Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Autumn Leaves

Well, it's autumn here in Chicagoland so I thought it might be nice to take post some "falling leaves" photos from around the web. Enjoy!

The bright cold sun.
A college campus.
The reds, part 1.
The reds, part 2.
The blacks and whites, part 1.
The blacks and whites, part 2.
Leaves on the wet pavement.
End of the day.

-----Category: _fun

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

"Dumb" Bosses

Kris Maher's Career Journal column on page D6 of the 10/21/2003 Wall Street Journal (and on line at the Career Journal link provided above), asked "How do you cope with a dumb boss?"

Now working with "dumb" bosses IS a real problem for a LOT of people these days and is a great cause of stress and strain in the workplace. And I thought that the points made by both the columnist and those interviewed were valid. (Perhaps because they echoed much of what I wrote about two years ago in an articled titled, Effectively Managing Your Boss!) But, characterizing dumb bosses as they did - as worthless at best and dangerous at worst - felt very, very wrong to me.

Bosses, even the so-called "dumb" ones, have a wide variety of skills, training, and talents. And even if they're not as polished or capable as some employees think they should be, they typically still have a lot of valuable information to teach - to those truly interested in learning. So while I commend the WSJ for tackling the dumb-boss issue head-on, I regret that they focused more on coping skills than on learning how to be a better learner from these maybe-not-so-dumb-after-all bosses. And I sent Kris Maher an email yesterday saying just that.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Teeth, Flossing, and Avoiding Unwanted Goals

I've been thinking about teeth lately. I don't know why. Actually, I do...First there was the Illinois Dental News article I wrote with T - and we've been working on another one, too. And just today, I went to my dentist for a routine checkup.

While there, I noticed that the hygienist's room had a number of pictures on the wall ... all of terrible-looking teeth and gums. "Why are these here?" I asked. "Because I want my patients to floss," she said.

Now when people want to lose weight, they often put pictures of thin, happy people on their refrigerator doors and bathroom mirrors. But this was not that. It was the opposite of that. "Do you find that these pictures work better than ones with beautifully smiling faces with gorgeous teeth?" "Absolutely," she said. "I tell my patients that if they don't floss, they can easily end up looking like these here," pointing to a particularly unpleasant set of choppers. "It DEFINITELY gets their attention - that's the point."

Oprah did a thing on flossing a while back, I'm told. Apparently, the guest said that you can take 6.4 years off of your RealAge just by flossing. (RealAge is a scientifically valid measure of how fast your body is aging.) SIX POINT FOUR YEARS!!!! But given my hygienist's point about motivation, wouldn't it have been even more compelling if Oprah's expert said that NOT flossing could SHORTEN YOUR LIFE by 6.4 years? Living longer is one thing, but dying sooner is something completely different, don't you think?

The bigger point, of course, has nothing to do with teeth, or gums, or even floss. It has to do with better understanding what motivates YOU - especially when you don't feel all that motivated. So if those 'thin' pictures aren't helping you lose weight, post some pictures of what you DON'T want to look like. Or if bad gums are your problem, think about how painful more frequent deep cleanings or even gum surgery would be. (Or get a Braun toothbrush like me!)

Actively avoiding an Unwanted Goal can be a great way of achieving some very positive outcomes as a coincidental byproduct. Go with what works - that's the point!

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Cubs DON'T Win.

Well, that's that. It was great - REALLY GREAT! But now it's over. No regrets.

-----Category: _fun

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Effective Post-Mortem Discussions

The crisis is over. The situation is past. Now how do we bring closure to this difficult set of experiences?

Most people don’t use post-mortems, but I think it’s an important step to bring closure and allow healing - especially after a difficult situation. Here are the steps I've used to great success:

1. Gather all players together (including vendor personnel, if appropriate) and thank everyone for their efforts. Focus on trying to put everyone at ease so they know it's not an inquisition and it's okay to relax.

2. Review what happened by having people 'tell the story' of what happened. Encourage everyone to add to the story no matter how small their role. Look to understand, not to blame. Show everyone the utmost respect.

3. Look for Lessons Learned. Ask "What did we learn from all this?" "What changes do we want to make moving forward?" etc.

4. Assign follow-up tasks and due dates, as appropriate. Have someone put these assignments in writing and distribute to everyone within 24 hours.

5. Make them laugh. Thank them again. Get ‘em back to work.

Hope this helps.

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Sunday, October 05, 2003

Cubs Win!

The Chicago Cubs beat Atlanta to win the NL Division Series and are now in the 2003 NLCS!

Ya just GOTTA love it!

-----Category: _fun

Friday, October 03, 2003

Vendor Performance Reviews

Welcome to the 4th quarter,time for that annual ritual of bugeting and vendor contract renewal. If you're like many, you probably want to replace a vendor or two of yours. But if you're like many more, you probably won't. Is there nothing that can be done to 'encourage' them to improve, though? Well one way to try is to institute a performance review process with your vendors. Here's a four-step model to try:

Step 1 - Establish an accurate baseline for 2003. Identify the 5 or 6 key performance elements you're looking for from a particular vendor and rate each element on a scale from 1 (awful) to 5 (fabulous) and compare them with what you find with other (unnamed) vendors. Invite your key vendor contacts - and their bosses - to a meeting where you share your findings.

Step 2 - Establish performance criteria for 2004. Identify the 5 or 6 key performance elements for the upcoming year. Maybe they're the same - most of them probably will be - but maybe there's 1 or 2 new ones, too. (Be sure to include 'stretch' goals.) At your vendor meeting, discuss what ratings you'd be very happy with, what ratings you'd accept, and what ratings are intolerable. Ask for their commitment to meet these agreed-upon expectations.

Step 3 - Develop an Action Plan. Ask your vendor to delineate any issues and concerns that would need to be addressed for them to meet these expectations. Schedule a follow-up meeting where they can present exactly how they intend to do so.

Step 4 - Assess progress. Mid-year, invite the bosses back in for a formal status report. meeting. Ask them to rate their progress and use their materials as a springboard for continuing the performance improvement conversation with them.

Getting the bosses involved on the FRONT-END is key. It's their involvement that enables your vendor contacts to get the resources and organizational support they need on an ongoing basis. That makes it much easier for them to do a good job for you.

And that's the point, isn't it?