One Simple Act of Generosity

Be A Link In the Chain

I want to share a powerful story with you that had great impact on me recently. It really got me thinking about this season, the season of giving, and how it can bring together people of all kinds, regardless of their backgrounds or economic status.

When I ordered coffee at my local drive-thru recently, a stranger in the car ahead of me generously paid for my coffee drink.

I was so touched that on the spur of the moment, I did the same for the person in line behind me. When I drove up to the cashier, the barrista leaned out the window and told me that I was the 40th person in-a-row to pay it forward!

Of course, “pay it forward” is the idea of repaying a good deed by doing good for others instead of for the original person. It’s a simple enough concept, but it’s so seldom seen these days.

Hundreds Changing Hands.

In this case, that same couple bucks was turned to do the good work of more than a hundred dollars. The small gesture made a difference for at least 40 people. Who knows how far the chain extended that day? After all, there’s no telling what happened after I drove away from the coffee stand.

Though drive-thru coffee may not be your cup of tea, you can still use this idea to make life a little better for someone else. Simply extend a bit of kindness with no strings on it. For centuries, people have been doing just that for friends and strangers alike.

Where Do Kind Acts Come From?

A lot of people mistakenly think this idea started with the Hollywood film Pay It Forward from the year 2000. The movie was immensely popular, about a young boy and his big idea to change the world through simple acts of kindness. The movie topped out at #4 at the box office and netted $55 million worldwide at the box office, but it went on to make big ripples around the globe.

To trace the movie’s plot to its source, you’ll find that the screenplay was adapted from a novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. But the concept didn’t start with her. You’d have to go farther up the chain than that to find the idea’s origins.

Back in 1980, “pay it forward” showed up in a special edition Marvel comic that teamed Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk. The story traced the path of a $5 bill from a loan by a retiree to someone down on his luck, following the five-spot’s round-about route, returning to the elderly man by way of the two superheroes.

But “pay it forward” didn’t start with Marvel Comics either. An author named Lily Hardy Hammond wrote about the idea in her book In the Garden of Delight, published in 1916. She said, “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.” Even a hundred years ago, the idea wasn’t new.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an essay in 1841 called “Compensation.” He said, “The benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”

Still, this isn’t the beginning of the chain. Ben Franklin proposed the “pay it forward” idea in a letter in April 1784. He told a friend, “When you meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation… I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress.”

Would you be the Knave? Perish the thought.

From Stage to Cinema in 2000 Years

You might think that someone as smart and influential as Benjamin Franklin originated the “pay it forward” idea. It sure sounds like him. In reality, the idea predates modern civilization, making its first appearance (that we know of) in Ancient Greece.

The concept was the key to the plot of a classic Greek comedy, dating back to 317 BC. The play was called The Grouch (okay, it was called Dyskolos), written by someone named Menander. The script was lost for centuries and rediscovered in 1957.

I’m sure in the future some Broadway director will turn the ancient play into a big budget action film, spawning a line of polyethylene superhero figures, a comic book, and maybe a series of theme park rides. For the time being, it’s just a nice story about a grouch whose life is touched by an act of kindness.

Now, it seems to me I’ve seen something like this before. Didn’t I? Ah yes, I think it was my hometown stage production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Maybe this year I’ll buy a couple extra tickets and give them to those two young adults in line behind me… and ask them why they keep calling me “Auntie”.

Secret to Successful Teams

by Chris Widener


As PMP’s we are responsible for ensuring that the Project Team completes the project. We also need to come up with the plan, execute the plan and manage our team’s performance. A BIG task to say the least. But team management is what we do, it is what we love (most of the time!). Chris Widener has written an excellent article with great tips and a lot of encouragement on how to successfully build up and manage our teams.



To be a success is not always to be a success individually. In fact, most of the time we achieve our successes as part of a team. That is why I want to devote this issue to the secrets of successful team.

We are all part of teams. Our family is a team. Our place of work is a team. The community groups we belong to are teams. Sometimes we are the team leader or “coach,” while other times we fulfill the role of follower, or “player.” It is so important then for us to understand teams and how they work, especially those who achieve success – the achievement of their desired goal.

In my life I have been on some successful teams, and some not so successful teams. This includes both athletically as well as professionally. When I was growing up, I worked for seven years with the Seattle Supersonics, our former local National Basketball Association team. They were at times unsuccessful, and, in 1979, my second year working there, the most successful team in the league, winning the World Championship. I have been able to see firsthand what makes the difference between the unsuccessful teams and the successful ones.

Here are some principles that I know, when implemented on a regular basis, can turn any lackluster team into an outstanding one! These principles can be applied to your family, your business, your organization, and yes, your sports team. Enjoy.

Communication Leader

The leader needs to communicate the vision. If they are setting the pace, they need to let people know where they are going so that the team can follow. The coach always does a pre-game talk, laying out the vision.

The leader communicates the vision frequently, so as to always be updating the team as to where they are at and what changes need to be made. The coach doesn’t relegate the direction he gives to the pre-game, he coaches and communicates all the way through the game.


