are willing to have faith in their employees and stakeholders. And their stakeholders tend to respect, value and trust people more who are real. It’s not about not making mistakes—because we all make mistakes—but taking responsibility for them.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage OthersFind her at kristihedges.com and @kristihedges. This post also appears on Forbes.com.

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Why I’m Following Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

LONG BEACH, CA - OCTOBER 26: Howard Schultz, C...

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is showing how to do well by doing good. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

For most leaders, the middle of the road is an alluringly comfortable place. It’s safe, well-trodden, and known. Unfortunately, what it isn’t is inspiring. Consider any inspirational leader and you’ll notice their proclivity towards the unconventional, the creative, and the tough choices. The great leaders eschew the middle of the road for the road less taken. And the best take the high road while they’re at it.

One of the benefits of our current age is that you can be a student of leadership wherever you are. Simply find a leader who builds both considerable success and followership — and you relate to — and thanks to the Internet you have a ready-made  teacher. I’m personally learning quite a bit lately about inspiration from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

In fact, any manager today should be engaging in their own Schultz stalking (from a respectable distance, of course) to learn how to use their personal presence and platform to create a virtuous cycle. Yes, Schultz is insanely successful at what he does. And he’s done it by taking gutsy stances — many of which he does not because he has to, but because he feels they’re right.

Schultz also strikes the delicate balance of being decisive, assertive, and approachably real. And unlike iconic leaders in the vein of Steve Jobs or Jack Welch, he’s the kind of leader you’d like to have a beer (or yes, coffee) with.

So how does he do it? What can leaders of all stripes take away?

Lesson #1: Schultz defaults to being open, and willingly shares his story.

Many have heard Schultz tell his story. He grew up in the Brooklyn projects, the son of a struggling blue-collar worker who held a variety of service jobs with no health insurance. Schultz went to college on an athletic scholarship, worked for Xerox and other companies in sales, and eventually went to work for the tiny Starbucks company.

After seeing coffeehouses on every corner in Italy – places that not only served coffee but also served up a meeting place for the locals – he ended up buying the company and building his idea into the multibillion-dollar Starbucks brand. He did it despite the chorus of naysayers who were certain no one would ever buy a $4 cup of coffee.

Schultz is refreshingly forthright about all of it — giving ample opportunity for others to see themselves in his struggles.

Lesson #2: He’s not afraid to create a company that’s more than — even if there’s no precedent. What Schultz had in mind was more than a $4 cup of coffee. He envisioned Starbucks as “the third place” that people spend their time between home and work. Schultz’s goal is a “customer experience,” not just a good cup of java. That idea is so well-rooted in our culture today that it seems as if it were always a foregone conclusion.

Schultz’s vision could have stopped there, but it didn’t. As he told an audience at UCLA in September 2008 in this video, his goal from the start was to build a “different kind of company” – one with a “social conscience” and a “soul.” He believes in a balance between making a profit and being a benevolent employer and a benevolent part of community.

Schultz incorporated a number of revolutionary concepts others thought financially unwise, including comprehensive health insurance for part-time workers and investing in the communities where it does business. We all know how that turned out — it became a major part of the Starbucks brand.

Lesson #3: Schultz admits failure, takes accountability and keeps learning.

Schultz is quick to own up to his own missteps, and a much publicized near disaster. When Schultz resigned as CEO (but stayed on as chairman), Starbucks grew so rapidly that it lost the signature “neighborhood feeling” that had made it so successful.

Schultz came back as CEO in 2008 and realized he had to take drastic action. He scaled back, closing 900 stores. And he took action to regain the “neighborhood feel,” shutting the remaining 11,000 U.S. stores for one day to retrain 115,000 people. Next he took 10,000 managers to New Orleans for a business meeting to galvanize those on the front lines.

The managers (and Schultz himself) also contributed more than 54,000 volunteer hours in projects such as painting, landscaping and building playgrounds in Hurricane Katrina’s wake.

Lesson #4: He lives by the adage, “to whom much is given, much is required.”

