Tag Archives: Collaboration

Generation Generalizations

What generation do you fall into chronologically?  I am most often lumped into the Baby Boomer generation, albeit the very tail end.  Sometimes I see articles that claim people in my age range are part of Generation X.  I remember hearing a whole lot more about Baby Boomers than Gen X growing up.  I suppose due entirely to numbers, this makes a lot of sense.

parent or friend

These generational groupings don’t seem to be created with consensus by the sociologists that discuss them since the date ranges vary by multiple years from one study to another.  One of the things that has always confused me is the difference between Gen Y and the Millennials.  Wikipedia advises that these generations are one and the same, not sure why the different naming conventions although in memory the Gen Y designation came first.  People in this cohort have birthdates ranging from the early 1980s into the early 2000s. (Note the vague start and end years.)

 

A blog that I follow, Chrysanthemum Communications (first read just because I was attracted to the name) helped me to gel my thoughts into this post with Women Over 50: Dive into the Multi-Generational Workplace.  I don’t meet this designation, but still found value in what Raye Elizabeth Ward has to say.

 

All this is preamble to my underlying thoughts on this topic.  Demographically, we will be lumped into groupings of all kinds – generationally, gender-wise, level of education, experience, and on and on.  Groupings are generalizations that may or may not apply to us individually.  I don’t identify with the characteristics that are applied to either the Baby Boomer generation or the Gen X group – bits and pieces, yes but overall, no.

 

I bet you don’t exactly fit into the generalizations made about your generation group either.  So think about what Ms. Ward has to say the next time you want to believe generalizations about someone else:

“Remember, the stereotypes work both ways.  I was considering interviewing with a large tech company where I would have reported to a woman some 15 years my junior.  “She’ll never hire me,” I said to a friend.  “Not if she’s as narrow-minded as you’re being right now,” came the response.  Bingo.”

~Raye Elizabeth Ward, Chrysanthemum Communications

 

What are your thoughts about these generational designations?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Be an Emulsifying Agent

I was just baking cookies, can you tell?  In cooking, or chemistry (which is the same basic idea, but you do not want to eat what you produce) an emulsifier is an ingredient that helps other ingredients become a cohesive new entity.  Like cookies from eggs, flour, sugar and other ingredients – like chocolate (the best one).  Without the emulsifying ingredient you wind up with a bowlful of wasted stuff that refuses to combine properties and become something new.

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I wrote a bit differently about this early on, The Right Ingredients.  Also prompted by baking cookies.  Inspiration can come from any direction at any time and be applied in unusual ways.  But I digress.

 

This same principle can be applied to teams, groups, or pairings in the office.  Sometimes a team doesn’t seem to coalesce because no one is acting like the emulsifying agent, each person is too determined to retain their own distinct properties.  Yes, yes we all must make sure that we are known – personally branded in today’s parlance – but what if being known as stand-alone also means getting a rep for standing in the way of team success?

 

It is quite possible to be known as a highly capable individual and also as a collaborator, or team player (bzz-bzz goes the buzz word bee).  These are not mutually exclusive traits.  Your skills and experience combined with the skills and experience of others on the team could lead to awesomeness.  But you can’t act like oil to their water.

 

Reach out, share, exchange ideas.  Offer a little something of your skill or experience and let the mixing begin.  I’m going to go have a cookie or two.

 

How about sharing a little something here?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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What is My Intent?

It must be about a decade now since I gave myself the mantra, maybe tenet is better, in the title.  It has been highly useful and I have shared both the tenet and my thoughts behind it with many along the way.  The question, posed to myself, helps to formulate my communication methods in a way that should diffuse any P.C. traps.

