Turning tragedy into inspiration

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I had the chance to volunteer with the Denver Comic Con this year and it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in a long time. Whether it was other volunteers, attendees, comic book artists or celebrity guests, I met so many wonderful people that I got to talk and laugh with over the weekend-long event.

Shane Bitney Crone Love is Louder

Shane Bitney Crone is taking a tragedy and turning it into inspiration for everyone fighting for equality. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

One of the most inspirational people I met while I was there was Shane Bitney Crone. Shane first rose to notoriety when his YouTube video “It Could Happen to You” went viral. The video tells the story of Shane and his longtime partner Tom, who died in a tragic accident. Despite being together for years, Tom’s family blocked Shane from attending the funeral and threatened him with physical violence if he tried to show up. Shane and Tom’s story has been told in more detail in the documentary “Bridegroom” (available on Netflix).

What is most amazing to me is that, in the face of this tragedy and heartbreak, Shane decided not to pity himself, but rather to take action. Over drinks and dinner, it was so inspiring to hear him share with us the drive he has to spread his story far and wide in order that one day LGBT couples will have the same rights to see and mourn for the ones they love that their heterosexual counterparts do when emergencies arise. He has spoken at universities and events across the country and around the world, including doing a screening of “Bridegroom” at the Denver Comic Con. As he told me, every single person who hears his story is important because that’s one more person joining him in the fight for equality.

I know Tom would be extremely proud of Shane. I only spent a few hours with him and I know I am. May we all take a lesson from his strength.

3 Things I Learned From LeVar Burton

Over Father’s Day weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Denver Comic Con and was lucky enough to be the assistant for celebrity guest LeVar Burton. As a PBS kid with a Trekkie mom, Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation were big parts of my childhood. Suffice it to say, I was pretty darn excited! It was also neat because LeVar is back in the limelight thanks to the Kickstarter he recently started to raise money for Reading Rainbow.

LeVar Burton DCC panel

In one of his panels at Denver Comic Con, LeVar talked about his Reading Rainbow Kickstarter and why he thinks it’s so important to use today’s technology to continue fostering a love of reading in our kids. Photo courtesy of HushComics.com (and make sure to see see their full coverage of LeVar’s Reading Rainbow panel).

Since this really was the first time I’d spent a lot of time with someone famous, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would he be stuck up and not want to talk to me? Or would he be nice and friendly? Well, my experience definitely fell in the latter category and I was lucky enough to learn a few things from Mr. Burton along the way.

3 Lessons I Learned From LeVar Burton

  1. Celebrities really aren’t that different from us.
    Sure, they make a lot more money than I do, I’ll give you that. But, as my dad would say, at the end of the day they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like we do. LeVar enjoyed talking about his daughter and where she’s going to college, how he and his wife love to read together and that his mom was one of his biggest inspirations. When I got a text of a picture of my dog hiding from the vacuum cleaner, he laughed and said his dog actually prefers to chase the vacuum instead of run from it! Whether it’s a celebrity, a company CEO or the barista at your local coffee shop, remember that people have lives outside of their jobs and often times that’s the more interesting part about them.
  2. Use your power to do good in the world.
    LeVar’s passion is teaching kids to love reading and that’s what led him to start Reading Rainbow. Despite the fact that the show’s no longer on the air, he’s looking at ways to reach kids where they are – on iPads and Kindle Fires, on the web and in their classrooms and libraries. Reading doesn’t have to be your passion, but like LeVar has, find out what is and figure out ways to share it with others.
  3. Care about people and do it genuinely.
    I can’t count the number of times LeVar heard from fans just how much Star Trek and Reading Rainbow made a difference to them. When I think about how much he’s heard those things over the last 25+ years, it blows my mind. Still, no matter how many people came up and repeatedly thanked him for the same thing hundreds of people before them had, he took every compliment gracefully, smiled and thanked them for taking the time to stop by. All of us can stand to take a lesson from that.

I’m sure there are celebrities out there that don’t care about their fans and treat people like dirt, but LeVar wasn’t one of them. He showed me that we all have the power to make a difference and be kind to one another – no matter how famous you are.

6 Ideas for New Hire Onboarding

With the arrival of summer interns and a slew of new hires thanks to expanding business, my company is re-evaluating our onboarding procedure (which is really to say, we’re creating one).

Now, I for one think that your first week at a new job is one of the hardest. Not only do you not know anyone, but you’re also learning a bunch of new processes and — despite being eager to jump in — don’t know enough about the business to just start taking things and running with them.

Knowing those challenges, we’ve brainstormed some ideas that I think would be great additions to any new employee program. I don’t know that we’ll put them all into action but maybe there’s one or a few that you think would work in your office!

Introduce the company mission or vision
For Millennials especially, we want to know what our employer is trying to achieve or the mark they want to leave on the world — and how we can contribute to that. Start introducing the company mission to new employees from the start and help them discover how they can live it every day.

Make a buddy system
Where in the building can you get a Diet Coke? Who do I go to when I need to order office supplies? What does Bob Smith do again? These are just a few of the questions that a new employee may be wondering but not know who to ask. Sure, there’s always your manager, but why not have a buddy? We thought it’d be great if new hires — especially those straight out of school — had a “buddy” that was at their same position, maybe also somewhat new to the company, to answer the questions that seem silly until you get to know more people.

Provide an organization chart
If your company is anything like mine, there are lots of people with titles that may mean little to nothing to you if you’re new to the industry. Having an easy to understand org chart helps new employees learn names and what people do (make sure to include pictures!).

Create “Our Company 101”
Despite the fact that you just interviewed with your employer, know the basics and it seems like a great place to work, there may still be holes in your knowledge of what they actually do. For us, that missing information might be who our largest clients are, how we make money and what our short and long term goals are. Consider creating some sort of introductory document or presentation that helps new employees get more comfortable with the inner workings of the business.

Training materials, practice assignments and/or tutorials
One of the hardest part of starting a new job IMO is staying busy until you know the business well enough to generate your own work. For new employees, consider having a set of training modules/tutorials that teach skills they’ll need or practice assignments that mimic what they’ll be doing. For us, examples might be an online tutorial on basic HTML or writing a creative brief based on a fictional scenario. For your business it might be something else, but make sure the tasks are relevant to their position and help get them up to speed on what you’ll expect from them in the future.

Lunch and happy hours
I’m a firm believer in the power of lunches and happy hours to get to know people. Make sure you’re inviting new employees to lunch and happy hours with people at all levels of the company to build those connections in a more casual setting.

I know there are lots of other ways to welcome new people to your organization, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. Make sure to share what your company does or other ideas in the comments!