Monthly Archives: December 2012

Out with the Old, In with the New

On this last day of the year there is no denying the passage of time and the effect that it has on our lives whether we like it or not.  Time shows that to a certain degree, it manages us in its march ever forward.


Whether 2012 was good, bad or indifferent to you, 2013 is coming on for us all.  Most likely 2012 was a mixed bag of many events since 365 days is a lot of time to cover – but you are left with an impression as you look back over this past year.  Regardless of the variety of occurrences that you experienced during this year, you will most likely distill it into a short, straightforward phrase.


So as you sum up the year for yourself, make it a positive memory – take the learnings from the unfortunate or bad experiences that will help you be a better you in 2013 and wash out the parts that will be of no use.  Highlight the outright good happenings in your remembrance and think about how you can duplicate them in this New Year.


For me, I will keep in mind to Do My Best, compose a mission statement for anything really important, and anything else is just practice.  May 2013 have wonderful experiences for us all!  Happy New Year!


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Lather, Rinse, Repeat (Or the Danger of Repetitive Tasks)

Have you ever arrived in your driveway or parking spot and suddenly realized you don’t remember the drive home?  Scary, right – hopefully you weren’t one of those half dozen cars that keep going through the left turn after it’s already turned red or done something else that might have resulted in an accident.


Repetitive tasks at work can have the same sort of risk.  You can work really hard on an email regarding an important initiative and then forget to add the attachment, or autofill has picked the wrong name and you didn’t really see it because it’s the nth email that you’ve sent that day.  Or any number of other pitfalls that can happen because you are rushing and on autopilot.


Repetitive tasks, whatever that means for you, can put us into a stupor that could lead to mistakes.  And we all have enough going on without adding a do over plus having to explain what happened.


“Iteration, like friction, is likely to generate heat instead of progress.”

~George Eliot


I always think about doing the dishes.  There are piles of them and I slowly work my way through until the last one.  And then all that water made me thirsty, so I get out a glass, use it and have more dishes to do…


I can’t stop doing the dishes, or any of the other repetitive tasks that fill up the day.  I try to get a pattern going.  And I try to break up the time that I spend on the task.  If I only spend 15 or 20 minutes on it, then I can focus on the task and mull over other things that require some thought.


What do you do to keep yourself fresh when doing the same thing again and again?


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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It’s Just Practice

Make a mistake and then what do you do?  Human nature being what it is the impulse is to hide it, ignore it.  But of course your reasoning self knows that is rarely if ever a good thing to do.  Instead you can sift through the mistake to figure out better actions for the next time.  You can use the mistake as a starting point, as practice for improvement.


I’m sure I’m not alone in checking out those articles that talk about how well known, successful people failed either at school or at their first job or in business, or made some other sort of mistake that gets trumpeted in the media.  One because we can gloat that this person is therefore not perfect and also because if they  can get where they are now by taking a trip through failure, then surely each of us has a chance to achieve something similar to what they have achieved.


“Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.”

~Robert Leighton


The object, at least for me, is to see the mistake as practice.  What can I learn from it – good and bad?  Should I have done or said something differently (or not at all)?  Did I have bad timing, the wrong venue?  What do I have control to adjust, to improve for the future?


“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us–and those around us — more effectively. Look for the learning.”

~Eric Allenbaugh


It is really uncomfortable at first, but once you accept mistakes as part of your process, then you are ready and open for possibility.


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Personal Mission Statement

Around the New Year it is easier to envision your better self.


Are you trying to achieve something and having difficulty?  How clearly have you thought through this goal?  When I was promoted to department manager, one of the first acts that I assigned to myself was to write a department mission statement.  It helped me to define my intent.  Perhaps something similar could help you in your search for your best self – your success.


Mission statements were originally meant to clarify objectives for employees, customers and others who interacted with a business.  Since they should be short and have a fairly narrow focus to be effective, you can do this regardless of your writing skills.  Just start by listing words that relate to your goal and mean something to you.  You aren’t going to share this statement with anyone unless you want to, but your ability to achieve your goal will change if you commit to this effort.


Here’s a mission statement to motivate myself to learn something that will be useful but doesn’t really interest me:


I will develop my whole self.  I will seek balance in knowledge.  To honor the power of curiosity, I must understand the entire context.  Learning new things has great power – I will delve deeper into something to determine fact over opinion.  Logic should be applied to create a compelling argument, understanding all sides.


It is easy to live up to this when it comes to topics that interest me.  The part of me that doesn’t like math scoffs at this statement when I try to convince myself math is an important skill.


I used words that have power for me and have set a goal that is just outside of my normal expectations for myself.  The point is to be true to yourself, and also to give yourself a little push.