 

Most of us live and work in communities that are no longer composed largely of like-background and like-thinking individuals, hence the birth of political correctness.  Because when there are too many sensitivities, and they are often in conflict with each other and potential objectives, they can easily get trampled on the way to something else.  And the idea of political correctness is honorable, meaning to offer equal respect for the make-up of all the individuals in any particular group at any particular time.  But, whew, P.C. can act as a wall which prevents that group or community from ever actually resolving the real issue.  (Talks between countries that never happen because the preliminary how-the-meeting-will-go-down discussions break down over the shape and size of the table and the placement of the attendees.)

public domain drawing

public domain drawing

 

Back to my question.  If we each look into ourselves and determine the answer to our intent – resolve an issue, say how best to configure new office space – then we can better craft our method of resolution, down to approach, consideration of any objections or risks and how we will address them before we even gather.  Deciding that our intent is to work together to create a pleasant and productive office space, thinking about what we know about potential pit falls and how we can handle them reasonably would go a long way toward mutual benefit – a place that doesn’t need P.C. to be effective.

 

Now this question works best when all involved are asking the same question of themselves, but it is still effective when used by one individual, me.  Because I also turn the question and ask myself what the intent of the other individuals might be, how it might differ from mine, how it might affect the encounter or project.  Then I can be prepared with persuasions to keep things on track toward plan, and away from anything that could lead to non-P.C. territory.

 

I won’t claim that this is easy, or that I am always successful; but I have gotten a lot of mileage from this one simple question.  I invite you to try it out.  Let me know how it works.

 

(This post is written in response to Daily Prompt: P.C.)

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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How Your Bosses (and Their Bosses) Process Ideas

You have another great idea, you are certain that this one ‘has legs’ as one or another senior boss has a habit of saying around the office.  You try not to think about the discarded ideas that you have put forward in the past because this is really the one that will get you noticed, make your year.

 

Once upon a time your boss got excited about all kinds of ideas, before he or she was business-itized, out of necessity you understand; at least in respect on how to assess a new idea for viability.

 

I’ve written previously on the topic of bringing forth your ideas as Filling Gaps.  But not from the angle of the higher up.  Even if you have not ever seen the business world from this angle, it behooves you to familiarize yourself with the concepts if you want to improve and move up.  Going higher up the hierarchy in your company means paying greater and greater attention to the ability of your team to provide value that is tangible (i.e. bankable) regularly, as in every quarter.

Boss_hierarchy

“I broke multiyear projects into pieces that delivered important capabilities every quarter. The tempo of business is measured in three-month cycles, and quarterly operating and sales results are the basis for many (maybe even most) business decisions. When you show the CEO and other executives that you are getting things done in 30-, 60-, and 90-day cycles, you build credibility, and the executives approve your projects and budgets.”

~ Mike Hugos, What I Learned My First Day as a CIO

 

So look at your idea from this perspective.  You may have to tweak it so that you can play up the aspects which will help your boss to achieve this goal of tangible improvement.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Are You a Joiner?

I know that it is a big buzz thing right now to be a collaborator, but I actually really like to collaborate with someone else or in a small group.  I like how the additional mind power can build a better and stronger framework for an idea.  I like how the varied experiences of the group participants can inform the method of implementing the idea and possibly staving off unintended consequences.

joiner

I’m not naturally a joiner though.  Put me in a group and I will become part of the group, ask me to find a group and join it and I will find something else to do.  Especially if I have time to think about it.  If I find out about a meeting for something that I can see benefit to and the meeting is that day or the next day, I am much more likely to actually do it.  Give me a longer time frame and I will potentially talk myself out of it.  (This is the introvert in me – I’ve missed out on some interesting experiences.)

 

Now I do get why more strongly introverted people that don’t see a benefit to collaboration would avoid joining groups unless pressed, but I don’t have a solid answer as to why I duck groups.  Particularly when I join a group and find great, energetic people.  The answer is just because and that isn’t a compelling argument – no matter how you look at it.

 

So I have to challenge myself to fight this avoidance.  I am in job search which means that in my work aspects I need a new pack to run with and so I have joined not just one (which I did immediately before I had time to object) but two job search groups.  I had to be pressed (gently but firmly) by a new friend into joining the second – why would I need two of the same thing?

 

And yet, and yet I am so very pleased with this nudge.  Each group has a very different tone and dynamic and I get very different things from each group.  I am not the only person that I know who participates in both groups, yet these groups still meet different needs and come at the same things from different angles.

