By KATHARINE SEALEY – Friday, January 30th, 2004 / The Brampton Guardian
Nina Spencer wants you to love your job again.
“Think back to that day when you finally got the call that said ‘we want you’. How did you feel? Who did you call? How did you celebrate?,” she said. “Now, fast forward, five or 10 years, to another bad day at work and you’re saying ‘To think I cried tears of joy when I got this job?’ but if you had that enthusiasm before, you can get it back. I call this seminar ‘getting the passion out of your profession’, because it is in there somewhere and it’s time to rekindle it.”
On Thursday, Spencer, a motivational speaker and columnist for Canada’s Training Report, helped kick off the fourth annual business leaders luncheon series, hosted by the Brampton YMCA.
A former professional figure skater and publisher of the online newsletter Working Wisdom, Spencer started by giving the crowd a test, asking them to write their first names as many time as they could in 15 seconds.
“How many of you looked at your neighbours work as soon as you we done to see how many they got?,” she said at the end. “How many of you felt cheated because they had a shorter name than you?”
After the crowd laughed to confirm her observations, she asked if they would like to try it again, now that they knew what it was they were trying to achieve. She counted down to start, then at the last second called out “with your other hand”.
After a round of groans and sighs, with several people dropping their pens in frustrated protest, she explained the purpose of the test.
“Some people, when you say ‘change’, will just go at it with their tongues sticking out, until they get it done, we’ll call them the keeners, ” she said. “On the other side, there are people thinking ‘I can’t keep up with the keeners, how do you take the batteries out of them?’, and then at the far, far end of the spectrum are the crabbiolas. When you ask a crabbiola to think or do something differently, they just say ‘This is silly, I’m not doing it, period’.”
Spencer said the problem is that a bad attitude is contagious.
“Crabbiolas wield a lot of power,” she said. “If 9 out of 10 people in a group are positive, it only takes a little bit of contaminant from that one crabby person to tip the balance to the negative.”
Using positive language, she said, is one way to shift attitude and behaviours in yourself and others.
“UCLA did a study that found that the average one-year-old hears the word ‘no’ 472 times a day,” she said.
“So when they are so young, before they have the language to communicate, this is what they know. We don’t communicate by saying what we want, but instead we say what we don’t want.”
She said many common business phrases take on a negative slant without even realizing it.
“We all say ‘If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call’ but that’s negative ‘don’t’, hesitate’, these are negative words, which is probably because we don’t really want them to call,” she said. “But if you do want them to call, you could say ‘Please feel free to call’. Always use the word ‘free’ as much as you can, because it’s positive, everybody loves free stuff. You go into the grocery store and people are lined up for samples of food they don’t even like. Why? Because it’s free.”
She said people also need to be able to identify and acknowledge their own professional self-worth.
“Lots of people tell me, ‘Oh, I’m not good at anything’,” she said. “You need to look at it in a different way. If you play the piano poorly, you still play it better than people who don’t.”
Spencer also said people need to start recognizing the importance of their contribution to the company at large.
“Instead of seeing yourself as one little employees, see yourself as a contractor, where your company gives you so much work to do that they are your only client,” she said. “Then, instead of seeing yourself as a little nothing in the company, you are on near equal footing, they need you and your work. It’s Me Inc. think.”
She said many workplaces are suffering from two ‘illness’.
“Psychosclerosis, the hardening of the thinking and HDS, Humour Deficiency Syndrome,” she said. “You won’t find them in any medical journal, not yet anyway, but they are real, and they are a big problem. It can be acute, it can be chronic, or it can be terminal.”
A sense of humor is critical for both your spirit and physical health, she said, as is nurturing good relationships both professionally and socially, and that means not just contacting someone when you need something.
“You remember that Bill Withers song, ‘Lean on me, when your not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on, for it won’t be long, ’til I’m going to need, somebody to lean on’,” she said. “Remember we may be high and dry now, but if they go down we go down too, think about that next time someone asks you to lend a hand.”
Most of all, she said, you have to look to yourself to find and maintain a passion for your profession.
“Sometime you don’t get the kudos and the thanks from other people when you deserve them,” she said. “Sometime you have to be your own cheerleader.”
If you aren’t, she said, only you will suffer as a result.
“Life is change, work is change, growth and passion are optional, and each one of us gets to choose,” she said. “Make your choice.”