November 10, 2014
Leaving is Ok
This post began as a much shorter piece I wrote but decided it was worthy of expanding on and writing a bit more formally in my long format posts. If you’ve already read this on that blog then you can skim this and move on. If you are still here I want to share with you some thoughts on the concept of decisions, departures and responses.
I was faced recently with a few incidents where I was able to witness some hard decision making and some difficult choices by some good friends of mine. I was able to witness the difficulties and emotional struggles they had to face both with themselves and with the task of sharing with others. It was eye-opening and striking. I saw the courage it required and the personal turmoil they faced as well as the reactions they received from others. I was moved by the situation and struck with a realization which I feel compelled to share.
The Wrong Response
The immediate response I saw was a begging and a pleading for the person not to leave. There was an expression of deep sadness and deeper regret followed by a strong emphasis on forcing them to remain where they were. This response is absolutely, totally, and completely wrong. This places the focus on the person doing the begging. This demonstrates a completely selfish response. No longer do we care what is best for the person who has had to make the hard decision to leave but instead the focus is on how this departure affects them. How incredibly improper. The decision to leave is most often not taken lightly. Many hours of careful thought and hard emotional moments have been faced. These individuals have weighed their options and determined what they feel is the best path for their life. They are looking to grow, to improve and to make a better future for themselves and their family. This means sometimes the hard decision has to be made.
After reaching a conclusion they finally share their decision with those they would consider their friends, their family. If they are met with this immediate and overwhelming emotional plea to stay this puts an incredible sense of guilt and false obligations on them. They feel as though they are hurting someone else for making the decision they have spent so long deliberating over. What an incredible disservice. How completely inappropriate and selfish to imply this hard decision is wrong.
The Thoughtless Response
If I were to step even a bit further I’d dare to say this over-exaggerated begging and pleading is somewhat forced and almost an immediate thoughtless response. Again the focus is not correct. This does not show support or encouragement to the decision-maker and it most certainly does not come across as heartfelt. Lives changes, people change, goals and opportunities effect each person in unique and different ways. Each individual has a unique path to take and must choose the path most appropriate for their personal well-being and the well-being of their families. The false over-the-top emotional pleas to stay come across as disingenuous and lacking heart and support.
Of course I would be foolish to ignore the leaving and departing over hurt feelings, or personal wrongs. In those cases there is absolutely an opportunity to restore a trust in a community or job and to attempt to right a wrong. Never twist what I am saying out of context. I am referring to those instances when an individual has labored over a decision and chosen a path which differs from the community or the company where they currently reside. They make this decision not as a result of any wrongdoing but over a genuine belief they must make a change for their own personal and professional growth.
The Right Response
Finally I would like to share what I believe is the proper and right response. It’s quite simple and can be summed up in a single word. Appreciation. I’ve written on the topic of appreciation a number of times recently (here and here and others) and feel strongly that this is something almost every community, company, and organization would benefit from doing more often. Of course we will miss them when they go. Yes they will leave a void. Absolutely and without a doubt we thank them for their tremendous time of service. They have given their time and their energy and their life to a cause we share and their impact is often immeasurable. We should be genuine and profuse in our expression of appreciation! We should never, ever, slip into the forced, and faked begging them to not leave and guilt them for the decision they felt best for their personal life. We are blessed by the time we have shared and our friendship extends beyond a community, beyond an occupation. Friendships and families are anchored in much more than code, or work, or any other trivial shared interactions. These continue regardless. This is the heart of the matter. True friendships extend beyond these constraints.
We should always be sure they are not leaving under negative situations and ensure that they are doing what they want to do. That is our duty to them as a friend or even deeper a family member. Ultimately, we should care for them. We should hope for the best for them. We should encourage them to be successful. I would encourage you to believe that leaving is ok. When that inevitable time comes and a friend or family member make the hard decision they feel in their heart is best remember this – Genuine, heartfelt appreciation is the only necessary response.
October 27, 2014
The Importance of Appreciation
A Personal Experience
I’ll start this post with a personal story. I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in this and so I think I will merely share my experiences of a problem many others face. I’m a long-standing United airlines flyer. As my travel requirements picked up significantly so did my trips with United. I was pleasantly surprised to receive drink vouchers when I reached the Gold status level. I was equally surprised to receive another batch when I reached Platinum. When I reached the top tier status Premier 1K, United took the time to send me a note thanking me for my loyalty and a cheap gold hand wrap for my carryon luggage. The little piece of fabric probably cost them a dollar or less but the impact was huge.
Perhaps even more important was the fact that I was not delayed, bumped, or left behind on a single flight the entire year. Every single trip was executed without incident. That settled it – I decided to book as many of my trips for 2014 on United as possible. Even when those bookings meant a bit more of a nuisance to me and my schedule I was willing to do that because of my experiences with United.
Much to my chagrin 2014 has been fraught with delays, missed flights, bumped flights, and a host of other issues. I’ve had more inconveniences, missed conferences, and delays then I thought possible. Now granted there are things outside of United’s control…like the weather. But more than 75% of the problems were in no way related to weather. United seemed to be short-staffed, short-planed, and just in general unable to meet the demand.
