Archive for the ‘Plan’ Category
Friday, October 22nd, 2010
Recently, after presenting a webinar for administrative professionals, I received a question from an HR professional who had participated in the event. She wrote, “We have a few admins here whose daily workload fluctuates between multiple supervisors. There is rarely good direction about juggling the competing needs of multiple folks. Any suggestions?”
I realized that working for multiple bosses has become the new normal for many working Americans. The corporate environment isn’t hiring, but the workload is still there. Administrative support staff is being stretched thin and it looks like that’s the way it’s going to be for a while. Most administrative professionals aren’t complaining about the increased workloads because they’re simply happy to be counted among the employed these days. But, still, the stress of managing multiple projects and responsibilities for multiple supervisors needs to be addressed. Without a few new skills and systems put in place there’s sure to be a catastrophic workday when priorities collide, and it won’t be pretty.
If you’re juggling projects and priorities, and trying to please multiple “masters” at work, read ”Five Ideas for Making Multiple Bosses Happy.” They’re posted at Associated Content in, “When Everyone is Your Boss (Or, Thinks They Are).”
Monday, November 9th, 2009
As a professional speaker and trainer, I’m often asked, “What’s the best way to handle difficult people and situations in the workplace?” I’ve spent two decades absorbing as many books and research reports as I could find on the topic. I’ve listened to speakers, teachers, leaders, managers, successful entrepreneurs, and anyone else that I think may have good advice about powerful communication. There’s a ton of great information out there for those of us with the time to study it.
However, most of the people I meet are busy with careers and families and don’t have time to study everything available. For you, I’ve streamlined what I’ve discovered about good communication skills for difficult situations down to four simple principles. Following these principles will keep workplace confrontations professional, productive, and relatively stress-free and I share them in detail in my new book, The Working Woman’s Rant & Rave Guidebook; Audacious Advice for Handling Everyday Workplace Challenges That Make You Want To Scream. Although my book is written for working women, these principles work for everyone so don’t be afraid to keep reading if you happen to be a gentleman. Here is an excerpt from The Working Woman’s Rant & Rave Guidebook; Audacious Advice for Handling Everyday Workplace Challenges That Make You Want To Scream:
When things go wrong in a workplace conversation, it’s a pretty good bet that someone has tossed good principles out the door and drug in disrespect, demands and denial. To avoid disaster use these four principles as your guide when you prepare to confront workplace challenges.
1. Be Diplomatic
Being diplomatic means that you use tact and finesse in order to obtain mutually beneficial solutions to common challenges. Search for ways to say what’s on your mind that will make both parties feel positive and optimistic about the solution. Simply changing the way you phrase a statement can turn a perceived attack or defense into a diplomatic resolution. Let me tell you about Lynn; she’s a great example of how subtle changes in the way you phrase a statement can transform your professional image from that of an excuse-making complainer to an appreciated diplomat.
Lynn had been in her new job for just two months when she was assigned a new boss. With a deadline looming, the new boss asked Lynn to complete a report. Still relatively new on the job, Lynn’s response was, “They didn’t teach me how to do that.” Lynn was willing to do the report but she didn’t know how. Her statement seems harmless enough but Lynn had a tendency to phrase all of her responses with the same directness and she quickly earned a reputation for being difficult to approach. Her statement began with “They” (“They didn’t teach me how to do that.”) and it conveyed a defensive posture to her new boss. It appeared that Lynn was blaming someone for not training her appropriately. With some coaching, Lynn began using more “I” statements. “I” statements, done right, don’t make the listener feel attacked and move into a defensive mode. Lynn’s response today would not be, “They didn’t teach me how to do that.” Instead she would say, “I haven’t had a chance to learn how to do that report but I’m ready to try.” It’s the same message but it’s phrased diplomatically, offering a mutually beneficial solution.
