Tag Archives: helping others

Quote for Dec 18th

Assistance (with clipping path)We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.
Ronald Reagan

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Team Members Who Need Help

Assistance (with clipping path)As the holidays approach and the year-end crunch hits full stride often there are people on your team who get overwhelmed and fall behind.  What do you do when you see that going on?  Do you duck and hide because your plate is over full as well or do you step up to see what you can do to help?

As much as all of us would like to pretend that our personal life never crosses over into our work life that just isn’t the case.  This time of the year seems to bring out the worst of that for most everyone.  There are parties to plan/attend, gifts to buy, people to see and a million things to get done and then we have to go to work.  It’s easy to get swamped by all that needs to happen and people can get behind at this time of the year.

Here are a few tips for helping out someone who is struggling to get the job done:

  1. Ask if they need help.  Often people will plod along trying to get things done without asking for help because they don’t want to appear needy, or incompetent.
  2. Find out what’s causing the issue.  There may be a real problem that needs to be addressed that has caused them to get behind.  It may be they have been sick and missed some time, or a family member is sick, or they are taking on extra work to cover for someone who is taking time off.  There are many reasons that cause a person to get behind, so find out what’s going on.
  3. Focus on the required results.  When discussing what is going on keep the person focused on their work requirements to help them prioritize all their items.  When you are overwhelmed it’s easy to lose track of what’s required by focusing on all the little items.
  4. Avoid making it personal.  To get the team through the problems at hand it’s important to address the problems without making it personal.  Making someone feel guilty or lazy or incompetent isn’t going to help them get moving.  Address the problems and find solutions to get things back on track.
  5. If it’s a chronic problem, address it.  If the person who is struggling with their work is someone who seems to regularly get behind it may be a more serious performance issue.  If so, get with the right people to get it addressed.  Bailing these folks out yet again doesn’t solve the problem and it doesn’t help them or the team.

All of us need help at some time or another so being kind to your struggling teammates will make them more receptive to helping you when you need it.  Step up if one of your team is falling behind.  Knowing that someone cares and is willing to help out may be all the boost they need to get back on task.

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Enough People Pleasing Already

Do you feel that you need to jump to help everyone around you?  That’s great – until it takes away from the things that are important to you.  If you find yourself spending your time helping others and then scrambling to get your work done you need to step back and gain perspective.

It’s important to help out, that is one of key requirements of being a part of a team.  However, your personal success is dependent on what you get done.  You must be seen as someone who gets things done in order to move up.  So how do you find the right balance?

Ask yourself the following questions?

  1. Does this request take away from a critical task I already have to do?  If the answer is yes, then you need to say no, or ask to defer your help until you get your task done.
  2. Is this request aligned with my / my team goals?  If the answer is yes, then you should proceed to help out and determine how to fit it in.
  3. Are you feeling pressured to help out at your own expense?  If the answer is yes, then you need to pause and figure out where the pressure is coming from before you act.  If your boss is pressuring you to shore up a shaky team member/ project then ask for more clarification.  Find out how this will help you in your career or why you and not someone else.  When the pressure is from a chronic needy co-worker it may be time to RESPECTFULLY decline to help. 
  4. Will this help you achieve your goals?  If the answer is yes, then go for it.  This is clearly lined up with your goals so find the time.

Remember that it is important to get your work done, work towards your goals, and to help others out.  To really be successful it is so important to learn when and how to say no to protect your time and your needs.  Helping others is part of everyday life, but you will always be behind schedule, overwhelmed and frazzled if you put others needs before your own.  This is not about being mean, it’s about having balance and when you focus on pleasing others, you will not be pleased personally.

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Quote for Oct 9th

Success

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

 To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a little better;

Whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is the meaning of success.

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The Mousetrap and Teamwork

It’s very easy to put our head down or look away when we see someone who is struggling with a problem at work.  We have so much to do ourselves, how can we afford the time to help them out?  Besides it’s not really our issue is it?

