Monthly Archives: February 2013

Measurability Measures

(Measure twice, cut once – old carpenter saying)

measurabilityBusiness is dependent upon certain tenets to continue: maintaining, or better, growing is one.  Shrinking is usually a bad sign – unless it references your cost of doing business.  Knowing if a business is healthy requires metrics or measurement of some type.  Financial input and output should be tracked, employee development, sales volumes, and other aspects depending upon your type of business.

 

Measuring progress is critical to understanding, but must be a balanced part of your business diet.  All diets are best when balanced, and if you compare information about your business to a type of diet then you should make an effort to keep things balanced.  If businesses focus too intently on one aspect, for instance short term earnings, the portion of effort applied to this facet of the business can become bloated in respect to the other aspects of the business.  The health of the business is dependent upon this diet.

 

“When an institution becomes the sum of what it measures, it risks valuing only what it measures.”

~Steven Harper

 

Businesses usually develop rules around the metrics or measurements that they track.  An employer has a responsibility to evaluate the rules that are created: to ask why the rule is important, what is the impact of the rule on cost, quality & customer service?  As an employee, you can prudently assist in your organization’s effort to create a healthy business with a balanced diet or perspective of all business and organizational aspects whether tangibly measurable or not.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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February 28, 2013 · 8:28 am

When ‘Why’ is Not the Right Question

whyI have already written a couple of times about the importance of knowing why you are doing something because it will allow you to be more successful.  However, there is a downside to asking why as well which can get you mired in place and unable to move forward.

Why becomes a trap question when you turn it on your own situation – ‘Why did this happen to me?’.  You abdicate the ability to redesign your situation, extricate yourself, move on because you are making someone else responsible.  (Maybe someone else is, but that is beside this point.)

The question to ask when you are in a place that you don’t like is ‘How’.  How do I redesign, extricate, move on from here to a place/situation that suits me better?  Now it doesn’t matter if someone else is responsible for getting you in this spot because you are going to get you out.  You don’t need to do much to get started, just open your mind to the potential that is out there.

Once you are free of the passive ‘why’, you could ask yourself what you want to do instead, what would it take to make some small changes that could make the world of difference to your sense of fulfillment.  This would move you from the passenger seat of your own life into the driver seat.  You hold the control over your own choices.

How exciting, think of the possibilities.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Creating Understanding

understandingCommunication is a beautiful thing, except when it isn’t.  Which is unfortunately frequent.  Something came out wrong, a word or phrase was misunderstood, or any variety of things can derail clear communication.  Communication breakdowns, conflictions of interest or expectations cause all sorts of difficulties both large and small.

 

Think back on the last several conflicts that you are aware of or participated in in some fashion.  What did it take to turn the encounter into a constructive situation?  Without some type of intervention it is possible that there will be an escalation of hostilities at some later point whether overt or not.

 

It is preferable to communicate clearly and create understanding from the start than to have to take action to repair any rift and then try to get momentum going forward.

 

“That is the one thing that I’ve learned, that it is possible to really understand things at certain points, and not be able to retain them, to be in utter confusion just a short while later.  I used to think that once you really knew a thing; its truth would shine forever.”

~Lucy Greeley

 

My reaction when I read this quote was wow, I never thought about it quite like this before but she’s got a point.  If we once knew something, aren’t we less likely to rethink it later?  Scenarios like this play out daily and could easily lead to a lack of understanding, especially if the other person is suffering from a similar confusion of retention.  How often do we find ourselves in a group hoping that someone else will ask for clarification on a point, but not step forward to be that someone?  The leader of the group should pick up on this mass confusion, but if they do not and no one in the group speaks up suddenly the original intent of the gathering is moot.

 

Whose responsibility is it to get things back on track?  Plenty would say it is the leader’s sole responsibility but why other than refusal to accept part ownership?  I would pose that it is the responsibility of everyone in the gathering to ensure understanding and successful completion of the communication.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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February 26, 2013 · 9:28 am

Throw it Over the Wall

wallJust about the worst habit to get into in the work place is the following phrase, “It’s not my job.”  This is a powerful toxin to your career and should be assiduously avoided.  ‘Not my job’ shuts down the conversation or activity and throws all responsibility over the wall.

You might be thinking what is wrong with it, especially if I’m asked to do something that isn’t part of my job description?  It’s a true statement in that case.  Well, technically it might be true but it is a narrowing thought.  The more that you allow yourself to use it; the more you are putting yourself into a box.

A job description is just a starting point, not a road map.  Train yourself to think expansively about your job requirements and you open up all kinds of possibilities.  Your main job, regardless of industry or job title is to help your organization to succeed at the current strategic objectives.  The way that you accomplish this is streamlined by the department that you are in; you are one part of the whole as defined by the regular activities of your department.

You are also most likely to provide the most quality within your area of expertise, but part of that should be knowledge of the expertise of your co-workers.  Then ‘not my job’ can be a much more productive advisory of ‘let me talk to the expert in this area.  One or both of us will then follow up with the plan to resolve.’

