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Friday, April 29, 2011

Write on Your Heart-- Every Day is the Best Day of the Year


Times of Transition Are Unsettling

Are you finding it difficult to stay positive in today's crazy world of work?

Sure, the economy is slowly recovering, but it still has its ups and downs. You may find yourself in the middle of either making a transition or thinking about making a transition in your career.

But with all the uncertainty about the future, you may be left feeling lethargic, unsettled, and unmotivated to take the next step.


Perhaps you're:

  • Unemployed and you're still without a job after months of searching;
  • Employed, but in a job you hate and feel compelled to keep, even though you fear you may be next on the chopping block;
  • An independent business owner whose business is failing in the current economy, but you lack the energy to develop a new business plan.
  • A recent college graduate worried about finding the right job to launch your career.

Change from Future Tense to Present Ease

No matter who you are, or what your work situation is, when you're in the middle of a transition it's always unsettling--leading you to freeze up, and become frozen in inactivity and inertia.

What makes you tense is your focus on the future. You fear what won't happen that you want to have happen, or you fear what will happen that you don't want to happen.

When you feel overwhelmed and stuck in 'future tense', it's time to stop, take a breath, and ease back into the present. Get off the worry track. Take a day off from thinking about 'your situation', and engage in activities that let you know you are glad to be alive.

Write on Your Heart 'Every Day is the Best Day of the Year'

I know...very Pollyanna-ish. But tough times require, well, sometimes, sitting back, doing nothing, thinking about something else--and a large dose of Pollyanna.

Sometimes we just need to stop to remember--life is to be enjoyed. Instead of letting your life be determined by fear and worry, focus on putting memorable activities into your life each day so you can 'write on your heart that every day is the best day of the year'.

Now put it down, and go play.





Need Help Making a Transition?
Contact me. See 'About Me' for contact information.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Training Makes Workers Effective

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
Derek Bok, Former President, Harvard University

Training is a lost art. Even in this era of 'on-boarding' and  talk of return on investment (ROI),  too often job training consists of supervisors handing new employees a manual and telling them to read it. A week later, the newbie is expected to know the job.

In some cases the only training new hires get is first hand experience, through 'trial by fire' or 'sink or swim'.

In one Oregon company, employees have to take a test to qualify for a job upgrade. There is no training manual, required reading, or suggested coursework to prepare them. They take the test and either pass or fail. Eighty percent fail.

And passing the test is no guarantee that employees will be able to do the job once they get it.
"I was on the job six months before I got any training," said Stacy. "I was expected to talk to customers and answer questions about our services. It was incredibly stressful. I never knew the answers and customers got really frustrated. But when I asked co-workers for help they got annoyed and told me to just look it up in the manual."

"Everyone was too worried about looking good, and too busy to help me," she said. "Besides, no one helped them learn their jobs, so why should they help me?"
Lack of Training Kills Enthusiasm and Creates Conflict

As the economy slowly recovers, more companies are hiring. But in an effort to save money, some companies are skimping on the training their people need to be successful in the job.

Failure to provide on-the-job training wastes time and money. It creates unnecessary stress for new employees--killing whatever enthusiasm and confidence they brought to the job. Seasoned employees are left with the work, leading to burnout and conflict between employees.

Well Trained Employees Get More Done in Less Time

A solid training program requires a short-term commitment of time and money, but it saves time and money in the long-run. A well-trained employee knows how to get more done in less time--making it easier to help other employees sooner.

Solid job training includes a variety of experiences--including interacting with other staff, participating in on-line training, watching others perform the job, and doing the job while getting immediate feedback.

Training manuals or on-line programs are helpful aids to new employees, but only if new hires are also shown how to apply and practice the knowledge and skills presented. Most people learn best through doing and interacting, not through reading or listening.

Train New Employees in Less Time Through Interactive, 'Show, Don't Tell'

To train new employees in less time, have newcomers actively engage in the learning process by compiling a list of questions they need clarified as they learn the job. Assign an in-house coach to act as their point-person to answer questions, direct on-the-job learning experiences, and  provide immediate feedback.