Watch a good basketball team. They are talking to each other all of the time. Helping one another out, encouraging one another, praising one another, and telling each other how they can make changes so the same mistakes aren’t made again. The same is true of successful teams in the professional world and in life in general.


The truly great teams are teams that are committed to excellence. In everything they do, their goal is to achieve at the highest level. And this commitment is held throughout the team and at every level. A successful team cannot have members who are not committed to excellence because in the end they will become the weak link.


If you want a fascinating read, pick up The Power of Followership, by Robert Kelley. The author basically makes the point that the secret to getting things done lies not only in great leadership, but in how well the rest of the people, 99% of the team, follows the leadership. Good teams are filled with people who are committed to following and getting the job done.

Understanding Roles

Pardon the Chicago Bulls analogy, but it is so clear. When the game was on the line, with only one shot left, everyone, the coaches, the players, the 20,000 people watching in the stadium, and millions watching on TV, knew who would shoot the last shot. That was Michael Jordan’s role.

Every team works best when the members of the team have clearly defined and understood roles. Some do one thing, others do another. One isn’t better or more important than the other, just different. When teams operate out of their strengths and their roles, they win.

Strengths and Weaknesses

This brings me to strengths and weaknesses. Every team member has strengths and weaknesses. The successful teams are those who on a regular and consistent basis enable the members to operate out of their strengths and not out of their weaknesses. And what is one person’s strengths will cover another’s weakness. This is teamwork, enabling all of the bases to be covered.


The team that plays together stays together. Is your team all work and no play? If you’re smart, that will change. Get your team out of the office once a month and go have some fun. Enjoy one another. Enjoy life. It will bring a sense of bonding that can’t be made even in “winning.”

Common Goals and Vision

I have found that these need to have three aspects. Short, simple and clear.

1.Can you say it in less than 30 seconds? Is it simple?
2. Can you and others understand it?
3. Does the team all know what they are working together for?


All through the “game,” successful teams appreciate one another and show it in a variety of ways. The coach shows it to the players, the players show it to the coach, and the players show it to one another.

Here is a “Successful Teams” Checklist for you to evaluate with.

Is there communication between coach and players and from player to player?

Is your team committed to excellence?

Do those on the team know what it means to follow?

Does everyone on my team know their specific role?

Do the individuals on our team regularly operate out of their strengths as opposed to their weaknesses?

Does our team take a break from time to time to just have fun together?

Do we understand our common goals and vision? Can we all state it (them)?

Is there a sense of and communication of genuine appreciation among my team?

Chris_Widener-2Chris Widener is a popular speaker and one of featured authors. He has shared the podium with US Presidents, helping individuals and organizations succeed in every area of their lives and achieve their dreams.Learn more about Chris at

Leading With the Power of the Personal Touch

two wooden heads with gears coming into collision concept

Although much of our communication is done through email or voice mail it really is the personal touch that makes the difference. Our communication can be so impersonal that in order to “cut through the clutter” we need to focus on those things that make our communication, well, a step above.

I hope you walk away with some nuggets from today’s article that will “up your game” and create the type of client and team relationships that make us successful PMP’s and successful people.

Enjoy!, Jennifer Bridges

Nothing gets through to business prospects and colleagues quite like the personal touch. You can send text or email, even leave a voice mail message.

But if you really want someone’s attention, it’s the live connection that cuts through their daily clutter and gets a response.

Here’s a case in point. I’m working with a couple of partners on a project to develop a new patented technology, one that measures public response to marketing and other initiatives. It’s really very slick, and I can hardly wait until we launch the platform.

I’m so excited about this technology, I just can’t help getting worked up when I talk about its potential. Sometimes I bore my family and friends by talking about each new development in the project. Yes, I admit it – even my family and friends had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

(Okay, maybe I’m joking about the NDA.)

I’ve been told you can hear this excitement in my “music” – in the words I say and how I say them when I talk about this incredible project. It just naturally comes across. I couldn’t suppress it if I tried. What I feel here is pure passion.

Recently I sent a carefully crafted email proposal to a prospect, a warm contact. I got nowhere! I sent another message, and then another. Nothing happened. In fact I didn’t get any action at all until I picked up the phone and made a personal connection.

Why do you suppose that is?

One answer is that a personal connection is happening now. It’s live. On the phone or in person, the connection has immediacy, true relevance. Once you’ve said the words, you can’t reel them back in.

Another factor in making a solid connection is the dynamic of the human voice. Some call it the most masterful of all musical instruments. From a whisper to a shout, it conveys the full range of human emotion, the animation within the heart and soul.

Your voice can compel someone to act, or it can soothe to calm reassurance. Its live, real time connection renders you intriguing beyond measure, far more than flat words on a page ever could.

These factors make it doubly important to use your voice deliberately. When you do, you gain the ability to tap the power of the personal touch.

Show Off by Showing Up

In another article, Like A Song On the Radio, Make Your Words Unforgettable, we talked about using the voice to make your message memorable – using volume, tone and rhythm to bring your message home.