‘Not my job’ might have some similarities to ‘I’m not the best person to resolve this, and get it done right’, but are really worlds apart in mindset.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Challenge Your Self-Defeatist Notions

challengeWe all have them, these thoughts that start ‘I can’t’, ‘I’m not’ and go on to describe some feature of ourselves in a negative light.  Sometimes these are echoes of past voices, sometimes amalgamations of bits and pieces of our growing years.  Wherever they originate, they are self-defeating in nature.

 

If there is something that you would really like to do and your own immediate response is to tell yourself why you can’t do it, stop right there.  Ask that defeatist thought why not – why can’t I go after that promotion, go back to school, take that vacation, etc.  Uh, well, hmmm, because I said you aren’t worthy because that’s what I’ve always said.  Listen, I’m protecting you from potential failure here, why are you suddenly questioning me?

 

Because I’ve matured to a point where I’m not so sure you are protecting me, that’s why – because I am starting to think that you are an outdated and unhelpful notion that should be challenged, that’s why.  Maybe once I spend some more time fleshing out my idea I will find that there are valid reasons to change it or not continue.  But your rubber stamp ‘Can’t’ isn’t valid.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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February 23, 2013 · 9:27 am

How Things Work, Or the Tools that We Need

toolsMy dad had a workshop in a corner of our basement.  He had a big, sturdy workbench made of wood with a vise grip clamped to one side and a variety of interesting tools, an assortment of little necessities sorted into compartments, and shadowy larger items on the shelf below.  Then there was the whole wall of metal shelving that had rows of coffee cans full of screws and nails plus more tools, scraps and mystery items that I only left alone because there might be spiders lurking.  In the middle of his workshop area, he had an old door hoisted on two sawhorses where he would keep his larger projects.

My dad was not a natural teacher, but I learned early on that if I could watch quietly without distracting him with questions, then I was welcome to sit on a stool and observe while he created.  So I did.  I remember being drawn down to cross the dark lengths of basement in my pajamas, skittering toward the halo of light over his workbench.  I remember sitting perched on that stool until the cold from the basement crept up the stool and all through me, but fascinated by whatever project he had set up and not wanting to retreat to the warmth upstairs.

Dad loved to work with his hands; he knew carpentry and other useful household repair information like electrical and plumbing.  He also had a strong artistic interest and out of this came many decorative items like taking a Pennsylvania Dutch design from a tissue box and reworking it to paint onto an old milk can.  He made models of ships and took over a few diorama school projects of mine and my siblings.

I’m not sure if my love of process came out of the hours that I spent watching my dad, or that I was so drawn to watching him because I enjoyed the process.  I know that I have learned more than I realized and this has come in handy, and in situations that bear no resemblance to any of dad’s projects.

One of the tools that I really just had to touch was the level.  It is a long and narrow metal (well these days, plastic) item with two or more glass areas, filled with liquid and an air bubble, that are angled and perpendicular.  It is used to help ensure that something like a table top or a picture is level, hence the name.  But what if you could apply the concept to human interactions?  Is the interaction ‘level’, i.e. are all parties understanding the direction and intent?  Sometimes I can clearly get a mental picture of a level where the air bubbles are not lining up while observing a conversation.

I also couldn’t help but play with the vise grip – what a handy item, literally.  It could hold something in place when you needed both of your own hands to perform a task on the item.  Wouldn’t it be useful to hold a slippery idea in place while you examine it more closely?

I don’t work with my hands in the same way that my dad did, mine type or answer the phone or write notes.  But I have an understanding of tools, process, and how things work thanks to those quiet hours in that circle of light at my dad’s workbench that I build on every day.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Potpourri

DSC03125My siblings used to get frustrated with me because I could keep my Halloween candy and just eat it in small amounts.  I was able to figure out fairly early on that I didn’t enjoy getting sick from the candy, but that certainly didn’t mean that I didn’t love candy.  Check out this post from the Passionate Problem Solver’s blog:  Skills for Success, Delayed Gratification

 

I admit that I hadn’t thought about the subtle differences between self-esteem and self-acceptance before reading this post on the Job Box Report: The Power of Self-Acceptance.  I heartily agree with Rachel and would add that I find self-acceptance much easier as I get older and gain broader experience in the world.

 

An interesting read with a different perspective on the way that groups interact: The Six Thinking Hats by Edward DeBono.  “Thinking is the ultimate human resource.  The main difficulty of thinking is confusion.  With the Six Hats method the emphasis is on ‘what can be’ rather than just on ‘what is’, and on how we design a way forward – not on who is right and who is wrong.”

 

“It is up to us to give ourselves recognition. If we wait for it to come from others, we feel resentful when it doesn’t, and when it does, we may well reject it.”

~Bernard Berkowitz

 

Keep yourself mentally awake, from Forbes: 10 Brainteasers to Test Your Mental Sharpness

 

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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February 21, 2013 · 8:42 am