Tag Archives: Communication

Changes Afoot to My Blogs

There is so much that I didn’t know when I started this blog on a Saturday morning last December.  I had been thinking about blogging for some time, but the actual start was a bit on impulse.  This means that there were a lot of details that I didn’t understand.  (Well, if we waited to understand everything perfectly before we acted, we would rarely act, yes?)

 

I’ve learned more about blogging by actually doing it than I would have in reading about it or asking bloggers vague questions.  (That’s the thing about learning, half the battle is knowing what questions to ask.)  But in learning, and formulating a better idea of what I wanted to do, I ended up with a couple of blogs.  One of which is branded (http://bareedwriting.com/).

 

public domain image

public domain image

I’ve made the decision to merge my blogging efforts to my branded URL.  I hope that all of you wonderful readers who have been following me here will come over and follow me at http://bareedwriting.com/.

 

Starting on Monday September 16th, I will move these essays from Practical Business over to my BAReed Writing blog and I do hope that you come over and follow me there.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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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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Putting your Mark, Laying Claim

Mom used to practically chortle when telling my brother, sister and I how she and her brothers would lick something to lay claim to it.  Now a couple of thoughts come to mind.  This only worked because everyone in her house was a bit squeamish.  It is interesting that she told us these stories with such glee because we could exhaust her with our bickering.

 

My dad, as an only child, never understood the ruckus we would create in an effort to get our fair share of everything, all of the time.  Mom was careful in many ways to dole out even numbers of everything that she could, but this was next to impossible with her time or attention.  And that is what we really wanted.

 

I thought of this post while walking around my neighborhood and noticing all the cars parked on driveways.  You can usually tell the car that is just visiting from the car that belongs at the house based on positioning on the driveway.  When we are visiting we are hesitant to pull our car up in a spot that feels proprietary, right toward the top of the drive.  (And then often block the neighborhood walker’s progress…)  Which got me to think about our sense of ownership, how we put our mark on things.  And brought me back to those childhood events.

Everyone knows John Hancock signed the Declaration because his signature shows confidence.  (photo credit Wikipedia)

Everyone knows John Hancock signed the Declaration because his signature shows confidence. (photo credit Wikipedia)

 

We have varying comfort levels when we think about ownership of our things.  Some people are automatically comfortable taking ownership of any thing at any time.  And on the other end of the spectrum some people don’t feel certain of what they really own.  What they may have a right to claim.

 

The people who are naturally comfortable taking ownership might monopolize the shared office space, equipment and even the boss’s time.  There may be rules to even out these sensibilities, and a wise boss will make an effort to keep things fair.  But if you are more hesitant, you need to fight that urge and get in the fray to lay your claim.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Challenges of a Mom Working Outside the Home: Work Life Balance

Mothers have this awesome, profound impact on their offspring.  We are all quick to think about the effect our own mother had on us, but it is a little harder to ponder the impact we may be having on our own children.  Being all things to all people doesn’t seem to be an affliction that men suffer from, although I do know more and more who are involved in their children’s lives to a deeper level than past generations would have ever believed.  Being all things to all people is an affliction that keeps many a woman up at night.

 

When my younger son hit the right age for Pop Warner football, he really wanted to join.  I believe in giving my kids the opportunity to try out a variety of activities, but I was already aware that this particular activity considered itself more of a vocation than a passing interest and had a large time and effort expectation of parents and players.  I was also working about 14 miles from home, full time at this stage.  I had to say no, please pick a different sport.

DSC03459

I thought of this again recently because I just read an article that more and more students are opting for sports through exclusive clubs at a fairly early age.  These clubs do offer the children a great opportunity to excel, but at what overall cost?  First there is usually a sizable financial commitment, then there is the time involved, etc.

 

Work-life balance is a phrase that hasn’t come up much in the past couple of years while businesses find ways to cut costs that often mean more strain on their staff.  Oddly, in times of stress work-life balance is a more worthy discussion because the actual balance is sorely lacking.  Add in the family needs aspect and it really gets intense.