A 'show, don't tell' approach works best for most learning styles. Show new employees how you handle the client or perform the job, then let them do it and provide feedback on their performance.  It helps newcomers see how you interpret the rules and regulations, and navigate the internal system. And you'll help that novice get over the 'I don't know how to do it' hump when you provide her immediate feedback.

Newcomers view the job through different eyes than trained workers. Through their untrained eyes they see most new tasks as anything but easy. This makes it easier for them to see the details that need to be added to a training guide or the orientation experience.

You can position the trainees to coach the next set of new hires by having them follow up their daily training with a quick summary of what they learned, what they still need to learn, and suggestions for how they would improve the training for others.


It's the Little Things that Make Newbies Feel Inept

Starting a new job is stressful. Even if newbies know how to do the big stuff in the job, all those little details-- like which computer screen to pull up to access a form, or how to transfer a phone call--can be killers. As a result, even the most competent professional can feel inept.

As a result of the stress, people just starting a job are on overload and approach training manuals as if they can't understand them, and approach new tasks as if they can't do them. When they're trying to look competent and put their best foot forward, they can be embarrassed to speak up and ask questions. Make their questions a natural and integral part of the training program.

Help Newcomers Feel Competent Faster

Help your new employees feel competent faster. Calm their fears by walking them through training materials and showing them how the job is done. Watch them do the job and provide immediate feedback on how they're doing.

Your training efforts will be rewarded with more competent, confident help sooner, and better working relationships between new and old employees. There are no stupid employees--only untrained ones.

Need Help Setting Up Your Training Program?
Please contact me to help you set up or provide your in-house training program. Contact information can be found  by clicking on 'View My Complete Profile'.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Want to Work with Happy, Open, Trusting People? Start with Yourself!

" You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water"
 Rabindranath T.A. Gore


Do you like the people you work with, or do you only dream about working with people you like?


If you had a choice, would you chose to work with perfect, always-in-control people, or with open, trusting, happy people who sometimes make mistakes?

What People Want 

If you're like most people, you'd choose to work with open, happy, trusting people. And this preference hasn't changed much over time.

Twenty years ago, The Rand Corporation conducted a 10-year study assessing what people wanted most out of life. At the top of the seven most wanted list was 'The opportunity to work with open, happy, trusting people'. And twenty years later, trust in the workplace still takes center stage.

Open, Happy, Trusting Workplaces Produce More Faster

An open, trusting workplace can enhance the bottom-line and reduce employee turnover.
'Trust is the one thing that changes everything', says Stephen MR Covey, author of 'The Speed of Trust'. High trust in an organization produces better, faster results--and at less cost. The higher the trust, the less time it takes to produce services and products; the lower the trust, the more time it takes to do business.

Yes, happy cows DO produce great dairy products, and happy, trusting employees DO produce better results at less cost. Just how much more productive are high trust organizations than those lead by fear and mistrust?
"High trust organizations are three times more profitable", says Covey.
Be the Change ~ Be Happy

Whether you're motivated to make the workplace a better place for you to work, or you're motivated to make the workplace more profitable, building an environment of high trust is key.

Leaders  If you're a key leader in your organization you can move the workplace to a more profitable place by improving trust among staff. This requires you to change your management practices, not just talk about trust. If you've lost trust, take time to re-establish your credibility with staff. Start by asking yourself questions, then follow through with changes in your own attitude and behavior.
How would your colleagues rate you? Would they say you are a fear-monger or a trust-builder?
If your staff had a choice, would they choose you as their leader?
Do you instill trust in the people around you?
If morale is at an all time low, what can you change in the way you lead to improve openness and trust? Are you willing to do what it takes to improve trust and therefore productivity and profits?
Staff  If you serve in a staff position you still have the power to create an open, happy, trusting environment. While you can't make other people more open, happy and trusting, you'll influence others by becoming these things yourself.

Ask yourself: Do you care enough about yourself to create the daily environment you want to work in? Is it worth it to you to have a place to work that you enjoy? Are you willing to be a shining light at work to instigate happy, open, trusting relationships?  It all starts within you, and radiates out through each of your interactions with others. What are you currently creating for yourself in the workplace?
If you asked your colleagues would they say you're an open, happy, trusting person?
When you walk into a room, do people smile at you or avert their eyes?
How many minutes a day do you spend laughing or smiling at work?
Do you admit to making mistakes or do you look for someone to blame?
When someone else makes a mistake do you berate them or help them learn and move on?
When colleagues leave on vacation do you wish them well or look busy and let them know your work duties don't allow you to take your vacation?
If your answers make you squirm, do something about it. Be the change you want to see in the workplace.