These techniques are excellent and they do work. But first you have to make the connection with your intended audience. That takes the personal touch.

In Sales, the saying goes that “the fortune is in the follow up.” What that means for each of us – whether we’re in Sales, Leadership or Support – is that nothing happens until we make that personal connection. Every exposure to our compelling idea is a link in a chain.

To be effective, each exposure should be more personal than the one before. Each one relies more and more on the use of your voice in order to make an impact.

Testing: 1 2 3

Even though one-third of young professionals today prefer text over other forms of communication, the overwhelming majority of communication happens through speech, starting with phone and voice mail, and often leading to face time.

If you want to command a degree of influence, you can start with a quality outgoing voice mail message. Call it your personal PR, your outgoing message tells a world of information about you – your energy, material facts such as your name and business identity, how and when you can be reached directly. In fact, it’s often the first impression you make with a new client.

Here are tips for getting the most from making that personal connection.

Make It Personal: When you record your message, present a crisp, positive image. Speak clearly and confidently, and extend your own brand of warmth. Say your name and company followed by concise directions. You may want to consider changing your message daily or weekly to show that you’re tuned in.

Be Professional & Courteous: If you’re using voice mail to screen your calls, it’s a great way to take control of your time. Have the courtesy to respond to your messages each day. They are important to the people who left them; in fact, it’s the reason they called.

Be Interesting & Interested: When you return calls, don’t make the common mistake of lapsing into a bored or robotic tone. Look alive. Imagine yourself sitting in front of the person you’re calling, making eye contact and a positive connection.

Have an Agenda: To maximize your time, plan your calls ahead. Draft a rough agenda of what you’d like to cover during your chat. If you need to meet face to face, check your schedule before you pick up the phone. Offering a couple of meeting times will stack the deck in your favor.

Follow up: Before you finish your conversation, have a clear idea of when your next contact will be. Confirm it with your colleague or prospect, and make it a point to follow up.

It’s tough to get anything done if you can’t make a personal connection. Use these ideas, and you’re sure to tap your own brand of personal power.

Sheer Poetry: Composing Text, Email & Social Posts for Epic Effect

Social Media Marketing Flat Illustration

Have you ever gotten an electronic message and wondered when the author was going to get to the point? It hurts, doesn’t it?

It’s not that they were trying to waste your dwindling time with turgid prose reminiscent of Longfellow’s epic Song of Hiawatha. It’s just that you simply couldn’t fit their rambling stanzas about “the shores of Gitche Gumee” into your Twitter-constricted schedule.

Let’s talk about how you can avoid becoming a text statistic, like your friend or colleague here.

In our world of shrinking sound bytes, this shortage of attention means it’s more essential than ever to get to the point quickly. This doesn’t mean communication is becoming superficial. Far from it. It’s just more dense.

Is Brevity Beautiful or Banal?

In many ways, e-messages and social media present a new abbreviated form of communication so full of layered meaning, it’s almost poetic. The Japanese form of poetry known as the haiku has been lauded, jeered at, sneered at and ultimately left alone by Western society. Or has it?

I’ll bet if you look closely, you’ll find that this 3-line, 17-syllable poetic format is the close cousin to many of the news bytes and electronic messages you read today.

For example, see if this 3-line poem looks familiar…

Meeting is at ten

Bring me coffee and donuts

See you with bells on

Not an office jockey? Perhaps you might recognize this 17-syllable take on world news that could easily appear in a Yahoo feed…

Pod lands on comet

Rosetta makes history

Film at eleven

If you’re at all athletic, you might relate to this well-deserved gloat, inspired by the thrill of victory…

Smoked the tennis match

They said it couldn’t be done

Look out, Federer

I offer these examples to make a point. As silly as it may seem to compare daily drivel with a great and noble poetic art form, the aim is the same. Capture attention with compelling brevity, and communicate worlds of meaning in as brief a space as possible.

Wooing the Elusive Attention Span

Obviously your own messages don’t have to rhyme or be limited to three lines to be effective. However brevity is the soul of wit. You can win over your audience by respecting their tight schedules and their often harried frame of mind.

Borrowing the acronym AIDA from the world of Sales, here is a technique you can adopt to make your written messages matter and move your readers to epic action.

  • A)ttention: To open, ask a question or make a statement that introduces your topic. Eg: “Is eating dinner important to you?”
  • I)nterest: Present the meat of the message, and state clearly why you’re initiating the contact. Eg: “I thought I might sport you to a meal tomorrow night.”
  • D)esire: Back up your message with relevant information so your audience can delve deeper if they desire. Cite sources and give links whenever it makes sense to do so. Eg: “This reviewer suggests linguine:”
  • A)ction: Summarize the reason for your contact, and use a call to action if there’s a specific result you’d like to see. Eg: “Let’s mix things up a bit this week and have some fun. Ping me back with your reply, and I’ll make reservations.”

Following this formula can take you from zero to hero in 17 syllables or less. Coincidentally, this is also just about 140 characters, or the limit of half the world’s attention these days. I’m sure you get the point.

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