 

So I have a challenge for my fellow non-joiners out there – working, job search, what have you – find a new group and join it.  See the world that you know from a different angle and find out what that does for you.  There are so many wonderful people to encounter.

 

Find a group, take a class – something related to an existing interest.  Sit in the back quietly at first if that make you feel better.  Get a sense of things, pick out one or two people that look approachable; smile at anyone who approaches you and say hi.  Ask them what got them to this group.  Just be open to possibilities.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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The Accountability of Career Counseling Firms, as Hired by a Previous Employer

accountabilityMost of the folks in job search mode that I encounter are like me, on their own to learn how to navigate this facet of life and create their own plan.  Others have the privilege of using services from a career counseling, or outplacement firm through funding from their previous employer.  A small part of me is jealous of this seeming advantage, but my independent self has other thoughts.

 

So I decided that I would share a few of those other thoughts.  Accountability is a word that gets batted around a great deal in businesses these days and it is a very good word.  It keeps us all on our toes, when applied appropriately – both as individuals and also as business entities.  We are more likely to behave properly if we know that someone is watching and there might be repercussions for acting out of turn.

 

So who is this firm accountable to if their fees are paid by the former employer?  The former employer doesn’t care about the result of the counseling offered, i.e. a new job for the former employee, they are offering this as a purely economic venture (cheaper to pay this fee than keep on more employees than they want/need).

 

The recipient of the service doesn’t have much leverage to hold the firm accountable because they are not paying the fee.  My conclusion is that the recipient, while appreciating this perk, should take charge of their job search plan and make sure that they are getting the most out of the services offered by the firm.  Be proactive and find out from other sources what the best methods of successfully landing a new position are and then query the firm about how they help with this function.

 

Ask why the counselor is suggesting to do a certain thing, what success have they seen from this effort?  A large portion of activity in job search is highly subjective – a person can find an equal number of proponents and detractors for almost every aspect.  Channel your inner 2-year-old (admit it, you’ve wanted to have a chance to do it) and ask ‘why is that’ until you get a response that makes it clear to you.  Think hard about any answers that smack of ‘because that’s the way that we do it’.  Those types of answers rarely serve you as well as they serve the company itself.

 

We – both job seekers and people in general – have a tendency to trust someone who is a subject matter expert, based sometimes on nothing more than their job title but when the stakes are so much higher for the job seeker than those at the firm, a bit of skepticism and extra questioning is prudent on the job seeker’s part.  The job seeker recipient of counseling services shouldn’t worry about taking up too much of their time since you aren’t footing the bill.  Take full advantage of this opportunity.  And please, join a job search group and share your findings with those of us who haven’t had the opportunity for personal career counseling.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Trust, Trusting, Trustworthy

Trust is one of those linchpin concepts that both unite and divide us because they are concrete and yet so subjective. We cannot easily operate above an individual level without a willingness to trust.  Yet it is one of those words that have almost lost their meaning due to overuse.

 

Each of us has more control over our own self (theoretically, should be literally) so I’ll start with the idea of being trustworthy.  How did we each learn what this concept means?  By being told, by watching others, by making mistakes that cost us the trust of others.  And by placing our trust in the wrong person or situation.

understanding

How much space came in between what you were told about trust and the actual actions of those who told you the meaning?  That space determined your own personal definition of being trustworthy and of the importance of trust.  At least in your early years, until you may have had cause to reevaluate the importance and meaning for yourself.

 

On the surface of it, in a group or pairing, we assume that we are all dealing with the same definition of the word trust.  But we forget how much weight experience gives to a definition; how it shapes, strengthens, or weakens various bits of the meaning until one person’s definition potentially has little resemblance to another’s.

 

But we use the same word, trust, and we assume that our opposite has the same general understanding and expectations of that word.  We build a relationship, a project, what have you on top of this expectation of understanding.  We are then either pleased or disappointed with the outcome of the actual event where we placed our trust, or were trusted based on a concept that we did not cross reference in meaning at the start.  We then can’t say that we properly placed or misplaced our trust, rather we didn’t mutually define what trust meant in that circumstance.