Below is a parable of the mouse and the mousetrap which shows the importance of getting involved when one of the team is facing a challenge.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

“What food might this contain?” The mouse wondered – he was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning. “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.”

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”

The mouse turned to the cow and said “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.”

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house — like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient.

But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer’s wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral; the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn’t concern you, remember — when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

Author unknown

Next time you see one of the team struggling with an issue or a problem step up and see if you can help.  It likely will help the entire team reach their goals more easily.  If nothing else, you will have a supporter when you need a helping hand.

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Leadership by Example

Yesterday I listened to a Scout Master apply the Boy Scout Law to going back to school.  I loved how he put it in terms the kids could relate to and let them know as scouts they should be the example for others to follow.  As I reflected on this approach I realized these same words should be used to define a leader.  Leading by example is something we all do each and everyday so applying these will help you become a leader who others will want to follow.  Here’s my take on it for leaders everywhere.

Trustworthy – A leader keeps their promises and is honest.  People can depend on them.

Loyal – A leader is true to their team, their department and their company.

Helpful – A leader cares about the people around them.  They help others without expecting anything in return.

Friendly – A leader is accessible to all.  They offer guidance to everyone and respects them even when they are of a different generation, race or religion.

Courteous – A leader is polite in all their dealings.  Professional behavior in all settings makes it easier for people to get along.

Kind – A leader treats others as they want to be treated.  Brutal words and actions, without good reason, will breed contempt.

Obedient – A leader exemplifies the code of ethics of their company and upholds their country’s laws of doing business.   They seek change where rules are unfair instead of disregarding them.

Cheerful – A leader has a positive attitude.  They look for the bright side of every situation to keep their team engaged and working productively.

Thrifty – A leader is careful with company funds and uses resources wisely.  They manage their time well and works with their team to develop good management skills in each person.

Brave – A leader will take a stand for what is right and will make the tough decisions, acting even in the face of adversity.

Clean – A leader keeps their workspace clean and their mind sharp.  They associate with those who have the same high standards and will expect their team to live by those standards as well.

Reverent – A leader honors and respects their team and organization.  They care deeply about the well-being of all who work with them.  They embrace the strength that comes for the diversity of those around them.

Keeping these in mind and acting consistently will demonstrate the behavior you want from you team.  However you act will be noticed, you lead by example whether you know it or not.  It’s up to you to choose the example you will provide for your organization.

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Preparing To Take Time Off

Your long awaited vacation is finally approaching and you are counting the hours until you escape the office.  How do you prepare to take time off?  Do you just cut and run or do you get things wrapped up or at least organized so someone else can pick up where you left off?

If you are part of a team odds are someone is covering for you while you get away and you’ve had to cover for them on their days off.  One of the worst things that can happen within a team is the stress of covering someone else’s work and being handed a mess.  Admittedly there can be times when it is unavoidable, like an illness or accident.  However, if the time off is planned then there is time to prepare for what needs to be covered.  Worst case scenario is that an opportunity is missed because there wasn’t time to finish the work that was left behind.  Lost business hurts everyone and will come back to haunt you at review time if not sooner.

I’ve found that when things are organized and clear things get done and the things that aren’t clear get left unless they are truly time sensitive.  The things that are hard to pick-up leave a nasty taste behind – resentment.  So how can you avoid the resentment if you are leaving work for someone else?  Take these three steps and it will go smoother.

  1. Finish what can be done.  This is so obvious, but often overlooked.  If you can wrap up a report, or a routine task before you leave then do it.  People will love you for it.
  2. Outline what needs to be done.  Making a one page summary of what needs to be covered and where the information can be found will help whoever is covering for you get started.  Leaving the outline on top of the files where they can be seen is even better.  Review it with the person covering for you, quickly shortly before you leave. 
  3. Let people know you will be out.  Change your voicemail to say you will be gone.  Put an auto response on email saying you will be gone.  This lets folks know you will not be available for information or help.  Also, you can let them know who to contact if they need immediate assistance.  Just make sure the designated person is aware of your message. 