 

Back to my example, my son still feels slighted because his older brother played a season of Pee Wee football in our old town and he couldn’t play until high school.  I feel sad that he has not found a way to reconcile this disappointment, but otherwise my feelings are a throw-back to prior generations.  I have a short list of activities that I didn’t get to do as a child because participation would have required too much general family sacrifice.  Parents wanted their children to be happy and to have broader and better experiences than the parents themselves, but not to the point of disrupting family life.  Now we seem to think that we should move heaven and earth to give our child these experiences.

 

But sometimes life will put blocks in the way of your hopes and dreams, so perhaps it is better to learn about compromise when the stakes are about a sport and not a livelihood.

 

We have to work so hard and so regularly for balance because it is elusive and takes concentration.  Children can learn that part of balance is making choices.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Some Random Thoughts on Networking… Please Add Yours

I went to a networking event recently, held quarterly by a LinkedIn contact.  It was my first time in attendance because I am putting pressure on myself to network more, and farther outside of my comfort zone.  I will benefit, but it does take energy.

understanding

My thoughts:

  • It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, you don’t live in a box so you need to figure out how to keep your contacts fresh.
  • Most people have as many and possibly the same reservations that you have about going.
  • Follow up matters – but is also dependent upon your intent for starting the contact in the first place.
    • How many people do you know that just go through motions because they have been told that they must?
    • One person I know went to coffee with a new contact and was frustrated when the new contact didn’t seem to understand the point of the coffee meeting follow up.  (Hint: it isn’t a coffee klatch.)
  • You need to spend a couple of moments before the event getting your thoughts together about your own expectations for the event.
    • If it is your first event, your objective can be as simple as getting through the event.  Be yourself – your most vivacious self that you can muster.
  • Some people will be there just to collect cards – these are probably the folks who had the most yearbook signatures in high school and a lot of trophies.  Don’t spend too much time with them.
  • This is social, so have some fun.  But remember appropriate behavior for the occasion.

 

Ultimately, networking should help each of us to find people to expand our community.  What do you have to say?

 

© 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.

DSC03383

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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Promises, Promises – The Follow Up Trap

More than once I have called someone back to complete a request and had the person on the other end of the line express astonishment that I called back.  Gratifying for me, but disturbing too.  If the opportunity to gain kudos is just this easy, why aren’t more people doing this simple thing, follow up?  Oh my, in the interest of complete disclosure I must also admit that I have been the person who hasn’t followed through on something too.  Though I constantly work on myself to keep this to a bare minimum.

 

The excuses (er, reasons) we don’t follow up:

  • Forgetfulness, plain and simple – completely gone from the memory banks, or just a wisp of a thought that ‘I told X that I would do something, I think…’
  • Fear – So-and-so didn’t really mean that I could call to make an appointment to (learn / discuss / ask…) about Y
  • Didn’t really ever mean to – be honest, the offer to do something, be somewhere or whatever was made in the moment with no intention of completion

And so very many more that you would stop reading if I tried to list them, and really there isn’t any point.  But if I’ve gotten you to consider some of your own reasons why you get trapped, then I’m glad.

public domain crab trap

public domain crab trap

 

The maxim that the road to hell is paved with good intentions came about and has lasting power for good reason.  (Except for the last point above.)  We become so disappointed with others when they let us down, but can we look in the mirror and hold our own gaze steadily on this topic?  Probably not, for we know (thanks to another maxim) that to err is human.

 

But we can also decide to do better each time we have a ‘next time’.  We can understand our triggers for forgetfulness – if you ever ask me about something that requires follow up in a space where I cannot or do not write it down, then beware that this is one of my follow up downfalls.  I have learned to ask you to help me to remember with an email or some other prompt.  (Particularly if you have a smartphone because I do not – archaic, I know.)

