Monthly Archives: June 2013

Busy, Rushing… Oops

Show of hands – who makes more mistakes when rushing?  (Hmm, are we being honest with ourselves today – I think there should be more hands up.  This is a safe zone, your boss can’t see us.)  It is a conundrum but a fact that we end up wasting a terrible amount of time rushing and then having to redo things.

busy rushing

I came up with this post idea while on my way to an appointment.  I actually allowed plenty of time for traffic delays so that I wouldn’t be rushing; and since the world has a perverse sense of humor, I hit all green lights.  Which gave me time to jot down notes for this post in the parking lot before my appointment.  Writing the notes at that point served two purposes – first I would therefore be respectfully early and not I don’t have a life early, second I wouldn’t forget the idea while at the appointment.

 

(Blogging tip – always carry a pad and something to write with because inspiration is everywhere, but you won’t remember later.)

 

So, rushing leading to oopsies – I’d like to be able to say that I learned my lesson a long time ago that it never pays to work in that one more thing because you have a half a second.  But I can’t.  Ask me next year and I hope to be able to say, yes indeed I finally got that lesson down cold.  I do not squeeze in that one more thing, I take a deep breath before shooting off the email in a rush, making the call, fill in that activity.

 

We should all be so lucky to be able to build in more than adequate travel time, prep time, etc. in front of every effort.  Since we can’t, we can still take that millisecond to review our logic before we act.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Making a Personal Plea for LinkedIn Profile Pictures

I know, I know that you’ve heard all the reasons why you should have a profile picture – people don’t want to hire ghosts, blah-blah-blah.  Please keep reading, this isn’t about that at all, I promise.  And let me just add that while I am an avid recorder of life in pictures, you will infrequently find one of me in my own archives because I’m not fond of my own image.

 

profile pleaBut look me up, I have a profile picture.  It took a month of nearly daily photo sessions to get one that I liked (and that was on a haircut day, so I didn’t do my own hair), but there is an acceptable picture of me out there attached to my social media persona.  (By the way, I use the same picture for all social media – which helps me to show that if you find someone out there doing something untoward and that person has my name but not my image it is not me.)

 

I have been busy meeting many new and interesting people in the last few months and I have connected to quite a few of them on LinkedIn, even some that I have yet to meet in person.  I love expanding my circle and I’m pretty good at remembering faces.  I’m working on being better at associating the faces to the names.  (It’s a work in progress, we won’t count how long this has been an active project.)

 

About 2/3 of my current connections on LinkedIn have pictures and I thank you sincerely.  It helps me with my name to face association project.  If I know that I am going to see someone that I haven’t seen in a little while, I go to LinkedIn to refresh the association.  And I am occasionally disappointed when I get that ghost staring back at me.

 

Also, if I am to meet someone new, someone that I’ve only spoken to via email or phone, I do the same.  I was recently in a coffee shop waiting to meet a new contact in person and looking forlorn, I’m sure, because she was a ghost on LinkedIn.  Luckily it wasn’t a busy time of day or I would have had to approach every woman who walked in.

 

So for me, and all those potential new and useful contacts you might make out there, please add a clear picture of yourself to your profile.  My name to face association project thanks you.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Confusing the Search for a Job with a Validation Check

I have gotten good responses when I write about skills and I have been working on a potential post about the difference between job skills and job search skills when I was distracted by a more powerful idea, the implied relationship between validation and a job.  We all encounter, need, fight off a range of internal and external motivators.  Some people are greatly influenced by the external, some greatly by internal and the rest of us fluctuate between moderate areas of these two extremes.

 

People who regularly read this blog know that the idea of value comes up here quite frequently because fulfillment of value (meaning worth) is right there after fulfillment of our basic needs.  Validation is closely related.

 

val·i·date

verb (used with object), val·i·dat·ed, val·i·dat·ing.

  1. 1.   to make valid; substantiate; confirm: Time validated our suspicions.

We like to get our parking fees validated, consensus validates our opinions – and so on.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

Sometimes we too closely relate our value to the money that we are able to make and therefore our job becomes our greatest validation of worth.  Making job loss equate to lack of validation; which then brings us to run the risk of becoming unsubstantiated in our own minds.

 

Which couldn’t be further from the truth – circling back to value as an example; each of us is a bundle of unique learning and experience which is valuable in and of itself.  Add this to a life scenario – work, personal – and we can bring value to bear in sharing, building, striving.

 

A job is a productive use of our time, education and effort for which we are monetarily compensated.  But it is only part of the overall value that we can offer.  Job seeking is an effort to find a new position, which will allow the job seeker to participate in a productive mutual activity.