 

Books are written on this topic, I have read a few – articles, too.  I admit that this post is based more on my experience and whatever psychology that I have internalized.  I was a very open and trusting child – back to my remark on those spaces; because the people who taught me about the meaning of the word were very trustworthy.  As I went out into the world, I (painfully) learned to be cautiously trusting but stuck to my own ethic in respect to honoring my own standard to be trustworthy.  Taking care to explain my driving definition behind any participation, or promise to perform.

 

I have a strong belief in under-promise and over-perform as an effective method, while defining my intent and verifying that I understand the intent of my opposite or the group.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t still find myself disappointed in others, particularly if they prove themselves false.  Each time I ask myself if I should trust less, and each time I decide to stick to my own standard and not let it be affected by the shortcomings of a few.

 

I’ll end here, for now.  But this has been a broad stroke on overall trust – there are so many nuances.  Like knowing that you can trust someone in certain aspects, but not in others.  Perhaps I will return to this topic again in the future.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Boxes & Hats, Lots to Think About

We spend a lot of time talking and thinking about how we think, if you think about it.  Conscious thought set humans apart from most other species way back in the early years, although we are now finding out more and more that we are not entirely alone in this skill.  Of course some people think more than others, some think that what they think about is more important and some turn thinking into obsession.

 

I could go on tangling your thoughts with increasingly convoluted sentences, but that isn’t my intent today.  (But if you look at the number of times that I used some form of the word think in the previous paragraph, you begin to better understand why we came up with different words that have similar meaning – to prevent the repetition of a single word, to keep the meaning clear and keep the reader’s eyes from glazing over.)

 

I believe that I have mentioned before that I read this really interesting book a few years ago – Edward DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats – concise and fascinating.  I stumbled on it quite by accident during a break in a 3 day management seminar.  (Most memorable part of that class happened right near the beginning; the facilitator told us that we’re all just big children.  Yes!  I agree, that was worth the price that my company paid just for that point alone, as long as I keep it in mind in my interactions. Any other good points are lost in my notes, made during the remainder of the 3 days.)

 

Mr. DeBono poses that we should stop putting so very much value in thinking appositionally, instead adopt parallel thinking with various members of the groups wearing different (figurative) hats  – neutral/objective (white), emotional/intuitive (red), careful/cautious (black), sunny/positive (yellow), growth/creative (green), and cool/organized (blue).  It brings a game aspect to discussions and removes the barriers that right vs. wrong constructions tend to instill.

 

Parallel thinking is very inclusive and puts the “emphasis on designing a way forward” which I find particularly appealing in our era of mounting outrage, umbrage and conflict for the sake of conflict.  All people in the meeting are intended to wear the same color hat, regardless of their own characteristics – a naysayer must wear the sunny/positive hat during that part of the meeting discussion for example.  This adds to the game aspect and also deepens the discussion because people can provide real insight when they are required to think outside their own comfort zone.

boxes-hats

And then we get to the box – inside the box, outside of the box – moving the cat over to find room in the box.  As a species known to be independent thinkers, cats really do like boxes.

 

We’ve been told so many times, in so many ways to think outside the box for the last few decades that we should be well out of that box by now.  And yet, we aren’t, why?  For the same reason that those independent cats get in every box that they can, even if they don’t quite fit – because it is somehow comforting.  Even the wildest among us recognizes something necessary about boundaries.  (I can’t find it right now, but there is a picture of a cheetah sitting in a box – yes, Google has let me down.)

 

I know that I’ve written about box thinking – rote thinking – and this must be the box that everyone desperately wants us to get out of, which is a position that I do hold.  There is a place for rules – ones that have a compelling argument driving them – but rote thinking spins wheels.

 

I have to thank a fellow blogger (Wordsmatter – post called Walls) who put me on to Dan Heath and his presentation about thinking inside the box.  Here is an article overview – Dan Heath: Think Inside the Box.

 

Dan recognizes our need to have parameters imposed and he also rejects the rote thinking that is normally considered the box, and then he takes it a step further and tells us to find our own box.  The one that suits are current needs.