 

We can disable the fear with the thought – another maxim, our ancestors know us so well – that nothing ventured is nothing gained therefore we shouldn’t decide for the other person whether they meant it or not and go ahead and make the request.  Politely follow up once or twice, and then forward this post on follow up to them…

 

Sometimes all it takes to be successful is just this little thing called follow up.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Praise in Public, Chastise in Private

public domain, Wikipedia

public domain, Wikipedia

A good little bee is buzzing happily all about, spreading the word that employee engagement is a fine thing for a company, any company, all companies.  Go little bee, go – spread your engagement pollen and make them believe it, stay real and not all buzz speak on us.

 

A friend sent me a link which prompted this post.  Oh dear, the little bee isn’t happy at all about this – Public Firing.  It isn’t entirely clear from this snippet, but this is taken from a meeting where changes are being discussed and it is meant to help employees understand both culture and expectations in this company going forward.  I can only imagine what the intent was regarding senior management when they planned this meeting, but the unintended consequences of this are going to be huge.

 

We’ll just leave this sound snippet and its repercussions behind.

 

Both of my parents spent time in offices at various stages of their working lives and I learned this from them.  It is an ethic that was clearly important to them, and is not something that I ever questioned, even during my questioning teen years.

 

A workplace is a community of people.  People with varying levels and types of experience, differing types of knowledge and personalities.  There is a constant flow of intended and unintended activity – things go right and things can go wrong.  (Frankly, with so many variables it is interesting to me that things go right much more often than they go wrong.)

 

How a company, and any leader within that company handles the things that go really right and anything that goes wrong speaks volumes.  I think my parents got it right when they followed the praise in public and chastise in private principle.  The little employee engagement bee agrees.

 

© 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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Introversion Revisited – How Could I Resist?

One of my April posts, Being an Introvert with Extroverted Tendencies has taken on a life of its own in cyber-land.  It is my most viewed post and the analytical side of me has been intrigued by how this came to be.

 

I’ve been pondering whether I should revisit this topic because it clearly struck a nerve and then I came across this cartoon last week, Your Guide to Interacting with an Introvert which sealed the deal that I must share because it is so well done.  When I shared it in a LinkedIn group, the responders liked the content but were split on whether it was amusing or not.

For some being an introvert in a seemingly overwhelmingly gregarious world is no laughing matter.  These folks identify strongly with the cell in the cartoon that shows the introvert cowering in the corner of their own personal space while the extrovert psychically overpowers them, unintentionally.  I do understand this, but suggest focusing on how positively this message of introvert-extrovert relations is visually expressed in the overall piece.

 

My last writing on this topic focused on the Jungian based Meyer’s Briggs test and my response to it more so than on the introvert extrovert push me-pull you dynamic.  Whenever two or more people occupy the same space there are so many ways that we can slice and dice the dynamic that occurs; race, gender, age, socio-economic, personality type, level of education, hierarchy on an organizational chart, amount of sleep or quality of nutrition…  An infinite number of factors can affect the quality of an interaction – so much so that it is hard to figure out exact causes in real world experiences.

public domain, Florentine School, woman in repose

public domain, Florentine School, woman in repose

 

We often equate introversion with shyness, but these are two very different traits and may or may not go together in one person.  One person that I know who is a self-described solid introvert is one of the best networkers that I know because she isn’t at all shy.  She just likes to choose the time, place and length of her interactions with others.  She is well aware of her own limits and respects them so that she has positive experiences when she goes into group encounters.

 

Our highly social world has in some ways branded introversion as an unfortunate trait, one that might hold a person back.   Which couldn’t be further from the truth, introverts provide balance to the 24/7 always ‘on’ extrovert.  Introverts are looking for a deeper, more meaningful interaction to spend their energy on, where an interaction between two extroverts can be fleeting and not really scratch the surface.

 

Our mothers taught us that it takes all kinds, and we know that mother was always right.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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