2. Be Assertive
Being assertive means that you are using language and an approach that is non-destructive to both parties involved in the conversation; you and them. Sometimes, we attack and use an aggressive approach which robs the other person of their dignity and pushes them into a defensive role. At other times, we use a passive approach that makes the other person happy but doesn’t always get us the result we need. Assertiveness gets both parties what they need without using attacks or defense statements. There are times when a passive or aggressive strategy is appropriate but for most common workplace challenges assertiveness is the best option. Focus your statements on two things: what you will get, and what you can offer of value to them. Never make statements meant to “score a point” and cut them down. It’s a huge temptation and when we succumb to it we damage the working relationship. I will wholeheartedly admit that I find it most challenging to control my aggressive tendencies and keep my statements assertive when I know I’ll never have to deal with that person again. The problem is that we create patterns of behavior that may get us in trouble later.
Practice assertiveness at every opportunity because even if you’ll never have to deal with that idiot again, people are always watching how you handle yourself; it’s about your personal reputation. On a business trip I watched a man in the first class section verbally attack a flight attendant; it was brutal. I was, to say the least, unimpressed with the man. I was shocked when I arrived at my client’s office the next morning and realized that the same man was an executive at the company. I’d been invited to teach communication skills because the employees were perceived by management to be defensive excuse-makers. I suggested that perhaps the problem needed to be addressed on both sides, maybe management could benefit from some training too. I never revealed my experience on the plane to anyone but the guilty executive recognized me and heartily endorsed the management training proposal. He attended the training and privately admitted that he’d developed some pretty bad communication habits over the years and was eager to break the bad habits.
3. Focus On Problem-Solving
Staying focused on problem-solving sounds easy but it’s not. We have a tendency to get pulled off track and that’s when the real train wreck occurs. Have you ever argued so much that you come to the conclusion that you can’t even remember what the original disagreement was about? We often have to re-focus on the real problem; the current problem.
Here is an example. I hate having last minute projects dumped on my desk. When it happens my initial reaction is to say to you, “I hate it when you surprise me with last minute stuff.” You may get defensive because what I’m focused on right now is YOU; you are surprising me with something I don’t want. Our conversation has already been pulled off track. It’s now all about you, you loser. Are you feeling defensive now? The truth is that YOU aren’t really the real problem, are you? The real problem is last minute projects. I don’t want anyone to dump last minute projects on me. I’m still not at the root of the problem though. I need to ask one critical question, “Why?” Why don’t I like last minute projects? Because I’m a perfectionist and I can’t do my very best work on last minute projects. Now we’re getting to the root of the problem. I need to re-focus my statement on the real problem. A better way for me to respond would be, “I’m uncomfortable working on last minute projects because they don’t allow me to do my best work and my professional reputation is important to me. I’ll need some additional time or help to get this one done right.” I might even take the opportunity to train you and let you know that, “In the future I’ll need a minimum of two hours notice to take on these projects.” I’ll ask for your agreement on a timeframe that will work for both of us. Using this approach I’ll stay focused on the actual problem and I’ll avoid making personal attacks. Try to keep your statements laser-focused on solving the actual problem.
4. Take Personal Responsibility For Your Success
Sometimes “they” make us crazy. They get in the way. They cause problems. They don’t get it. They are difficult. They are mean. They are wicked. They are evil. They are ignorant. They sabotage us. They don’t help us even when they can and should. They are unreasonable. They are demanding. They are irresponsible. They are unreliable. They are just plain awful.
But they are not responsible for our success or failure. It is our personal responsibility to discover how to deal with them, get around them, turn them away from the dark side, or move past them. Using them as an excuse for our failure is simply turning them into our personal alibi. When we begin to use other people or difficult circumstances as our alibi we cease to be in charge of our own lives; we surrender and become victims. We become ranting shrews with limited opportunities and disappearing dreams.
In the worst of the worst environments there are inspiring individuals who have shed the curse of “they” and “them” and risen to glorious heights. Need some inspiration? Just take a tour of the Biography section of your local library or bookstore. Read about Mother Teresa or Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. Browse through a book about Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Elie Wiesel or South African President, Nelson Mandela. Get some inspiration and read about the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, Marie Curie, or political and spiritual leader of India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Pick up a copy of The Travelers Gift by Andy Andrews (Thomas Nelson Publishers) or read A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer (HCI, 1995). And then, get off your whiney butt and take personal responsibility for your success.
