Tag Archives: Communication

Outrage Overload

The Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe and America (the fact that history as taught in our schools has a decidedly European and American bent is a topic for a different blog, but a worthy topic.)  We have moved from that age through the Industrial Age and now are in the waning years of the Information Age.  What to call the current age?  Well, outrage, umbrage, discord and conflict/confrontation are so prevalent that this might become known as the Age of Outrage.  People in general seem to be mere moments away from boiling over about any number of touchy subjects – and the list of touchy subjects just grows without resolution on any of the older items.

public domain

public domain

 

What is an office worker to do?  We have this notion that emotions don’t belong at the office, but we spend many hours toiling a few feet away from a number of other humans.  It would be nice to have a cordial and also meaningful relationship with all of them since we see them a great deal more than we see our own family.  We already know to stay away from the two oldest items on the touchy list – religion and politics.  (And how sad and ironic that something which was meant to be inclusive, religion, is so divisive.)

 

I have my own list of subjects that get my dander up, certainly.  But the tagline for this blog is Reasonable Expectations.  Hence why I started the count of named Ages with the Age of Reason (besides starting with the Iron Age would have made for a long, boring list) because I think that this could help us before future historians do dub this the Age of Outrage.

 

public domain - Understandably angry about conditions for women in India

public domain – Understandably angry about conditions for women in India

Outrage is a response of powerlessness, where reason is a considered decision for growth.  Outrage is complaining on steroids and complaining (kvetching, whining) is pointing out something that you think is wrong but waiting for someone else to come along and fix it.  But fix it the way that you think it should be fixed or the complaints just escalate.  Some offices are so full of complaining that you can practically see it in the air, until the big boss walks through and then there isn’t even a hint.

 

Reason identifies a problem, tracks it to a root or roots and then sets about coming up with potential solutions.  (This isn’t the use of reason as in an alternate word for excuse, rather sound judgment and good sense – thinking, application of knowledge and logic.)  Reason offers a path to a better place, a place where the touchy subject no longer holds any power or sway because we know how to correct, prevent or avoid the cause.

 

Outrage started out as a reasonable tool to gain the fickle attention of the public – all of us in the general populous who are stretching the hours of our day to fit in all of the necessary components – who might otherwise distractedly nod agreement, yes worthy cause please just catch me later.  But now the outrage is such a kneejerk reaction to every touchy thing, and the list of these must come on a scroll that rivals Santa’s naughty or nice list, that it is harder and harder to even get that little acknowledgement of agreement for a worthy touchy issue.

 

We need a reset, to solutions – reason.  Starting with common ground, identification of root causes using facts which aren’t filtered through any bias.  We’ve tried more outrage as a means to get attention to the growing list of worthy touchy subjects and it led to overload and dismissal.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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The State of My Year (To Date)

thinkHow could I resist today’s Daily Prompt, Daily Prompt: The State of Your Year.  Since this has been a year of transition for me, it is a great idea to review and take stock.  Am I in position to ‘gain traction’ (sorry for the buzz phrase); what have I done well, what can I improve?

 

I’ve mentioned before that in our house, growing up, analysis was not only encouraged, it was expected.  But it must be appropriate analysis, I have learned as I have matured, or it leads to analysis paralysis.  You have to pick the parameters of your analysis, define your expectations, and determine the appropriate controls – which all sounds much more complicated than it really is.

 

My favorite question to ask myself (and to consider when I’m interacting with others) is ‘what is my intent?’.  Knowing where I want to wind up helps me better to decide how to get there and whether or not I’m taking the right path.  It also helps me to decide whether a goal is worthy or should be changed or scrapped.  (I don’t understand people who pursue a goal that is no longer valid out of a dogged determination to finish what they start.)

 

Anyway, back to my year.  I have learned a great deal this year and met quite a few interesting people – none of which would have happened if I had continued on my previous track.  That track was getting pretty mucky and odious, but it was familiar and so I admit to waffling on next steps until some of them were decided for me.

 

Some of the things that I have learned, or re-learned this year:

  • Skills necessary for job search rarely match skills needed for most jobs
  • Being open to new experiences doesn’t mean that you won’t also have to mourn what was expected
  • Memorizing is hard when you haven’t done it for a long time
  • Surviving something that you feared is very freeing (I’ve had to learn this one a few times in the past decade, I’ve got this one down – do you hear that Fate?)

 

This has been a year of the unexpected for me, but I think that I have mostly managed it with the right attitude.  We do only get one life and there are sweeping changes and snail-paced days mixed into it, but as Studs Terkel told Rick Kogan when he was 93, “I’m feeling interested in life.”  I think I’m in good shape, at least in the interest respect.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Formal Learning Meets Life Long Learning

(This post is my take on the Daily Prompt Back to School.)

 

I keep a long quote, spoken by Merlin, which is from The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White that I won’t reproduce in entirety here, but starts out telling us that “the best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn”.  Merlin goes on to expound about the way that life ages us and difficulties peck at us but our response should be to “learn why the world wags and what wags it”.

 

Clearly I keep this quote because it speaks to me.  I was raised to seek out knowledge and this was nurtured by my own personality as well as by engaging and inspiring teachers throughout my school years.  I understand that others may have had very different experiences which have made their achievement of knowledge through formal learning very impressive indeed.  I build nearly every day upon that foundation of learning that was started very early for me, not often in a formal learning setting.