 

I’m going to go think a bit about why Google let me down by not producing that cheetah in the box.  I’m going to push my cat over and share her box to do my pondering.  I’ll be wearing my yellow hat.

 

Late breaking: I’m glad I didn’t post this right away, Yahoo came through for me – big cats play in boxes.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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And to Think that I Saw it On (Fill in the Blank)

I have always adored Dr. Seuss, so a nod to him for this title and theme today.  Dr. Seuss encourages us all to embrace our uniqueness and to seek out stories.  I can’t resist a good story, can you?  I wish that every child in the world would grow up with at least one memory of snuggling with a loved adult and reading a book together.

 

Somewhere along the way through life many people stop doing stories – reading, telling – and only keep them by way of movies and television, sadly.  I started to think about this after telling a story today at a networking group about my son’s dog and a little adventure that we had walking recently.  My story telling today reminded me of Dr. Seuss’ very first book, referenced above.  Marco is a storyteller whose father wants reality in his tales, but Marco wants some spice.  Most of the pages relate the growth of Marco’s fantastic tale, the one that no one could beat.  In the end Marco’s tale is tailored to suit his father, the audience’s preferences.

 

When I was young I also thought that fantastic adventures where the way to tell stories, and often got caught in a fib of my own invention.  As I got older, I realized that storytelling for the purpose of relaying information and catching the interest of the audience is better done with real tales that can be found by just being observant.

 

I needed to take a break yesterday afternoon so I decided to take a walk.  Of course my son’s dog sat by me as I put on my shoes and gave me pleading eyes.  Now this dog has given herself the job of being the neighborhood greeter – she is convinced that everyone wants to meet her.

pleading eyes

We looped out and around the neighborhood and were on the way home when we passed a house where a dog was peering out of an open window.  I was concerned because the window was open wide and the dog was a good size and out popped the screen with the dog right after it.  (It’s a ranch house, don’t fret.)

 

Luckily these dogs wanted to be friends while I tried to encourage our group toward the house’s front door.  But no one was home and the dog was starting to realize its free state.  Yikes – now what?  I couldn’t tie them together with the leash, I had nothing else on me to use as a leash and I really didn’t want to call 911.

 

I looked around just in time to see neighbors across the street coming home.  They were kind enough to come over and while the wife and I discussed possible solutions, the husband took the dog and deposited her inside the fence securely, set the screen inside the window and closed the window and then headed home.  Without saying a word.

 

Stories connect us and it doesn’t always happen, but if you expect them to people will help.  You just have to get their attention.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Mentors are Everywhere

One of the things that we often hear from successful business folk is the fact that he or she had a wonderful mentor to help them to navigate to the top.  Lovely for them, I haven’t ever come across a single person who could play this role for me, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had any mentoring. We think of this word in terms of someone directly influencing another, but the term has a broader meaning which pertains to anyone you see as wise or trusted who can indirectly counsel or teach.

 

Larry McMurtry, Ernest Hemingway, Anne Tyler, Sara Paretsky and many more have been writing mentors for me.  Eleanor Roosevelt, Madeline Albright and Hillary Clinton are mentors from a strong female perspective. These are just the names that are coming to me as I sit and write, there are so very many.  The part of a person’s story that resonates for me can lead to this person being an unaware mentor.

mentors

These people that I see as mentors give details of his or her story, either work or personal, that provide context which helps me to make a decision or gain some perspective within my own experience.  This is very different than telling someone what to do, which is how some people see this role.

 

I prefer the word mentor to hero.  An act can be heroic, or someone can be heroic in a series of events but a life is a long time, and a person takes many actions over it with varying motivations, for someone to be considered a hero.  A hero will most likely turn out to be someone with feet of clay – with some weakness or other exposed for all.

 

I also think of all of the things that I learned from my parents.  My mom proving to us the importance of an upbeat attitude, and my dad showing the value of a strong work ethic as highlights.

 

If we keep our eyes and ears open, we can find mentors almost anywhere, anyone who has had a valuable experience who is willing to share.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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