These four simple principles are the foundation of Gina’s new book, The Working Woman’s Rant & Rave Guidebook: Audacious Advice For Handling Everyday Workplace Challenges That Make You Want To Scream.
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Yes! You really can love your job, do what you were born to do, and be financially successful. The United States of America is bursting with opportunity, even in this economic downturn, and with sincere effort, it’s possible. That’s why I was unsettled when I read a comment from a respected friend and colleague. She wrote, “I am not 100% convinced that if you do what you love, the money will follow. I would like to be. But, honestly, I am not…” The thing is, she’s not alone; many believe that work is work, that’s why it’s called work.
My friend’s comment sent my brain burrowing for answers. Why should we try to discover, define and do what we were born to do? What proof do I have that it’s possible to do what you love to do and still be financially successful? And, is it my personal mission to convince the unbelievers? Here are my thoughts:
Why should we try to discover, define and do what we were born to do?
My answer could win the grace and poise competition of any beauty pageant; world peace. If we’re all doing what we were born to do, feeling a deep sense of personal fulfillment while making the world a better place, we’d have world peace. OK, maybe not world peace but how about a little more peace and harmony in the workplace? Anyone for a little less stress and more balance between home and work? How about putting a dent in fatigue, frustration and burn out? NY Times Bestselling author, Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) said, “All of the trouble and sorrow of this world is caused by unhappy people… The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-benefitting act, but also a generous gift to the world.” Come on people, let’s enjoy the way we spend our day. Let’s seek contentment and make things better for ourselves and for those around us. Doing your life’s work is fulfilling and is a gift to your community. It’s complete contentment.
What proof do I have that it’s possible to do what you love to do and still be financially successful?
Well, for one, Oprah Winfrey does it. Rush Limbaugh does too. Every day I meet people who are doing what they were born to do and many say that they are earning more money than they ever thought they would. This doesn’t mean they’re all multi-millionaires but it does mean that they’re financially successful by their own definition. Most important to me, I’m convinced that we can be successful and do what we were born to do because I’ve pulled it off personally. Want more proof? Visit the Experience Project and read some of the thousands of real life experience stories shared by the members of this online community. There are 340 members of the “I Love My Job” group and 67 have shared their personal stories. There are 205 members of the “I Will Pursue My Dream Job” group, and 104 members of the “I Want To Find A Job That I Love” group. My favorite is the “I Am Going To Change The World” group; 1,269 members strong. Yeah. I’m convinced it can be done and so are a lot of other people.
Is it my personal mission to convince the unbelievers?
It’s hard to believe in something that you’ve never experienced. It’s hard to change a mindset based upon personal experience. Changes in actions and attitude are linked to timing. If times are very tough and you need something to believe in, you’re more likely to change your mind. If times are great for a friend, and you see them living their dream, you’re more likely to change your own mind. Is it my job, or anyone else’s job, to change your mind? I don’t think so. But it is my job to be there to share information with you when you arrive at that place where you’re ready to take on new ideas. (It’s what I was born to do.) I know that lots of folks out there are ready to begin the quest to discover, define and do what they were born to do. I found 294 of them at the Experience Project in the group called, “I Hate My Job.”
This brings me back to my friend’s comment, “I am not 100% convinced that if you do what you love, the money will follow…” Maybe people who feel this way just haven’t found the right spot, the perfect place, the dream job or career? I still believe that right here in the good old USA opportunity abounds and with sincere effort it’s possible to do what you were born to do and be financially successful. Maybe the unbelievers simply haven’t found their path. Karen Burns, author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use says, “When deciding on a career, you have one huge limitation; you can only pursue fields of work you know about.” Karen provides some helpful advice on how to find your perfect spot by expanding your knowledge of career opportunities. For inspiration and an education check out the Working Girl Blog, Your Hidden Dream Job.