Four Tips for Creating a Happy, Open, Trusting Workplace

Admit Your Mistakes. People admit to their own mistakes faster if they work with people who can readily admit to their own. Make it a safe place to work.

Describe Behavior, Don't Judge it. Once a mistake has happened, it can't un-happen. To increase trust and encourage people to take appropriate risks at work, assess what happened factually, adjust actions, then move on. Take a problem-solving approach when mistakes happen and give up the finger-pointing.

Choose to Understand, not Misunderstand. The most important aspect of problem solving is listening. Before judging, listen and ask clarifying questions before you say anything. Before getting upset, make sure you understand the situation or what was said. Look for points of agreement so you can repair the relationship and build trust as you move through conflict.

Take Your Responsibilities Seriously, not Yourself. Being perfect wastes time and energy. By making work more fun, you can do a better job and make work more satisfying for others and yourself.


I work in an Open, Happy, Trusting Place


Interested in Building Trust in Your Workplace?

To contact me to discuss or schedule workshops or consulting services, click on 'View My Complete Profile' on the right, and click contact on the profile page.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Untidy Workers are as Productive as Tidy Ones



As far as I can tell, there are two types of workers in the world--those who drive themselves nuts keeping their office tidy, and those of us who drive the tidy workers nuts because we don't.

Tidy workers file their work horizontally and alphabetically--they actually use their file cabinets to create a record keeping system that's beautiful to behold.

Casual workers, like me,  file their work vertically, stacked on the desk, floor, chair, or on top of the file cabinet.  If you walk into our office you might be invited to move one of the piles to the floor so you have a place to sit. Or you may even be invited to just sit on the pile.

In case you missed it ~ Tidies organize in files and Casuals organize in piles.

What a world when the Tidies collide with the Casuals! When things hit critical mass for the Tidies' overwhelming need for an orderly existence, the Tidies decide to take charge and organize the Casuals. Rarely do you find the Casuals deciding to organize the Tidies.

Oh, the Tidies are sneaky ~ they usually wait until we're on vacation ~ or pay someone to take us out for a long lunch~ so they can sneak into our office uninterrupted to clean.

They take all of our carefully constructed piles of papers and folders, slip them into color-coded file folders with neatly typed headings in bold lettering and file them in alphabetical order.They close the books and periodicals lying around the room and arrange them on shelves in alphabetical order by author and title.

They carefully collect all those hastily scribbled names, phone numbers and addresses to put into outlook,  and organize the hard copy contact list in alphabetical file by last name. Finally, they throw out the piles of recycled 'scratch paper' we've saved to jot notes on (okay so maybe we have enough to last us 10 years).

As a final act the Tidy leaves the latest research article ~ proving Tidy Workers are more productive than Casual Workers~ neatly centered on our now uncluttered desk. They stand back, admire their work, and close the door satisfied the previous disaster area, known as our office, is now neatly organized. All is well in the world once again.

When we Casuals return to our spic-and-span office, we're amazed it looks so clean ~ and we thank the Tidy Worker who cleaned it. Although we're casual in style, we can still appreciate how orderly an uncluttered office appears.

But we also know it will take us a while to find things, put them back into their proper piles, and be productive once again!

You see, dear Tidies, Casuals don't think alphabetically. We think conceptually or by projects. When you organize us into neat, alphabetical files, it takes us more time to start at the beginning of the alphabet song and sing through to 's' to find Joel Smith.

It may not make sense to you that Joel Smith is found at the beginning of the 'A's in our private contact list. But to us, it makes sense that he's 'A' good friend.

And all those piles on the floor may look like clutter to you, and you may wonder how we can ever find anything in them. But we don't have to find them. We just have to see them. Casuals know what topic or project each pile represents. All we have to do is stare at the piles and imagine what's in them. Put into a file cabinet they no longer exist.