If you take these simple steps then your work load will be less when you get back, which helps the benefits of vacation last a bit longer.  As well, your fellow team members will be much happier to help out in a pinch.  One other benefit is that if you set a good example then you can ask for the same consideration if you are the one left in the office holding the bag.  Overall it helps build team rapport which will lead to better results throughout the year.

What do you do to prepare for taking time off?

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Treating Employees Fairly

One of the trigger events for the American Revolution was the Boston Tea Party which was a protest against unfair treatment.  While this is an interesting history lesson about the role of government, it can also serve as a lesson for leadership in the modern workplace.

Studies show that employees leave bosses more often than they leave companies.  Even in this depressed economy bad management is a key trigger in people quitting their job.  The reasons bosses have such a large impact boils down to how people are treated.    People want a say in the decisions that impact their workload and careers, they want to be treated fairly, be given challenging work, and rewarded for their efforts. 

As a leader the challenge is how to treat employees fairly.  Fair is not equal.  Treating people fairly means that you have to provide opportunities and responsibilities that match each person’s level of ability.  You cannot treat each person exactly the same as their abilities are not exactly the same.  Understanding the abilities and the goals of each member will help you determine what will help your team grow as individuals and grow as a team.

Another fairness issue is tied to integrity.  Make sure that you keep the promises you make to your team.  If you say you will give someone an assignment or time off, whatever it is then you have to be able to follow through.  When you fail to deliver for one person and do deliver for another then people will question if you are playing favorites.  This will undermine any and all attempts to treat people fairly as your actions will be suspect.  Choose your promises very carefully.  This is a time when it can be better to under promise and over deliver.

To achieve fairness in treatment, it is critical that you spend time talking with your employees.  Regular one-on-one meetings to understand your employees concerns and issues will help you find the appropriate level of challenge and independence for each person.  Being interested in each employee, regardless of how well you relate, will give insight into what makes your team tick, and genuine interest will build your credibility. 

For centuries people have rebelled against unfair treatment by people in positions of authority.  Recognizing the need to be fair in your treatment of those around you will prevent a rebellion on your team.  When everyone feels involved, empowered and valued performance goes up along with job satisfaction.

Good luck and Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans.

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Everyday Leadership

I love this video by Drew Dudley on Everyday Leadership.  He does an outstanding job of pointing out that leadership can, and should, be found in our day to day lives.  It’s not the big things that change the world it’s the small contacts we make every day that really make the difference.  This is about 6 minutes long but goes much quicker due to the humor and power of the message.

Enjoy!  http://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership.html?source=email#.T9gfMYSYI0R.email

Video from TED.com

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Interesting Articles for May

These are some of the articles that caught my attention over the last couple of weeks.  Hope you enjoy reading them as well. 

  • Mastering Your To Do List A Novel Approach.  Here is a case for having everything on your to-do-list and when to break that rule from The Organized Executive.
  • The Perils of Overplanning.  This is a great look, from Royale Scuderi on Stepcase Lifehack, at how spontaneous things can be more creative than planning creativity.  Finding the balance is the key to true productivity.
  • 6 Passages of Leadership and Management.  I liked how this article looked at the internal and external aspects of leadership and management.  This provides a model to handle yourself and then how to handle others.  From Great Leadership.
  • Strengths, Weaknesses, and Engagement.  In this article Steve Roesler of All Things Workplace looks at the impact of a manager’s focus on the employee.  Are we looking at the positive or the negative and how does that affect the employee.
  • The Second Question.  Dan Rockwell at Leadership Freak provides a great set of steps to help align the team goals with the interests of the team members.
  • How Employers Can Make Us Stop.  A compelling case for why we need to focus on the task at hand instead of multi-tasking.  I found this on Harvard Business Review Blog.
  • Be Opportunistic A Little Bit Every Day.  For those of us who have too much to do and need to help find a way to get it all done.  This post is from Sell, Lead, Succeed!  

How do you find inspiration in your busy day?

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