Schultz doesn’t hesitate to use his influence to spread his ideas about corporations with a social conscience to the wider world. His activism earned him the No. 1 spot on Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year list for 2011.

He also gets people to respond. When Schultz called on corporations to join him in a moratorium on political contributions until Washington politicians came up with a bipartisan plan to address long-term fiscal issues, more than 100 signed on, including the CEOs at Pepsi, Disney, Intuit,  Whole Foods, J. Crew, AOL,  the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.

Even the president took notice. David Kaplan of Fortune magazine reports that President Barack Obama called Schultz personally last September to discuss the issue.

In late 2001, Schultz once again showed his willingness to use his platform by announcing his Create Jobs for USA Program. The grass-roots private fund makes loans to small businesses in underserved markets nationwide. The Starbucks Foundation seeded the project with a $5 million donation, and asks its customers to contribute. For a donation of $5 or more, they receive a red, white and blue wristband with the message “Indivisible.” More than 100,000 wristbands were sold in the first days of the launch, a testament to Schultz’s clout and the trust behind the brand. Corporate partners Google Offers and Banana Republic have since joined in the effort.

Lesson #5: Schultz understands his job is to inspire others.

Schultz is often described as self-effacing, and it’s clear that he’s not doing this for pure ego gratification. (Note how quickly he dispelled rumors he was running for president late last year rather than reveling in the attention.)

But Schultz does understand the importance of being visible for the right reasons, and of using his spotlight. We expect to see our leaders and it’s a gift to be able to learn from them in real time. I, for one, can’t wait to see what Schultz does next.

Have a favorite leader you follow? Comment here or @kristihedges.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. She blogs at kristihedges.com.

Having A Greg Smith Moment

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15: A man pauses in front...

Many people have their own "Greg Smith" moments when their values are tested at work. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

When I read Greg Smith’s blistering op-ed about Goldman Sachs in the New York Times two weeks ago, like many, I was floored. My first thought was “How brave!” quickly followed by, “Is he crazy?” Publicly quitting your job with a resignation letter to the world stating that your former company is “ripping people off” with “morally bankrupt” leadership is not a good career move.

(No matter if he can get a great book deal as the media quickly pointed out. The guy was already raking it in at Goldman, after all.)

Despite our collective cynicism about his motivations, I’m choosing to take him at his word that he could no longer quietly take the misalignment between Goldman’s values and his own.

Though Goldman attempted to undermine his credibility by calling him a “disgruntled, mid-level employee,” numerous accounts corroborate what Smith himself said: he was a star performer on a fast-track who felt compelled to call out an ethical breakdown in one of our vaulted institutions. One of Smith’s colleagues described him as having a “clear moral compass.”

I can’t speak to the accuracy of Smith’s account at Goldman, or why it took him 12 years to figure all this out. And frankly, that’s not why I’m writing about it.

At some point in our careers, many of us will find ourselves in a place where what we’re asked to do at work directly contradicts our own deeply held values. I’m not talking about the small indignities that come from having a boss on a power trip or a job you hate. But rather the piercing jabs at your conscience that make you wonder who you really are.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky. Many of us can call up more than one. (I spent the first part of my career in politics so I’m fully stocked.)

As a coach, I counsel executives every day on how to be more effective, to reframe problems, and salvage damaged relationships. Most corporate issues can be overcome.

Except when your values are at stake. Then it’s time to go.

There’s no grey area in integrity. On more occasions than I can count, I’ve coached people who were asked to sacrifice deeply held values for their jobs. They may think it’s just this once, but it’s never a single point in time. It eats at them, eroding how they feel about the company and themselves. It’s a destructive cycle.

You don’t have to publicly lambast the company on your way out, and in fact I’d certainly not  recommend it. As I wrote previously, people remember how you leave, not what you did prior. (Do you think anyone cares how well Greg Smith performed for a decade?)