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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The Right Ingredients

I have been baking cookies for Christmas so my thoughts are on the chemistry of taking seemingly disparate items and combining them to make something else entirely.  Years ago my sister decided to make chocolate chip cookies for the first time.  She got out the family recipe which creates a stiff dough by having more dry ingredients than moist.  She was careful to measure the ingredients exactly as the recipe required but ended up with a mess in the bowl that wouldn’t coalesce into dough.


When I got home that day she asked me what had happened.  In talking to her I realized that she had put all of the ingredients into the bowl at once.  Instead of cookies, she had clean up duty.


The ingredients can be there, all in the right proportions, but sometimes the key is how to combine them.  This particular recipe works best if you start out by segregating the moist and dry ingredients, creating a batter with the moist and then slowly adding in the dry ingredients, beating the batter to help it absorb the flour mixture bit by bit.


So what does a baking lesson have to do with business, right?  Everything.  Exchange flour, sugar and eggs for whatever pieces make up your business.  Maybe you had an idea that wasn’t received well.  Did you decide that you wouldn’t try it again?  It might not have been your idea at all – there could have been any number of other things that could have affected the outcome.  You have to consider all of the components.


Revisit your idea with your boss – or whoever you talked to about the idea, after you’ve given the original situation some thought.  Use an open approach, asking questions. If you make it clear that you want to participate more in growth, then it should be well received.


I hope you end up with some beautiful, delicious cookies.


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



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Happiness isn’t a Place

There are probably towns that are called Happy or Happiness but the people living there are just as likely as the rest of the population of the world to be happy.  We have the pursuit of happiness (notice it is not the achievement) in the Constitution, we have dozens and dozens of books on the topic.  You would think that we would be very happy by now.


“…Happiness is neither a mood nor an emotion.  Mood is a biochemical condition, and emotions are just transitory feelings.  Happiness is a way of life – an overriding outlook composed of qualities such as optimism, courage, love, and fulfillment.  It’s not just tiptoeing through the tulips of la-la land, and it’s not something that changes every time your situation changes.  It is nothing less than cherishing every day.”

Dan Baker, PhD. & Cameron Stauth, What Happy People Know


A lot of the quotes that I have collected, books and articles that I have read have been about mood and attitude.  I make a conscious decision about my mood.  This doesn’t mean that I can’t be overcome by negative thoughts and feelings, I certainly can.  But since I have made a habit of awareness, I can work to derail this negativity before it takes hold – of course external triggers like sunshine help.


12 Qualities of Happiness:

  1. Love – wellspring of happiness, renewable and everlasting
  2. Optimism – power over painful events.  Optimism is realizing that the more painful the event, the more profound the lesson.  Optimism gives you power over fear of the future and over regret for the past.
  3. Courage – you can’t rise above fear without courage, because fear is hardwired into your neural circuitry.  It’s the quality that allows us to thrive.
  4. A sense of freedom – freedom is choice, and choice is what makes us human.  Choice is available to anyone who has the courage to exercise it.
  5. Proactivity – happy people participate in their own destinies and forge their own happiness.
  6. Security – happy people know that nothing, over time, lasts…So they don’t measure security with a calendar or calculator.
  7. Health – happiness and health are interdependent.  Of special importance for happiness is healthy mood chemistry.
  8. Spirituality – happy people aren’t afraid to go beyond the boundaries of their own lives.
  9. Altruism – It connects you to others, gives you a purpose, and gets you outside yourself.
  10. Perspective – happy people know how to prioritize their problems and turn them into possibilities.
  11. Humor – humor is a shift of perspective that gives people the guts to go on when life looks its worst.
  12. Purpose – happy people are doing the things they were meant to do.

From What Happy People Know


I hope that you get the opportunity to have happy moments over this holiday week.


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



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Who What Where When Why How

Problem Solving 101 – laying out the whole issue logically and clearly


Problem, issue, concern, challenge – whatever you and your organization want to call them, they are everywhere.  Now remember back to sometime in grade school when your teacher first introduced you to journalism and the points that should be covered in a newspaper story, the 5 ‘W’s’ – who, what, where, when & why.  This is your key to being an effective problem solver.  I’ve added how to this list.


Problem solving has 3 basic steps:

Identify it

Define it

Determine potential solutions


Using the 5 W’s + how gives you a broad template for defining the problem.  You can also use this framework to craft any communications that you will have to make on your path to the solution.  Usually in identifying the problem, you get most of the pieces to define it but they might be scattered or unclear.


If you take the time to put them together to make a logical outline, then you are already providing value and on your way to a solution.  If you have to enlist someone else in the quest, you can quickly bring them up to speed.


