Monthly Archives: July 2012
It’s the end of the month; do you know where you are in respect to your goals? Many of us set New Year’s resolutions back in January and they fade away as time and life goes on, does this mean they are any less important now that the year is more than half over? We set goals on what we want to accomplish in our jobs, projects have expected benefits (goals under another name) and we have hopes for where our careers will go over time. How often do we stop and review where we are on these paths?
The time management literature tells us we should review our tasks and projects regularly, be it daily or weekly. This is very true and is important to keeping you focused on doing the things that need to be done and making sure your actions are aligned with your priorities. There is a bigger piece to this which is to stop and reflect on the priorities. If you have the goal of moving up to the next level on your organizations ladder, you need to be doing the right things to get you exposure and experience that will prepare you for that role. This is a focus on things that are down the road a ways and yet if you are not taking the right steps now you will never get there.
Another reason for doing this kind of goal checks is to see if the path you have started down is still the right one for you. New possibilities can pull you into new directions and without focusing on what it means to you can lead to missed opportunities. It’s possible that you had envisioned moving into Position A in a year or two, but you’ve just become aware of another area in your organization that has captured your attention. This was unknown to you previously and you find yourself drawn to it. Reflecting on what is drawing you to that area and what made you want to reach Position A will help you decide which path you should take.
As you get in the habit of checking your task list and project lists each day and week create the habit of checking on your goals regularly. For some this may be weekly and for others it may be monthly, just do it frequently enough that you are moving in the right direction. View these checks as the opportunity to do course corrections as you move forward in your life. Accomplishing a lot of things that don’t get you to where you want to be is frustrating and discouraging, while getting closer to your goals is energizing and makes you want to get out of bed and tackle each day.
How do you make sure you are progressing towards your goals, particularly the longer range ones? Please share your best tips.
- Everyone has heard of To-Do Lists and probably To-Don’t Lists. Here is a fresh take on list making to help get your projects moving today. From Daytimer Productivity Tips Make a Why List Today.
- If you are looking for new ideas and are having trouble generating ideas here is a great technique for brainstorming. From Daring to Live Fully Scamper Creativity Technique.
- For the days when you are not sure of your abilities and you feel like a fraud. Lifehacker explores the reasons why faking it can be beneficial. Feel Like You’re Faking it? That Might Not Be a Bad Thing
- A great article on the value delegating brings to time management. Why Aren’t You Delegating from Harvard Business Review Blogs. Why Aren’t You Delegating
- This looks at the impact on your business when you properly empower employees from Practical Practice Management. Empowering Employees is a Smart Business Strategy
- Have you ever misdirected your anger, or been on the receiving end of it? If so, here are some interesting insights on how to get control of that urge, from Harvard Business Review blog. Who are You Really Mad At?
- Here is a look how teams get derailed and destroyed from Leadership freak. How to Destroy Teams and Become Losers.
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one arose.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.
Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.
Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.
Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.
“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?
Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?
Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity?
Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
May we all be COFFEE!!
This was sent to me by a friend and I had to share it with all of you. It’s a great story to remind us that we can choose our response to the things that happen in our lives. So choose wisely!
Last week I learned a former boss and mentor passed away. As I thought about my time working with him and read the comments from others I was struck by how most of us said the same things about why we loved working with / for him. Upon reflection these are characteristics that make great bosses no matter who or where you are.
Here are the key characteristics that I’ve found in all of the great bosses I’ve had over the years:
- Integrity. Great bosses act with integrity all the time, even the tough times. You know you can count on them and trust their word.
- Support the team. My favorite bosses have all supported their employees publically, even when they really did not agree with what was done. They saved the correction for private conversations.
- Developed others. These bosses are more concerned with helping people reach their potential than they are about protecting their turf. If someone was presented with an opportunity to move elsewhere they were free to go if they wanted to pursue it.
- Listened first, then challenge. When an employee came to them with a problem, great bosses listen to the entire situation before speaking. When the employee was done explaining a great boss will ask “so what will you do?” or something similar. They push you to solve your own problems instead of jumping in to fix it. Advice is offered in lieu of solutions.
- Makes connections for the team. The best bosses help their team see the work they are doing in context of the bigger picture. This helps people understand why their tasks matter and what is critical to the overall organization. It creates a sense of belonging and increases engagement.
- Firm but fair. Sometimes people need to hear where they are going wrong and how to improve their performance. These are tough conversations, but when the manager is fair in his actions and firm in his expectations they get easier to swallow.
- Holds everyone accountable. Along with being fair it is vital that a boss hold everyone accountable for their actions. This may even mean people outside his direct organization. Support is needed from others and they need to be accountable along with the team.
- Genuinely cares. Great bosses care about the people they work with on a daily basis and they care about the organization they work in. This passion will show through in everything they do and inspires those around them to reach higher and dig deeper when needed.