Many years ago I heard a talk by a former executive who served jail time for the savings and loan scandal in the 1980s. He wasn’t a bad guy; on the contrary he was self-aware, warm and normal. He described how he went down the path of his undoing by one tiny ethical lapse at a time, until he was squarely in criminal territory. His warning to his CEO audience: clearly know your values and don’t break them. For anything.

With that advice, Greg Smith would have quit far ahead of any unstoppable need to write in the New York Times.

If you’re in the middle of your own Greg Smith situation, whether it’s caused by an interpersonal situation or the broad corporate culture, give yourself permission to move on. The circumstances don’t have to be egregious to everyone, only to you. Ethics are personal. Quitting doesn’t mean you’re weak; it means you’re strong.

“If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.”  — attributed to both Alexander Hamilton and Malcolm X

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” — Gandhi

Have you had to overcome a breach of your values at work? Comment here or @kristihedges.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author. This column includes excerpts from the author’s book, Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others.

How To Fire Someone Without Losing Sleep Over It

All companies terminate employees, but they don't have to degrade them in the process. (Image David Castillo Dominici)

Sometimes, after you fire someone, they stay with you. You know the ones — the guy who worked hard but just didn’t have the strategic expertise you needed. Or the person who was a kind, decent, C-player you simply couldn’t afford to carry. Not to mention the one who was hired to do one job, but as market conditions necessitated the position to change, the person couldn’t make the jump.

Most terminated employees don’t fall into the saboteur bucket. They aren’t out to harm anyone. They aren’t a cancer eating away at your organization. They aren’t stealing from the company. They just don’t fit. (Despite everyone’s best intentions and wishes otherwise.)

And you still have to fire them. And it hurts, literally. A study conducted at 45 hospitals across the United States indicated that managers doubled their risk of heart attacks during the week after they fired someone.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the warning signs that employees should heed that their job may be in jeopardy and exit on their own terms. I guess I’m on a bit of a crusade to find a better way than the standard Trumpian “You’re Fired!”

This indelible sound bite is more than reality entertainment — most companies manage to make the process more degrading than it has to be.

In my book The Power of Presence, I discuss how to let someone go in the most presence-filled, trusted way possible. (Yes, this is probably making employment lawyers reading this twitch.) But I still believe there’s a better way — almost always. One that sets everyone up to go forward with more self-esteem, less overall risk, and mutual reputations intact.

The reason terminations are handled as they are is to mitigate legal risk. Hence the accepted formula: Say as little as possible, get the person out of the office quickly, and have the individual sign a severance document agreeing not to contact clients or sue.

This legal advice assumes the employee can’t be trusted and may have criminal intentions. As a result, the employee often gets 15 minutes to pack up personal belongings and an escort out the door. Email is scanned and computers are confiscated. The whole process arouses antagonistic feelings that might have been avoided if the employee were treated with dignity.

It also leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the employees left behind, who may feel upset by the cavalier treatment accorded a co-worker—and wonder how they’ll be treated under similar circumstances.

None of this process eliminates risk — in fact, it may increase it! If you’re worried about a lawsuit, know that fired employees who sue a company often base that decision on the treatment they received on the way out. A 2009 study, Preserving Employee Dignity During the Termination Interview, examined workers’ reactions to common firing methods. It found that employees generally liked being praised even as they were getting fired, but that any favorable effects of the praise were eroded when a security guard escorted the worker out after the meeting. In addition, having a third party in the room “was viewed as demonstrating a lack of respect,” according to the study, published in the Journal of Business Ethics.

Another study cited in Wall Street Journal found that workers were ten times more likely to sue when not given a reason for their termination.

I’ve made it a point to learn from companies that terminate employees and still treat them in a respected and trusted way, and adopted many of these practices in my own company. Here are some approaches I’ve seen to help people exit a company with dignity and a softer landing:

  • Give someone early notice if you feel that person’s performance is leading to termination. Don’t assume the employee will exploit the situation and stop doing his or her work. Act as a mentor to help the person find a more suitable role in another department or another company, or to consider a new path.
  • Offer to let the person resign on his own accord with two to three months of pay (either while working or as severance).
  • Hire the employee as a consultant on a part-time basis to wrap up unfinished projects.
  • Create a corporate policy of outplacement where terminated employees can use a desk, office or other resources as a base of operations.
  • Make introductions to company recruiters who can locate a more suitable position.