So go ahead and clean our offices. We understand it makes you feel better. But please just do it once a year.The rest of the year we need to be productive.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Believe in Yourself, and Practice Making the Right Decisions

The mind is everything. What you think you become.
The Buddha

What Prevents You From Fulfilling Your Greatest Potential?

We're all interested in getting the most out of life. Even the most disgruntled, disengaged person would like to feel useful and satisfied.

But what prevents us from fulfilling our greatest potential? A bad boss or uncooperative co-workers? An unsupportive partner or troubled teens? Too much responsibility and not enough control? Getting laid off in a poor economy?

While these, and other factors can serve as obstacles, they are not what holds us back. Our beliefs do.

Colin Rose in his book, 'Accelerated Learning", told of a newspaper story with the headline, "Man Freezes to Death in Refrigerator." While the headline wasn't unusual, the circumstances were.

When rescuers found  a man locked in the refrigerator car of a train, although he had all the physical signs of freezing to death, the freezer had never been turned on, and the weather was warm. Freezing temperatures didn't kill him. His beliefs did.

Picture the man when he first climbed on board. As he stepped into the refrigerator car, he thought he found a safe place to rest. As the train started moving he took a closer look, realized it was a freezer unit and wanted to get out. But when he tried the door it was locked. Panic set in.

This is not unlike how you might get locked in and die on the job. When you first come on board, you have great hopes. But as the job picks up speed, you take a closer look and discover you feel boxed in -- the workplace is so cold. You think about getting off the fast track, but discover you've been locked in by family responsibilities, a depressed economy, or no time to look for a new job.

Your beliefs can tie your hands with invisible threads, preventing you from taking action in a bad situation.They can make it difficult for you to see you have options. Your beliefs that box you in can kill your motivation, and prevent you from getting on with, and enjoying your life.

Beliefs Can Be the Keys Unlocking the Doors to Your Success

But your beliefs can also be the keys unlocking the doors to your success and satisfaction.

If you're dissatisfied in your job, relationship or life, you can do something about it ~ but only if you believe you can.  If you've lived your life believing 'things happen by accident', or 'control is out of my hands'--it may be a difficult leap in belief. But you can do it.

Your Ability to Actively Choose Your Way in Life Changes with Practice

According to Erich Fromm, author of the timeless classic, 'The Art of Loving', our ability to actively choose our way in life changes with our 'practice of life'.

"The longer we continue to make the wrong decisions," Fromm said, "the more our heart hardens. The more often we make the right decision, the more our heart softens --or perhaps comes alive."
Practice making the right decisions -- the ones that increase your self-confidence, and foster a belief you're in charge of your own life.

Change when you're ready. If you want to hate your job or relationship, or blame your current situation on others, go ahead. Hold on to those beliefs until you're ready to let them go. When you're ready to have a satisfying job or life, take steps to change your belief about who's in charge.

Stop Blaming Others. Your boss may be rotten, making your job difficult; and you may have family responsibilities and bills to pay, making it more difficult to quit. But when you blame others for your unsatisfying job, life or situation, you're saying you don't have control or choices. Don't limit yourself. Don't box yourself in.

Take responsibility. When things happen, practice acknowledging, 'I am responsible for what happens to me now.' There are bad bosses and bad parents. People do take advantage of others. They can devastate and lower your self-esteem. But ask yourself what you can do to gain back your sense of worth.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
If you're held back by things that happened long ago, get counseling. If you're being held back by things happening now, get coaching. Care enough about yourself to face the difficult issues directly. When you're ready, let go of a bad situation, and get on with living. Put yourself in charge so you're free to fully pursue a fulfilling and satisfying life.

You are not responsible for the way other people treat you. But as an adult, you are responsible for the way you treat yourself. Look for ways to break free when you feel locked in by your beliefs.

Questions to Ask Yourself
Where in my life could I practice making the right decisions?
Where in my life have I given someone else control over how I feel about myself?
What steps could I take today to open up options for myself and to make me feel good about myself and my direction in life?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Keep Faith in Yourself to Survive at Work


Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. The Buddha

Be Your Own Boss

A boss once told me, "you've never had a boss in your life." I have to admit it's true.