Don’t give up. You really can love your job, do your life’s work, and be financially successful.
Friday, July 31st, 2009
Summertime thunder storms stroll along the emerald coast of Northwest Florida nearly every afternoon this time of the year. The wind whips up, blows the lightning and thunder through, and then, we’re quickly back to the business of sunshine. The other day a storm, uncharacteristically, decided to linger into the night; we fell asleep to the lullaby of distant thunder with the cat curled up at our feet. Near midnight, a sharp jolt shot through the house and a clap of thunder hurled us out of our dreams and onto our feet. The lightning strike surged into the house, ghoulishly turning on the TV in the nook where we watch the news. Clocks flashed and the cat skittishly followed my husband through the house. The storm raged for about thirty minutes and then, as quickly as it arrived, it moved on. Our slumber interrupted, we finally faded back to sleep to the lullaby of distant thunder. The cat reclaimed his space, curled up at our feet.
The real interruption arrived the next morning when I plopped into the big leather chair at my desk and booted up my computer. Ready to do some research for my book, I had a list of websites to visit but the wireless system wasn’t cooperating; my internet access was lost. For two days my husband and I struggled to get things back up and online. Finally, after a trip to Best Buy, with a new wireless adapter in hand, I got my beloved internet back after a two day long interruption. Although I’d had limited internet access throughout the ordeal via my iPhone, I didn’t have the full capacity offered by my desktop. Oh sure, I was able to get my email, moderate my blog comments, and, even follow friends and relatives on Facebook, but my research and writing were sorely interrupted.
That’s often how it is with our day-to-day lives. We have a plan, we’re on a path, we’ve got the goal in sight. And then, an interruption. Life is a series of events sprinkled with interruptions. Our task is to enjoy the events and deal with the interruptions. Life’s interruptions require work and usually provide a heap of frustration but when we overcome them, and get back to the events at hand, we are usually stronger for the experience. Our challenge is to always refocus on the events and not linger in the interruptions or let them throw us off course.
Last night I loaded the software, plugged in the new wireless adapter, and was back on track, pursuing my goal. The interruption forced me to upgrade to a better wireless adapter and now my computer is faster than ever. It’s funny how interruptions often have the uncanny ability to make us better. My lesson learned; stay focused on the events but take time to embrace the interruptions. Life’s big and little interruptions just might make us better in the end.
Monday, July 13th, 2009
The view at the Johnson Shore Inn.
Recently, my husband and I escaped Florida’s mid-summer heat and meandered along the spectacular Maine Coast, savoring lobster, fish and chips and fresh Maine blueberries. Then, we crossed into Canada, heading to Prince Edward Island (PEI). Hidden on the northeast corner of the island, we discovered a delightful Bed & Breakfast, The Johnson Shore Inn. Secluded and calming, the inn perches atop red cliffs majestically overlooking the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
Accomplishing everything a vacation is about, we left the inn relaxed and rejuvenated. And, I left reminded of a valuable business practice. Successful businesswomen, Inn owners, Arla Johnson, from Florida, and Julie Shore from North Carolina, adapted to PEI’s climate and culture and created their dream-come-true life.
While vacationing in PEI, Arla spotted the magnificent fifty acres for sale and saw its potential for building her dream; a bed and breakfast. The ladies had the inn built and on adjoining property they built the Prince Edward Distillery. PEI’s rich soil produces excellent potatoes so making potato vodka made perfect sense. (They recently won a gold medal for their potato vodka.)
Here’s the valuable business lesson. A byproduct of making vodka is the leftover mash and you’ve got to dispose of it. Well, pigs love potato mash so the ladies bought some pigs. The pigs were well fed and happy even though they were destined for bacon, ham and sausage. The pigs reproduced and the ladies began selling the happy pigs to local farmers who also purchased the extra leftover potato mash for their farms. So now, the ladies own a very successful B&B, an award-winning distillery, and, a profitable mash sales and pig program.