And let me tell you there’s nothing worse than finding out that you’ll actually be getting home at 2am instead of 6pm. That phone call to home is not a fun one to make.
The Rest of the Story
But this is only half the story. Unfortunately it seems United has misunderstood the very basic concept of new vs returning customers. I have once again flown an extraordinary number of miles with United and have achieved the various status levels same as the previous year. I’ve done so quicker and with greater overall ticket price than previous as well. There is however, one major difference. I’ve not received a single email from United, not a single letter, not a single voucher.
Honestly I couldn’t care less about a silly letter, a coupon voucher or a handle wrap. But what I do care about is the customer service. The recognition for my loyalty. It wouldn’t have been that hard to make me feel special. And it certainly wouldn’t have cost United much at all (maybe a postage stamp). But instead because I currently hold a status level they have neglected to notice my current travels as I once again achieved that status. It’s the age old problem with keeping current customers happy or winning new ones.
I’ve mentioned it time and again both on my blog and on twitter. Saying thank you, showing appreciation is so easy, so inexpensive, and yet so powerful. There’s no way to describe the feeling a genuine heartfelt word of appreciation can give someone.
The Importance of Appreciation
I am sure I’m not alone in noticing United’s treatment and unfortunately for United, many others like me probably begin to look elsewhere. When recognition and appreciation fails then loyalty falters. I think this is the key point to take away. Sure the debate can wage on whether its easier to get a new customer or retain an existing one. But at the end of the day what matters is if a company recognizes and appreciates those customers who demonstrate loyalty to their brand. If a company fails to acknowledge loyal customers they will soon be left without them.
Lesson to Learn
What does all this mean? It means for one thing, United better figure out what they are doing or they’ll lose existing customers faster than they can win new ones. But more importantly it means there’s a valuable lesson we can learn from this example. We should each be sure to take the time to appreciate loyalty. Again, it doesn’t take much. Just say thank you. Write a note, send a tweet. Find some way to express gratitude. Appreciate and recognize the efforts your customers have made and you’ll find you have a customer for life.
September 30, 2014
Open Source Appreciation
When you’re volunteering in an open source community most of the time you understand that you are giving your time and talents without any expectation of payment. Monetary payment. You do the work because you see the value in the community and you see the opportunity to get involved, contribute your skills, and make a difference. You don’t do it for the praise and you don’t do it for the personal gain. You’re volunteering.
However there is an opportunity for the community here to do something remarkable. Open source communities have the chance to appreciate you as the volunteer. There is an opportunity to offer heartfelt thank you and appreciation for the donation of your most valuable asset – your time.
The Greatest Community
The best open source communities understand that their volunteers are worth far more than a check from a venture capitalist firm or a sponsor payment seeking some specific return on investment. These outstanding communities place their worth and their value in their volunteers. Those individuals who are so committed and dedicated to the community they give the one resource they can never get back. They give their time. When these superior communities understand this principle it is reflected in their attitude, in their behavior, and in their treatment of their contributors and volunteers. They demonstrate excellent appreciation.
How can this appreciation be demonstrated by an organization or community where finances and money are not the motivating or driving factor? What are some ways in which appreciation can be shown. Great communities have already figured this out and the put these ways into practice on a daily basis. Here are a few examples.
A Public Acknowledgement
There are several great examples of this idea of public acknowledgement. I’ll give only one which I found recently and thought it to be an exceptional one. If anyone is familiar with Mozilla Firefox they have done some amazing things to publicly appreciate their volunteers. One of those is the San Francisco Monument they’ve constructed. It’s a fantastic example of just one way in which Mozilla has very publicly demonstrated appreciation for their volunteers.
Of course it doesn’t take a marble pillar to publicly acknowledge the hard work and effort of volunteers. Sometimes all it takes is a blog post. Finding ways to publicly thank those individuals giving their time is a fantastic way to demonstrate appreciation.
A Personal Note
You don’t always have to be public in your appreciation. Some communities send a note to active volunteers thanking them personally for their work. This is almost the reciprocal action of the public acknowledgement. Rather than publicly thanking someone you can do it privately.
I’ve seen some examples of this which are truly awesome. A handwritten letter in the mail. Yes, that’s right an actual snail-mail post thanking someone for their efforts. It doesn’t cost more than a stamp, an envelope and a little time. But the value is immense. If you’ve ever gotten a personalized note you know what I’m talking about. It’s a great feeling to feel appreciated and valued. It doesn’t cost much to personally thank someone.
I was going to list several more ways but I erased my points because I want to leave you with these two thoughts. Public and Private appreciation. A personal connection. This is what it all comes down to. The ability to connect with each other not just as a community of volunteers working on a project but as people interacting and growing.
Our communities are a place where relationships can thrive. Lifelong friendships can be made and personal growth is encouraged. The truly great open source communities realize without volunteers they have no future. These communities show this realization through their personal relationships and thoughtful appreciation of each volunteer. At the end of the day its the relationships which matter.
In our communities the focus should be the person not the project .