Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What will you do today?

"Wait a minute and I'll get back to you after I check my to-do list..

If only it were that easy or if only someone would create our daily action lists for us breaking down our deliverables into actionable tasks aligning them with not only the best time to tackle them but what's more important. We get paid big bucks to deliver what we’re assigned. We usually know what to do and how to go about. Sometimes we get distracted by all there is to do.

One might consider their to-do list to be all the things that they have to get done.

Every thing.

Personally, I think that’s a really big list. I’m all for listing everything you’d like to accomplish, but to be effective, I suggest doing a little more personal strategic thinking to understand which tasks are dependent upon others and what items are more important than others.

You might have twelve weeks to complete a project with many of your daily tasks tied to each other. You certainly wouldn’t list all of these in your Monday planner; you’d space them out allowing time for meetings, suppliers to get back with you, and for your own personal brainiac time.

You likely have two to five projects and they are all at different stages. You likely have other tasks due unrelated to these projects.

What do you work on?

I remember being given a very tricky choice by my first employer when I was eighteen. They asked if I wanted to be paid hourly or on a weekly salary. My first thought was to jump at the hourly rate thinking that would pay out better in the long run. The guy countered that I was probably so efficient that I wouldn’t need more than forty hours. Since then it has gotten me thinking that if I could be so efficient to be able to leave the office for the week when my work was done, wouldn’t that counter those other weeks when heavy workloads required longer work hours?

When you go on vacation and leave say.. on a Thursday, isn’t it true that you get done that short week what might have taken you five days if you hadn’t planned the time off?

With some companies shortening work weeks to save on salary payouts and energy costs, do you think the work volume has changed? If anything some of those same companies have experienced layoffs and those left behind in the office have a heavier workload.

You will get done what you have to do in the time you are allowed.

You will get done what you have to do in the time you are allowed. So, my question to you is:
What would you do with more time?
My message to you is this: Consider what is imperative to get done this week to move your projects forward and do those tasks early – like by Wednesday afternoon. Use the rest of the week to be creative, start another project, or simply have more personal time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

big ball of blue

I'm making an exception to my Tuesday posting schedule in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth day.

T o d a y

The Sierra Club has come up with seven clever things you could do to celebrate -- and you don't even have to do all of them. Just pick even one and you'll be giving something back to the lovely ball of blue that gives us all a place to hang our hats.

two more references: http://www.earthday40.org/ and http://www.earthday.net/edngreenapple

I'd love to hear what you do to celebrate.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It doesn't take a rocket scientist

If statistics show that 88% of people leave a job because of how they feel they are being treated, would building an organization with people who had excellent soft side skills help raise employment retention rates and keep everyone staying put longer?

Long ago I found myself interviewing with a small private company anticipating the landing of my first job out of college with a highly respected firm. During the final interview, I got an early and abrupt taste of their culture when I got slapped in the face.

And by slapped, I'm talking about hearing the following:

  • "We start at 7am here
  • We work most Saturdays, minimum two per month
  • There is no swearing. Ever
  • We pray at every company meeting
  • You'll be expected to put in on average 60 hours per week
  • And OH, don't worry about looking up for your next job, your manager will constantly be on the look out for you to grow within the company"

At that time, I had already worked four years in industry at four different companies and never had I heard or experienced such things. Not being a morning person, my mind was still stuck on the 7am part; I just kep smiling and nodding my head robotically.

Knowing I still had much to learn and wanting to work at this firm, I took the job; slap and all.

I won't deny the mornings were tough but soon I began to welcome the 7am starts because of the smiling faces of all the staff that would greet me during our morning stretch routines. Gratitude exuded from all in that we were showing up for each other.

Saturdays were a whole other ball game. It was difficult at first, but it changed for me also. Reluctantly I dragged myself in weekend after weekend to donuts, more smiling faces, and sometimes an on-site cooked breakfast by other colleagues and managers. Rather than the cold slap in the face feeling I had in the interview process, I was experiencing welcome, appreciated, and a part of something bigger. These mornings became great catch-up times where the week days were fast paced and business-only venues. The Saturday mornings were a chance to reset and decompress as well as spend more time on the production floor learning about the lives of team-mates.

Some perspective

This company is a leader in its industry with a reputation of a high standard of quality. Although also a leader in developing and delivering high tech products, problems arose there just as they do in any other company. There was one difference here though: problems were looked at as opportunites for success rather than opportunities for blame. When a problem arose, it was a time to demonstrate strength in character, not a hot-head full of steam. When "issues" happened, rarely were voices raised. Product issues were simply product issues because it was never interpreted as anyone's fault. It was always seen as a process oversight or a machine failure, not as personal failure by someone or a team, nor an opportunity to degrade people.

So what made the difference?

Respect for each other's abilities, values, and contribution made the difference between finger pointing and getting our work done. The attitude cultivated by leadership to respect and be present for one another enabled focus on solving the issues at hand.

Some how there always existed the skill set to solve any problem. Ironically there was always a solution to any problem. Pretty good, huh?

Consensus doesn't necessarily mean a solution that "kinda fits." It is something that is borne of constructive open dialog between trusting colleagues.

Were we just a bunch of rocket scientists who could fix anything? Likely and most definitely not. It is likely that the company heavily hired engineers that had the people skills first, technical ability second.