The ladies then traded a pig for butcher services and the result was the mouthwatering ham, bacon and sausage served for breakfast at the B&B. (The Inn also offers vegetarian and pork alternatives.) They didn’t stop there. Much of the property was covered with wild blueberries so they cultivated the land to encourage the wild blueberries. And yes, the blueberries inspired the distillery’s second successful product, Blueberry vodka. The blueberries are also a key ingredient in many mouth-watering recipes at the inn.
Smart and hard-working, Arla and Julie’s success has been boosted by their ability to profitably utilize their resources and byproducts. Especially in the current economy, it’s a good business practice to explore our personal and professional life and discover additional ways to profit from what we already have. We don’t always need more of something else; sometimes we simply need to wisely use what’s right at our fingertips. Take some time today to see if the things you dispose of, the things that cause clutter or cause you to curse can be used profitably. Opportunity is knocking. Take time to peer back through your own door at what you’ve already got.
Friday, May 1st, 2009
On a recent flight I found myself seated next to “Mr. Ambition.” Trying to ignore the bundle of explosive energy next to me, I dove into my book. Halfway home to Pensacola Mr. Ambition decided it was time to talk. I had a different agenda; reading, Eventually, I gave in to his unspoken pleas; I closed my book.
Wound tight and ready to spring, he slung information at me. He was gung-ho, tip top, cream-of-the-crop with a new ivy league college degree and he was ready to build an empire but his co-workers, “these people in Pensacola,” weren’t cooperating. He asked me about dealing with “southerners.” Yes, he asked.
“These southerners” moved too slowly; they were sabotaging him. He didn’t get it. He was ambitious and his team members were NOT. He smacked me with “ambition” at least ten times; “they lack ambition, I’m ambitious, it’s an ambitious undertaking.” I asked him if he was aware that the word ambition worked its way into nearly every sentence he spoke. Startled at my comment, he explained that he’d been raised to be ambitious. I said, “That’s great, but almost everyone is ambitious.”
We talked about ambition and decided that his co-workers didn’t lack ambition all together. They just lacked ambition for his goals and ideas. They had ambitions of their own; he had no clue what their ambitions were. We agreed that ambition is common. We all want to get somewhere; we all want something.
The difference maker is initiative. Ambition without initiative is simply wishful thinking. I asked him if he had initiative. With enough initiative he could build his empire without the cooperation of “these people in Pensacola.” It was up to him to get things done. I suggested that he take the initiative to discover the ambitions of his co-workers and that information just might improve his working relationships. He looked contemplative for a second, then ended the conversation. I returned to my book.
I’ve been thinking about that conversation and I’ve asked myself the same question, “Do I have enough initiative? And, what exactly is initiative? ” I surfed on over to dictionary.com and looked it up: in⋅i⋅ti⋅a⋅tive (Pronounced i-nish-ee-uh-tiv) – noun 1) an introductory act or step; leading action: to take the initiative in making friends 2) readiness and ability in initiating action; enterprise: to lack initiative 3) one’s personal, responsible decision: to act on one’s own initiative.
I perused my library for some initiative inspiration and found it from Roy H. Williams, author of “The Wizard of Ads.” Williams said; “Initiative means you take action. You work with what you’ve got. You never stand around waiting for instructions. You do something, even if it’s wrong.” Well, that’s me; you do something, even if it’s wrong. On many occasions I’ve given something new my very best shot, and then, if things went wrong I’d apologize, make it right, and learn from the experience. (The School of Hard Knocks.)
When we lack initiative we lock up, terrified to try anything we can’t do well. We do nothing. With initiative we’ll take on tough challenges even at the risk of failure or looking foolish. Initiative made you put your roller-skates on for the very first time and again at age forty. Initiative got you your first date, your first job interview, your first promotion or pay raise, your first big project, your first karaoke performance, or your first round of golf. Initiative takes you to places and things that you’re not good at, but eventually, with practice, you’ll get good. Initiative gets it started so that things can get done. Ambition merely sits around wanting. Ambition without initiative is a waste of thought. I’ll take initiative over ambition any time. This week I’m working on my initiative. I’m hoping that Mr. Ambition does the same.