 

public domain: Socrates & Plato

public domain: Socrates & Plato

Though I did just go back to school this past spring to earn a certificate in Project Management.  And last fall I took my first credit class, in Supply Chain, in more than a decade.  It is very helpful to combine knowledge gained on my own and through doing with knowledge gained through formal learning.  With the weight and importance placed on testing and metrics, it is not surprising that somehow formal education is considered ‘better’ and more worthy than knowledge gained on one’s own.  But is it appropriate?

 

There are a number of people from the past whom we revere, rightly, but who were mainly self-taught in some manner or who expanded well beyond the parameters of their initial core area; Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Danny Kaye… I wish some women would come to mind, but I know that there are many more people of both genders.  Would these people now be rejected because they didn’t have lots of letters after their names to prove their worth?

 

I gain great benefit from learning, different kinds of benefit when I curate the information myself or join a formal class, but always there is great benefit in continuing to learn.  This is why I keep this quote close to mind always.

 

© 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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LinkedIn: Worth More than 17 Minutes Per Week

linkedin_logo_11I recently read that the average time spent on LinkedIn is 17 minutes per week and saw on someone’s Facebook status that a friend of a friend hasn’t been on LinkedIn for ages.  If this is you, you are missing out on some great stuff.

 

Things to do on LinkedIn, for starters:

  • Read all the free and great content from the LinkedIn Influencers – on all types of topics.
  • Discover information about your industry, like info about competitors
  • See the skills of your peers by searching others with your title
  • Keep up with useful contacts, and build a relationship with others
  • Participate in groups – learn tips on how others handle similar issues that you have in your department/business/work life

 

I know that you are busy and your free moments are at a premium.  Do you have a set time allotted for social media?  How much of it is spent whiling away hours reading memes on Facebook or Pinterest and how much of that time relates to your work life?  LinkedIn has value which could help you get that promotion, new job, new business, what have you that you mention periodically to your friends is a priority.   This site really got it right when it comes to one stop for the professional, or as we termed it recently – those with a business comportment mindset.

 

Want to polish your personal brand?  See all the useful information on LinkedIn.  Want to figure out what the heck a personal brand is – LinkedIn.

 

Once I was a LinkedIn quasi-user, glancing at the email enticements telling me about updates from contacts and the like, deleting the nuisance emails about group activities that I was missing.  So I understand the hesitation, but then I started to poke around on the site and check out the features.  Now I plan to allocate time to curate information and cultivate relationships on LinkedIn regularly.

 

What benefits have you found on this site?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Creative Release of Steam

I used to work with someone who offered a great saying to those in the midst of a frustrated mood, “Use your words”.  Ah, easier said than done when anger builds up steam, though.  Someone cuts us off in traffic, or cuts us off at the knees in a meeting and we are reduced to curse words and the word ‘idiot’.

medieval

photo credit: Wikipedia, public domain

 

Why do we let ourselves become rattlebrains in these moments when in our mind’s eye we increase in wit and use words like rapiers to slash our opposite to bits verbally?  Because we let fall to the wayside all of the arcane creative verbiage that gave nincompoops and rabbitbrains their due. 

 

Today we have a whole host of words to dust off and drumble (to sound like a drum, to mumble) under our breath when we encounter domnoddies, clodpolls, timbernonces and their ilk.  Our mothers taught us, rightly, that it isn’t polite to call names – but our blood pressure demands some release when we stumble upon a ninnyhammer or a dumbbunny or two.

 

Our more highly developed selves understand that when we use derogatory words we are comporting ourselves at the same intellectual level as a lackwit, but as we define someone else’s actions as being worthy of the name jobbernowl, we start to see less red.  (Notice here that I’ve called out as the actions of the other person which enflame, and not the person as a whole, reason is kicking back in as the initial steam dissipates.)   Plus these words are fun to say, try it.  They roll off the tongue in a much richer way than the expletives that survived to modern times. 

 

The next time that you feel the frustration mounting, don’t allow yourself to be reduced to an addlepated lackwit, use your words creatively now that you have upbigged your vocabulary.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Get Their Attention

attentionStop me if I’ve told this one, but I’m pretty sure that I haven’t told it here, at least with this intent.  This is my go-to story about the importance of appropriate email subject lines (and good diplomacy).  Fairly early on in my corporate learning curve I had an email exchange with the principal (read owner, responsible party) of a distribution company regarding a customer account that was my responsibility.  The subject line was a one word job, the main name of the customer in question.

 

We went back and forth as I clarified and then resolved his question.  At the end he came back and wrote that I should do a better job of naming my emails.  Huh?  Just to be sure, I scrolled to the beginning of the email and sure enough he had originated the string.  Still, he was right – the subject was entirely too generic and didn’t offer any reference points to the specific topic at hand.  I briefly answered back that I agreed that the subject line of this particular email was not very clear and left it at that.

 

So began my mission to improve my own email subject line protocols.  Which included renaming an email that had a vague heading at my first reply.  (Be careful in renaming an email when there were multiple recipients because that can lead to further misunderstanding.)  When I moved into supervisory and then management roles, I made this a frequent topic within my team.  A big part of our job was clarity in communication – the first step is appropriately naming a thing.

 

Email volume is high for most people, so your naming protocol should be short and to the point.  Sometimes a little lyrical helps to get noticed, but utilitarian is best.  Get a feel for what is best for you by reviewing the subjects of the emails that land in your inbox – which ones draw your eye and why?  Are the subject lines that are used suitable for the actual email content?  Also consider your recipient – what speaks to them?

 

I hope I got your attention.

 

© 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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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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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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