There is, of course, another side to the equation, and that’s how the employee behaves—whatever the reason for the termination.

In some cases it’s a for-cause termination, as outlined above. Sometimes it’s a layoff. And sometimes an employee resigns to accept a better opportunity elsewhere.

Here’s a universal truth – and it can affect your future: People remember how you leave, more so than what you did prior to that.

If you’re treated respectfully, given the tough circumstances, you have an opportunity to build trust and respect by being helpful, contributing your best up to the last minute and refraining from spreading negativity. Work with the company to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone.

Business circles are small, and your integrity and reputation are portable. For everyone, managers and employees alike: taking the high road is an investment in your future.

Do you have a better policy for letting people go? Comment here or on Twitter @kristihedges.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others.

What To Do When Someone’s Out To Get You At Work

Managing Toxic Colleagues (Image by photostock)

It can come out of nowhere. There you are, minding your business at work, trying to do a good job, when a colleague undermines you. It could be a shot across the bow from a new competitor or a conniving, malicious act from an old friend. It hurts, and it can hurt your career.

We know that politicking and backstabbing exists in the workplace. Many times these situations exist because corporations are set up to be extremely competitive, with fewer seats the further you move toward the top. Functional heads are frequently pitted against one another in a sort of psychic and physical endurance test to see who gets promoted.

It’s no surprise that relationships between people who need each other to get things done can turn toxic when it feels like a zero-sum game. (Ironically, teamwork is one of the key skills required for promotion, but I digress.)

I can say, as a coach, that the culprit is often poor communication or misunderstanding, but not always. Not to get too woo woo on you, but as the inspirational author Marianne Williamson writes, all actions come from a place of fear or love. You can guess where territorialism, gossip, or backstabbing comes from.

The question is, what do you do about it?

Your instinct may be to keep your head down, do good work, and hope the powers that be will see the truth in time. Or your approach may be to take on your saboteur directly, and match fire with fire.

I’m going to offer a third option — a road less travelled but worth the trip. Approach the situation as an opportunity to build trust instead. You’ll strengthen your presence and influence in the process.

I realize this is a leap when the situation may exist because trust has been destroyed. But consider that the absence of trust with a co-worker creates an incredibly unhappy, stressful, and untenable environment for a person. You end up constantly on guard, with your adrenaline pumping to the fight or flight responders  in your brain, leaving your best intellectual power untapped and unavailable.

Finding a beneficent solution is both a selfless and a selfish act.

You may never be able to singlehandedly morph a relationship, but you can do your part. Instead of cowering or attacking, try these ideas instead:

  • Seek to understand. Make it a mission to learn about your colleague’s motivations. The more you know about what makes him tick, the more context you’ll have for his behavior. We naturally stay away from those who threaten us, but the adage “know your enemy” has circulated since Sun Tzu wrote it in The Art of War thousands of years ago. The more understanding we have, the broader our perceptions and our options.
  • Validate your perceptions. Take the initiative to vet your assumptions with the other person. This is not meant as an attack, but a level setting. Share your observations in a nonthreatening way. Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements. For example: “I’m picking up on some tension. I’d like for us to find a way for us to work better together. What can I do to make this work?” Even if the person denies or stonewalls, you’ll learn more than you knew going in.
  • Change the dynamic. Relationships either move in an upward spiral or a downward one. You can change the directional dynamic by taking a surprising tack: be openly supportive of the other person. Back her up in a meeting or call out her excellent performance. Talk up her project to others. Be genuine! Offer sincere compliments, not flattery.
  • Encourage regular interaction. More than one workplace feud has been resolved during a lengthy business trip. Unless you’re dealing with a sociopath, chances are commonality exists between you as well — if you can find it. Look for ways to work together one-on-one to expand the impressions you have of each other. This may start by initiating a “how can we help each other” meeting.
  • Take accountability. If you find your way to an honest dialogue, own up to your part in impairing the relationship. Think of what you’ve contributed and take accountability — don’t defend your actions as a reaction to his.
  • Keep talking. As Susan Scott put it so well in Fierce Conversations, “The conversation is the relationship.” Many a divorce, business partnership, or professional relationship has frayed from the silent treatment. When you bother to talk, it shows you care.