 

Validation comes from all of the facets of our lives, in all the many ways that we can provide value – community, family, friends, with work being part and parcel of the whole.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Calor Humano, Human Warmth

It used to be a regular occurrence, my phone would buzz an internal call and the receptionist would ask me if I could take a call from a customer who was distressed.  The caller needed someone else who wasn’t available, or had not been able to explain what was needed so the call was routed to me.

 

Unless I was due in a meeting, I would always take the call.  Even when I knew that I would not be able to immediately resolve the caller’s direct issue.  I could act in the service of this Spanish phrase, calor humano, and thereby begin to relieve the caller’s distress.

human warmth

First, I could listen and ask gentle probing questions to underscore to the caller that – as recorded voices in corporate voicemail loops like to assure us all – ‘their call was important to me’ in a truly meaningful manner.  Distressed people want to get the sense that their concerns are being listened to, and with these questions I could do so.  Together, the caller and I could clearly define their issue as well as the expectations for resolution – these acts didn’t require specific knowledge of the customer on my part to start on the path to resolution.

 

All that was really required on my part was an ability to convey empathic listening and identification of distress.  Plus a repetition of my understanding of the issue and enumeration of a follow up plan, or the next steps.

 

In all these types of calls in the years that I took them, I only had one person who was offended that I was not the right person to immediately resolve her issue.  Every single other person got off the call breathing more calmly and expectant of eventual positive results.  Because I offered human warmth specific to their moment of need.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Accepting a Compliment

This post isn’t for the narcissists among us, unless you have an interest in seeing how the rest of us feel about compliments.  We are taught to say please and thank you as children, and perhaps some parents include the niceties of accepting a compliment.  The rest of us not only turn varying shades of red when complimented, we get tongue tied.  (I still have reading Peggy Klaus’ book, Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It on my to-do list.)

 

I don’t remember my exact age, but it would have been in the 12-14 year range when my method of dealing with compliments was abruptly altered.  Prior to this incident, I would argue with the person offering the compliment.  (Sound familiar to anyone out there?)  One day a well-meaning but sharp tongued adult told me that I was being rude by contradicting the compliment.  I was taken aback and hadn’t yet found my more vocal current style.

 

Luckily the adult went on to say that if I felt uncomfortable with a compliment, the best response was always to say thank you.  And leave it at that.  No explanation necessary, certainly no need to contradict the compliment.

photo credit: Wikipedia, public domain

photo credit: Wikipedia, public domain

 

Since that day I mostly only continue the practice of hedging a compliment in my head.  I have to qualify that because people who know me well read this blog and might feel the need to bring up a time or two when I didn’t just graciously accept a compliment.  On an off moment, or couched in a weakness – like my lack of style.

 

Would any of you like to share an experience of giving or receiving a compliment?  I have found as I get older that the more specific compliments are the most memorable and likely to impact the quality of someone’s day for the better.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Fishing for Post Ideas

Happy Summer, Readers,

I have several posts in process, but thought that I’d throw out a request for ideas.  What would you like to see here?

Beth as Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Our Brains on Summer

summer

Everyone who knows me is going to cry foul – so do as I say here and not as I have done in the past and get out of the office to take in some sunshine and fresh breezes as many days as you can.

 

Why?  Because your brain will thank you.

 

Why?  Because vitamin D directly from the sun is the best kind.

 

Why?  Because we should all channel our inner child periodically and watch the clouds scuttle across the sky.

 

Why?  Because people watching is an interesting pastime.

 

To fulfill all of these whys, and just for funsies – leave your phone and your pad and all other electronic devices in the car or the office.  Partake in the sounds of nature along with the sights.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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My CANDLE Concept and the Candle Problem

There is a psychology test developed by Karl Duncker in the 1940s called the Candle Problem where a test subject is at a table with a box of tacks, a candle and a book of matches and told to fix the candle to the wall so that wax won’t drip on the table.  The solution is to take the tacks out of the box and affix the candle to the box and the box to the wall using the tacks.  This solution requires creative thinking because literal thinking will not allow for an alternative use for the box holding the tacks.

 

When the test is conducted with all the same items, but the box and tacks are laid out separately, the correct solution is deduced more quickly by most test subjects because the preconceived use for the box is not established.

 

candlesYes, you say but what does this have to do with my work day?  Plenty if you work with any level of complexity because problem solving in a complex environment requires the worker to engage in conceptualization.  The best solution is not always readily apparent with the information at hand.