I have been blessed with having had several great bosses over my career. All of them have shaped who I am today and I hope that I can pass along the lessons I learned from them to others. This would be the best legacy any of them could ask for.
What characteristics do you think are required in great bosses?
photo from iStockPhoto.com
What do you do when a project relies mostly on your ability to get all the work done? On your solo projects do you dive in and immerse yourself in it until it’s completed perfectly or do you take it one small step at a time and whittle away at it seemingly forever? These are the two extremes of handling projects that are solo acts, the real key to being satisfied with the results is moderation, an approach that is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.
Right now I have several solo projects that fall so I have to find the right balance in each one. The biggest of the projects is one that I personally would love to have done tomorrow. That is totally unrealistic and I would be so burned out nothing else would get done during and after while I recover. To help me keep things in perspective, I’ve taken some time to remember how to divide up the work in practical chunks. These ideas are:
1. Know the deadline. When do things really need to be completed? Obviously some things have hard deadlines, while others are in the category of “when you get time”. For the things that have no hard date, set a target date that is realistic for you given all that is on your plate.
2. Keep deadlines realistic. If you are setting a target date for some of you projects make sure you stop and think hard about when you will be able to finish it. Setting a date too soon will push you too hard and setting a date too far out may keep you from making any progress.
3. Divide up the work. Stop and take a hard look at what has to be done, how you will divide it up, what gets done first, second, and so on. Plan the steps; this can be formal or as simple as making a list of all the steps to get it done.
4. Set milestones. Once you divide up the work you can set target dates for each step along the way. Again make sure they are realistic and can be accomplished by that date. This will help you track your progress towards the goal.
5. Get help. If you can get help, take it. Your days will be more manageable if you have someone to share the load with when possible. Help is not always available, so use it when it is.
6. Take a break! To keep you energy up, along with your productivity, take some time to step away from the project. When you are totally immersed in a project you lose perspective and your productivity. It becomes a grind that will wear you down too fast.
7. Celebrate your success. When you have gotten it all done, spend a few minutes reflecting on what you have accomplished. It’s good to sit back and rest on your laurels, at least for a short amount of time. Recognizing what you have done and enjoying the sweet taste of success will energize you to complete the next project.
Solo projects can be very rewarding while often being the most challenging. Taking the time to plan the work first can help make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
How do you avoid burn out on solo projects?
In a world where we have so much to work can all be a grind with little or no relief for the team. This will wreck your team’s productivity, engagement and quality of work. The harder the push is to get things done, the more important it is to step back once in a while and relax. As a team leader part of your role is to be a cheerleader who encourages the team. Short, fun team times can really help re-energize everyone and make it easier to get through all the stuff ahead. It also will help each person feel appreciated and that their sacrifices are recognized.
So with all the deadlines looming, how do you find the time to stop and smell the roses? It can be very easy and cost effective to make a little fun time for the team. Keep in mind it should be voluntary to attend and if everyone is working long hours stay away from making time after work hours. Another disclaimer, make sure what you choose is in line with your companies culture. So here are a few suggestions to help de-stress and have a little fun:
- Buy lunch for the team and keep work out of the room for 30 minutes. Get pizza and salads delivered, spring for soda and water. Lead the conversation about funny things that have happened to you. Keep the stories appropriate and free from HR land mines. Laughing at yourself will help the team relax and learn more about you.
- Have breakfast brought in before a team meeting. Enjoy some coffee, donuts / bagels, and fresh fruit along with some light conversation about non-project topics. Taking 15 minutes to get everyone fueled up will help get things going later. Make sure you manage the time without seeming to rush the coffee break.
- Have an afternoon break where everyone gets 15 minutes or so to have a snack and unwind before the end of the day push.
- Celebrate office birthdays once a month. Gather everyone in a conference room mid-afternoon and enjoy a short break and some cake. Recognize everyone who has a birthday that month.
- Take 15 minutes or less each week to recognize the progress that has been made so far. Make it an upbeat pep talk that focuses on how far you’ve come and that you will get through the tough days.
Most people are willing to work harder than they expected to if they feel appreciated. When we slave away and all we hear is that there is more to be done there is little motivation to keep at it. Have a little fun once in a while, recognize the hard work and provide pep talks to keep spirits up. You will find that your mindset improves as does your teams.
What things have you done to keep your team energized during the tough times?
Photo from iStockPhoto.com
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt from his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech.
As a leader are you encouraging and helping others to take risks, to “Go big or go home” or are you the armchair quarterback who is ready to critic everyone else’s efforts? If the critic is remembered it is in a negative way. The leader who gets in the trenches and strives to get things done is remembered fondly as the leader who was right there with everyone else, helping to make a difference.
It’s your choice which one you want to be.