Why and How will require some thought, maybe application of related knowledge that you possess.  They will also help you to decide if there is an underlying cause that you should address first.  Getting to the root of the issue will make repeats less likely and make you more efficient.  For instance if you have a client that constantly requires emergency deliveries – you would certainly appear helpful if you act every time to get the delivery completed, but think of how much better it would be if you figure out why this is a repeated issue and provide an overall solution.


“Only by contending with challenges that seem to be beyond your strength to handle at the moment you can grow more surely toward the stars.”

~Brian Tracy


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Mood Boosters

This is the happiest, most joyful time of the year.  Or it is supposed to be, so I thought it appropriate to remind you that regardless of evidence to the contrary, there is always joy to be found.  I learned this from my mom who was the most perennially positive person I have ever known.  Personally, I tend to melancholy, but having been raised within the realm of her spirit of joy, I am now the most upbeat melancholic you will ever meet.


Mom sang – whether to express actual joy or to bring it when it was flagging.  She would just burst into a specific song, ring out a few notes, or hum.  She would also ‘throng’ (her word) upon the piano.  I find myself doing the same, usually making up nonsense verses based on known songs.  This is because I discovered as I moved farther into adulthood that the singing was like a talisman against negativity.


Singing is my ritual.  There is a work pod of 4 people that I know that have started a ritual with a little bear that can be posed.  The bear gets moved around the pod and finding the bear brings a sudden smile.


There is a power to ritual that we modern people seem to have forgotten.  We leave rituals inside the place of worship for the most part and we shouldn’t.  Rituals are soothing and can focus or refocus the mind to a more positive bent in the midst of a hectic day.  The one ritual I can think of outside of religion is the making and drinking of tea.


“Happiness is the whole aim and end of human existence.”

~Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics


Rut is the ugly side of rituals; these are bad habits that we get into that encourage negative feelings for the most part.  You should root ruts out of your day by replacing them with simple rituals that will refocus your mind to the potential good things going on.


6 Happiness Tools from What Happy People Know:

  1. Appreciation
  2. Choice
  3. Personal Power
  4. Leading with your Strengths
  5. The Power of Language & Stories
  6. Multidimensional Living

Dan Baker, PhD. & Cameron Stauth


I hope you discover some joyful rituals in the coming days.  And if you hear someone humming down the aisle from you in the store, it might be me so give that person a smile as you pass.


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Twas the Week Before Christmas

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the work-place,

Creatures were hurrying, scurrying and running the rat race.

“I have to get done, have vacation to take –

Off to Grandma’s, the in-laws or maybe the lake!”

Now I was just watching quietly from my cube

Hoping to get out at lunch at take my car for a lube

Christmas carol melodies floating through my head

While on my computer, emails I read, read, read

When out on the floor there arose such a clatter,

I looked over the wall to see what was the matter –

A vision of senior management all dressed like St Nick

Ho Ho’ing and marching down the aisle right quick!

A parade of employees trailing in their wake,

Everyone heading to the boardroom, a feast to partake

Deciding my car would have to take care of itself,

I jumped up and followed the nearest old elf!

(With thanks and apologies to Clement Moore)


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Intro to Negotiation

The object is to build a mutually beneficial relationship.  Power can be out balanced one way or the other depending on the personalities involved but not benefit if the relationship is to be a success.


Tools for successful negotiation include:

  • View the other person as a counterpart or associate and not as an opponent and treat them as such
  • Plan your expected outcome and prioritized acceptable alternates in advance
  • Reach out to the person with the correct level of authority to be able to carry out the outcome.
  • Know your counterpart’s style/temperament and tailor your approach
  • Plan how to respond to your counterpart’s expected position
  • Speak to the advantages of your intended goal & be prepared to address any expected objections – know the product or service
  • Remember that in business there must be perceived gain for your counterpart, short term or long term
  • Be prepared to offer concessions or alternate business opportunities
  • Retain control of the negotiation by making neutral, factual statements, and using questions carefully
  • Watch your wording, tone, posture – humor helps & be pleasant
  • Plan for your own potential emotional reactions or pitfalls
  • Know when to stop – enough is enough – old sales adage to stop when you get to ‘yes’


Negotiation theory:

B – Best

A – Alternative

T – To

N – Negotiated

A – Agreement

>>what each side could end up with if they walk away


Control or Influence:

You only have control over yourself, not any system or other people.  But if you understand the motivations of others and know how the system operates any individual can have influence with the right negotiation.


Daniel C. Molden, professor of psychology at Northwestern says, “The more that people’s feelings of self-worth are wrapped up in a poor decision they’ve made, the greater their impulse will be to justify it in some way.”


If you are prepared to structure the solution to accommodate any resistance, you will have a greater chance of success.


“If you need something from somebody, always give that person a way to hand it to you.” ~Sue Monk Kidd


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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