 

Ok, that provides an overview of the second half of today’s title, so let’s backtrack to the first half: CANDLE, which is an acronym that I developed, standing for:

  • Communication
  • Active Listening
  • Negotiation
  • Decision Making
  • Lead the way
  • Education

 

The business model where I spent my corporate time was a complex one and newer people were at a bit of a disadvantage because the learning curve was pretty steep and the consequences for making a bad decision could be harsh.  So I developed my acronym to help the people on my team to focus.  These were their main skills, or tools in their mental tool box.  If you can name the tool that you need, then you have started to put some familiar context to a potentially unfamiliar situation.

 

Context and identification of familiar parts get your brain headed in the right direction for a solution.  Who knew candles were still so useful?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Drudgery vs. Vocation

When distilled to the purest form, the reason that we work is to support ourselves and our family.  Luckily the types of jobs available are almost as varied as the number of people, so with effort and a touch of luck a person should be able to find a means to meet this basic need at a job that suits the person’s personality and abilities.

 

Back when the weather was cold, I wrote this piece about Vocation.  As I interact with other job seekers, we think and talk quite a bit about the world of work and how strongly we would like to get back into feeling productive.  And the different tactics that we are all trying out to achieve this goal.

 

Which then, at least in my thoughts (and I hope that you stick with me here) rolls along through the recently concluded graduation season; celebrations of completed effort and future choice.  My own thoughts on graduation speeches lean more toward the boring monotonal endurance tests or fiery bully pulpit grabbers of my past, until I read this post from a fellow blogger:  Oprah’s Advice for New Grads where she professes a love of commencement speeches.  My own take-away is this love is based on the hope and promise inherit in these moments, before paychecks and bills and homeownership, etc. take over the lives of these new grads.

 

A few days later, this offering showed up in my reader from another blogger that I follow: Bad Graduation Advice, where he is putting forth the realistic viewpoint that having these famous speakers fill the heads of new graduates with hope and promise denies their future reality.  An ‘everyman’ type should be a graduation speaker because, “I’m also the person that most graduates will become (or should hope to become).”.  He goes on to say that most jobs ‘suck’.

 

drudgeryAll of this got me pondering about drudgery and vocation, hence my title.  None of us should hope to rise to such lofty heights that we entirely leave drudgery behind.  (The unpleasant rote jobs; necessary but never lauded.)  Drudgery keeps us grounded, and made Mike Rowe famous.

 

Drudgery aside, we should each make an effort to find a job that we can do day after day to support ourselves that suits our personality and traits.  Then we can feel a sense of purpose, of fulfilling a vocation.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Defining Done

Has it ever happened to you that you happily turned in a completed project only to have the other party sort through it and respond with, ‘oh, but’?  The one or two of you out there who said no don’t have to keep reading, unless you want to that is.

 

If you verified the exact expectations of the completed project before starting, then good for you and shame on the other party for changing their mind after you thought your work was done.  The current word for the expectations, or results that should come out of a project is deliverables, buzz word if you like.  It is actually descriptive and clear enough that I agree with its usage in this context.

 

If you did not get clarity on expectations from the other party and proceeded with the project based on assumptions, well – live and learn.  And then adopt project management best practices, without having to pursue a PMP (Project Management Professional certification from Project Management Institute).  Defining the exact meaning of done, in agreement with the stakeholder is part of the PM’s early activities.

How do you know when a chain is complete?

How do you know when a chain is complete?

 

Think how much easier your life around the office would be if you picked up and used this little nugget.  Back a few years ago, after I had started to think about studying up on being a Project Manager, but before I had started to actually do so, I had a meeting with my team where we white boarded our definition of a project and here is some of what we decided:

 

We put the definition of a Project up on the white board as follows –

  • Anything outside your normal routine
  • Requires a deadline
  • Requires focus or analysis
  • May require outside sources to complete (internal NSC, member, customer, etc)
  • Can be initiated by various constituents such as: customer, sales, or internal staff
  • May require measurement
  • Often requires specialized communication (can set up templates for frequently used requests like price audits)
  • Should develop a process for repetition and sharing best practice
  • May need to be tracked

 

Preparing to complete a project request –

  • Are all necessary questions answered by the requester – who, what, where, when & why?
  • Have reasonable expectations been set?
  • Do you understand the final outcome that is expected?

 

ALWAYS document the date received and determine completion date based on complexity and other activities on your desk + customer/requester needs.  If you cannot complete in the time requested, you should come to me ASAP to discuss solutions.

 

When responding to requester to set parameters use the phrase, “In order to provide complete and accurate information, (and then set a reasonable deadline).  You then MUST meet this deadline.

 

The PMI definition component that we missed above is that a project is temporary, but we sort of covered that in the first bullet point.  And that is defining done.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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