 

This post also appears on Forbes.com.

Part of this column has been excerpted from Kristi’s book, Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others.

Your Brain at Work by David Rock

This is one of my favorite authors, David Rock, speaking to Google on the field of neuroleadership — where neuroscience and leadership meet. His work is featured prominently in my book, and this video explains his SCARF model of what produces fight or flight reactions in people at work. Hope you find it as interesting as I do…

Learning From a Tragedy That The Right Time Is Often Right Now

Finding Meaning from Tragedy (Image from Flickr)

What is it about human nature that we’re obsessed with finding the right time to do what we can easily do now? I wish I could say that my pondering of this question emerged from a book or a work engagement, but unfortunately it came from a tragedy.

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine took his own life.

This was not one of those collective head-nodding, I-could-see-that, situations. It was a mouth agape, incredulous, sorrowful, and confusing one. For those who knew him, and knew him well, it was what could only be called a complete and utter shock. His Facebook page was filled with laments from friends who had seen him only days before, sporting his characteristic upbeat humor and ready smile. He was the kind of guy who made everyone who knew him feel better for it, with legions of friends spanning both coasts.

Though I’ve tried every which way, it still doesn’t make sense. And maybe it never will.

For myself, I’m left with trying to find some sort of meaning from it. I need to in order to process such a horrible event — to find a self-comforting coping mechanism that in some way provides closure.  It hasn’t been easy.

Is the lesson to live every day to the fullest? Not in this case.

You never really know the heart of someone? I hope not.

The best I can find is that it’s something about reaching out to those we care about and not letting distance and miles get in the way. And not waiting for the right time.

I hadn’t seen my friend in several years, though at one time we were such close co-workers working on frenzied political campaigns that we ate three meals together at work, and then got together on the weekends. There was a group of us who were inseparable. Then we did, to different coasts and divergent lives. Over the course of many years, we got to a place of exchanging  a few emails a year and perhaps a phone call, with careers, kids and busy lives to lead.

I was just about to call my friend the week before he died to say I was coming out to California for work and hoped to visit, and then I put it off until the right time. I wish I’d made the call. I’m not self-important enough to think I could have made a difference when he had such a loving family around him, but the call might have helped in some small way.

In coaching and in life, I see a lot of holding back and waiting for that elusive right time. Waiting for the best opportunity. Waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting to be recognized. Even waiting to lose weight or get healthy.

There are times the waiting is necessary, and many more where it’s a front for fear, laziness, or distraction.

So I’m going to be marinating in that question, of what does the right time really mean — is the construct for the situation or for ourselves? And pushing myself to acknowledge colleagues and friends who have meant so much to me. One good rule regarding positive expression: if you feel it, say it.

And I’m trying on the idea that the right time is generally now.

Now to find a new job. Now to make the call. Now to say thank you. Now to tell your kids they’re perfect. Now to see a friend.

I’m a fan of appreciation letters — where you write a sincere letter to someone who has been meaningful in your life. The act can be transformative for both you and the person you’re sending it to. I was inspired by someone once to write one, and I’m committed to writing more.

I’m reminded of that Neil Young song One of These Days that says:

One of these days/I’m gonna sit down and write a long letter/to all the good friends I’ve known
And I’m gonna try/And thank them all for the good times together/Though so apart we’ve grown.

I almost didn’t write this post today as I was waiting for the, you guessed it, right time. If this encourages one person to reach out whether by appreciation letter or simple words, or to take a needed step, you’ll be proving that the right time was really now.

Rest in peace A.P. You were glorious, just the way you were.

This post also appears in Forbes.com.

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