Did it make a difference?

I'll ask my question again: If 88% of people leave a job because of how they feel they are being treated, would building an organization with people who had excellent soft skills help raise employment retention rates and keep everyone staying put longer?

What would you do?

What works best in your organization and why?

This article was originally posted by me on L2L Blogazine, April 8th 2009 * Image credit to Jim Wilson for The New York Times, Gerlach, Nevada, October 14, 2006, www.nyt.com

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

r e s p e c t

Many relationships are defined by how one feels around another person. So the question is then what are you doing to build, grow, and nurture relationships with others?

Are you listening to people?
Are you abusing their time?
Do you value others?
Do you honor their values?

Leadership Question: Is how you relate with others affecting how you lead?

I remember well the first team I lead. This was to be my first project as a Program Manager and already some really heavy hitters were being added to my team. These guys were highly respected and top innovators in my company.

I asked myself This: “How was I supposed to get their attention? Why would they follow me?” What if I fail?

Adding further to my woe, the project was assigned a tight schedule. ..kinda fun!!!

In thinking about how I would tackle these tough questions that would inevitably put a stamp on me as a leader, I decided to implement a simple two-step plan.

The plan looked like this:

1) I used a team approach to discover what we didn’t know in the first week and then created an outline of how we would develop the components of the product that we were creating. I added the step of finding out what we didn’t know and pulling in market data at the same time.

2) I proposed meeting twice a week and provided a schedule on what we would be doing. Each meeting being a working session using brainstorm, benchmarking, and usability methods to design our product. The first meeting would be the tell-all to see if the team gave me any merit. I had given them an assignment for the meeting. This was to benchmark a specific hinge in the consumer marketplace and bring examples to the group.

I used a collaborative approach to make instill an inclusive feeling for each team member and hoped that would get the desired results.

And guess what? They did it!

Each participant on the team had gone exploring that week and brought one or two examples of how to complete the project at hand. Ultimately the project was a success. We had a lot of fun and everyone got along well. We even “cracked” a tough-cookie and converted that nay-sayer into a believer. And oh, we actually hit our deliverables and our project timeline!

As a leader, what did I do right to make this such a success? I can tell you with one word: respect.

Respect is a powerful tool enabling you to listen and consider ideas from others. It allows you to empathize with and value the time of others. I spent a lot of time with each team member listening to their ideas. As a team, we had specific deliverables each week and all were accountable in the same way. The idea is to make sure that each step is interesting and fun. Ask for their input and give them a venue to shine. The goal is to create and maintain an environment where everyone on the team could grow, prosper, contribute, and sparkle.

When a team member will bring something of value to a meeting they are consequently given lots of attention and kudos all around. The next meeting inevitably more team members will contribute over and above what they had before. Terry Bacon says it best in

What People Want:

“The most important job you have (as a leader) is to recognize the contributions of your good to great performers. It motivates them, encourages others, establishes your standards, and communicates that you care..”

What would you do for someone that values both your time and ideas?

Would you want to contribute more to them? Would you offer more effort to them because of their role, or because WHO they are as a person?

Originally posted by me, 1April2009 here: http://linked2leadership.com/2009/04/01/r-e-s-p-e-c-t/

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

When do you work?

Don't worry, I'm not trying to make you feel guilty if you happen to be reading this at work, but if you said 8 - 5 or some derivative thereof, think again.

I'd like to know when you do your best work.

I'm not talking about when you go to work. We all go to work. We go typically at a time predetermined by either our boss or society. We show up when it's expected. Because we're not drones however, turning our brains on or off is not necessarily something someone else can control. Frankly I'm not sure we can either. Sure I can influence my brain to start working whether it's with coffee, bribe of an impending vacation, threat of missing a deadline and the anger of a client, or with a shiny new computer, but let's face it, our mind works when it wants to.

I started thinking today about how I wanted to write about time management and how to be more effective at work but as I started writing and rewriting several times, I realized that describing making the most of our time in a short post was fruitless. For today, I just want to focus on when to show up.

I'd like you to think for a moment about a time when you recognized your brain fully engaged and you were really groovin' on an idea and the creative juices in your head.

Got one?

ok, now think of another one. Just one more.

There's a lot of this whole work better, smarter, faster dynamic, but for today, I'd like you to consider what time of the day do you recall experiencing real brain power? Of those two moments you just recalled, what time of the day did they occur? What did the room look like during those power sessions? Maybe you weren't even stationary; perhaps you were in a plane, train, or automobile?

The point is that there are certain times of the day and there are specific surroundings that enable your brain to get into overdrive. What happens in overdrive?


Good work Break.throughs Solutions Ideation Gro.wth Passion Momentum E*n*e*r*g*y

Below I provide you with a snapshot of my week to give you an idea of how I work within my zone. I've discovered that while I'm not a morning person, once I've got up and went, it's the most productive part of my day while the afternoon is more focused on the sunshine and what's next. You'll see that for the most part I try and schedule my brainiac time in both the mid-morning hours and later evening hours.

When are you the most productive?

Call it a time journal, call it a pain, but record your activities and how you feel brain-power wise throughout the day for a few weeks and see if you can define your personal brainiac time.

(click image to enlarge full screen)