This doesn't mean I'm a rude or unmanageable employee. It means I judge myself by an internal set of criteria, not those set by an organization. I guide my actions by my life mission and sense of purpose, and I trust myself to handle whatever comes.

In the current economic climate, in which hard work and excellent skills don't guarantee you a job, learning how to be your own boss ~ especially if you're an employee~ is an important survival skill.

Fear Leads to Mistrust and Self Doubt

Layoffs and unrest at work can make you weary, questioning and mistrustful. Who's next? Is my job safe? Should I be looking for another job? If they can do that to him, what's stopping them from doing that to me?

The threat of losing your job can be real. But the real threat isn't losing your job. It's losing faith in yourself and your ability to influence the course of your own life.

As long as you believe in yourself, you can always get another position. But lose faith in your valuable skills and good work ethic and your self-confidence falters. Now filled with self-doubt, if you do get laid off it's much harder to find work.

Move from Self Doubt to Self Confident
When fear reigns supreme at work, don't let the fear-bug give you a bad case of self-doubt. Become your own boss in charge of your future by consciously concentrating your attention on you, your skills and what motivates you  at least once daily.

Watch your tendency to overwork in response to the free-floating fear at work. Like many others, you may have difficulty taking time to focus on yourself when you become frightened by the instability and unrest at work. But you can't save your job by overworking and leaving yourself too tired to center yourself. Mistakes happen and tempers flare.

Most people are just too tired at the end of the day to sit calmly and think about their life purpose. This is why I recommend you set aside quiet time first thing each morning.

Plan to give yourself the first thirty minutes of the day. If you have kids or other attention grabbers (like work), get up earlier to give yourself uninterrupted self-centered time. Turn off the cell phone. Leave email, twitter, and facebook for later. Now ~ sit quiet ~ practice the pause ~ and ask yourself questions. There are no perfect questions and no perfect answers.  Whatever you focus your attention on will grow  ~ and that includes your career.

Knowing the Right Question to Ask is Half the Solution

As Albert Einstein said,  "knowing the right question to ask is half the solution."  Start your daily self-centered session by making a list if questions that may interest you.
What are the questions I need to ask myself?
What work skills do I have?
What is my ideal job?
What skills do I need to develop for my ideal job?
What do I enjoy doing?
If I was to have a next career, what would it be?
What is the most important thing on my mind right now?
If there was one thing I'd like to do more than anything else, what would it be?    What is my sense of purpose? What is my life mission?
Keep listing questions until one of them pops out and catches your attention. Pick one question to address and list possible answers to the question. Allow yourself to answer without concern for the truth. You may discover something that sounds outlandish or impossible at first, isn't such a bad idea.

I like the more primitive feel of writing on a piece of paper or in a journal instead of using the computer during these morning musings. It taps into a different part of my brain and slows the pace down. Later, I reinforce my focus by working on the computer to summarizing what I learned about myself.

Let Your Internal Motivations Guide Your Actions at Work

 The more time you spend discovering, or rediscovering, your sense of purpose and mission, the more your daily actions will be guided internally, and less influenced by the environment of fear.

If you think about it, your internal motivators will do a better job of guiding your actions than any externally derived mission statement. How many people do you know whose sense of purpose is to destroy, annoy or un-employ others? And how many people do you know whose ultimate goal is to be un-involved, and dis-engaged? Exactly! Very few.

When we live out of a sense of purpose or mission, we mean to 'do good' by others and make a positive contribution to the world around us. Mission-driven people fail to see the obstacles because their eyes are clearly on the goal.

Trust Yourself

In times of economic uncertainty, wondering whether your organization will keep you won't help. Put your trust in yourself.

Trust yourself to do a good job now and in the future. Trust yourself to find a good job if you get laid off. And trust your ability to work hard and develop new skills if necessary.

Things haven't changed that much ~ a good hard worker with valuable skills is still an asset to any organization.

If you are unclear about your sense of purpose or mission there's no time like NOW to give it some thought. It's your life. Take the time to guide it in the direction you want it to go.

Need Help Navigating a Career or Life Transition?

If you or someone you know would benefit from coaching, please contact me. The first hour is free.