Friday, September 30, 2005

"You Faker!"

According to a CCH survey of 305 human resource departments, as reported in the Sunday September 25, 2005 edition of the Chicago Tribune (Section 13, Page 1), when you're not really ill, but you want/need/deserve a day off, the solution is to call in 'sick.'

Reasons for unscheduled absences in 2004
  • 38% Personal illness
  • 23% Family issues - child/parent's doctor appointments, etc.
  • 18% Personal needs - personal doctor appointment, trip to traffic court, car maintenance, etc.
  • 11% Stress
  • 10% Entitlement mentality
Yet from a boss's perspective - especially in an operations environment - unscheduled absences are the most difficult to manage because of coverage issues. So in that more than 3 out of every 5 unscheduled absence could actually be scheduled if handled appropriately, what's a boss to do?

What do YOU do?
  1. How do you encourage your staff to tell you about these upcoming family/personal appointments in advance so you can give them the time they need (and will take anyway) and insure proper coverage in your area, notwithstanding?
  2. How do you encourage your staff to schedule their mental health days so that you can give them the time they need (and will take anyway) ?
  3. How do you respond to these unscheduled absences when they do occur so as to encourage advance notice of them in the future?
You really can't stop people from taking time off when they feel they need to, but you can encourage them to give you enough notice to mitigate the problems their absences will, in all likelihood, create.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

The Three Phases (and Songs) of Success

I've already blogged about TheLadders.com as I became one of their affiliates in August. Check it out, and sign up, if you haven't already.

Now, I'm pleased to report, I'm also a contributor to their newsletter.

In the September 26, 2005 issue of Good Advice, you'll find an article I wrote called, The Three Phases (and Songs) of Success. When you follow the link, you'll have to scroll down a bit - mine is the 3rd entry - but that's not too much to ask is it?!

The idea of the piece is that there are three distinct phases we go through in a career and each phase is typified by a popular song title. Check out the titles I chose and then post what ones you'd use for where you're at with your career.

Good fun.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Research Your Role Before a Change of Scene

Wearing my career coach hat lately. To that end, Washington Post staff writer Mary Ellen Slayter quoted me in her Career Track column about young workers searching for their Ideal Job. She even gave me the final quote of the story:

Zweibel likened the search for one's ideal career to the surprise in a box of Cracker Jack. "Sometimes it's at the top of the box, sometimes it's at the bottom." You never know how long it will take you to find it.

Read the full article here - it's good.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

How level is YOUR playing field?

How level IS your playing field? Leadership coach, colleague, and client, Leigh Henderson of the Leadership Training Room, is conducting an on-line survey to find out more about why it is that only five Fortune 500 companies are run by women. She's now gathering information - from both men and women - about what it takes to create a level playing field in the workplace.

If you'd like to share your opinions on this important matter, please link to her survey.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Do You Sudoku?

A great new game hit the comics/crossword puzzle page of the local paper. It's called Sudoku. And if you love logic - and problem solving - this is a game for you.

Here's an example, from wikipedia, of what a ready-to-start Sudoku puzzle might look like:

"The rules of Sudoku are simple," according to www.websudoku.com. "Enter digits from 1 to 9 into the blank spaces. Every row must contain one of each digit. So must every column, as must every 3x3 square. " This site is particularly fun in that there's a seemingly unlimited supply of new puzzles. You can also choose what level of difficulty you want - easy, medium, hard, or evil.

You can then print them (as I do) or play on-line. But a word of caution - like Spider Solitare (on an XP computer go: Start > All Programs > Games), or Lemmings (mercifully, no longer available) , or Snood (their tag line is "forget life ... play snood!"), or any other of this ilk - set limits so you don't get too carried away.

Yes, taking relaxing breaks is good medicine. (For Sudoku puzzles click here.) But, puleeze, people, set a timer if you need a reminder to get back to work!

Question: What types of games do YOU play to take your mind off things a bit?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Capable of Doing versus Paid to Do

Contrary to popular belief, I do not believe that success at work is about doing what you're capable of doing. I believe that it's about doing what only YOU can do - and doing it as best as you possibly can. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should - especially when other work that only you can do isn't getting done. Consider:

A department manager has a major deliverable due later today. But, instead of working on that, he's sorting the morning mail and distributing it into people's mailboxes over by the copy machine. While he can perfectly justify his actions ("our admin is out sick today") there are any-number of other people who are equally qualified to do this task - and have some time to do it. Yet, he doesn't feel right in asking anyone so he figures he'll just do it himself.

Later that day, as he tries to work on that important presentation, he finds himself continually being interrupted by people wanting his attention. Being unable to concentrate on his assignment - and with the pressure of the deadline looming - he loses his patience and takes it out on an unsuspecting soul who just happened to be "next."
There's more to this story than just a simple case of procrastination-gone-bad. It's about me - so many years ago. Notwithstanding the best of intentions, I forgot that there were certain tasks and responsibilities that were mine and mine alone to do. And because I didn't do them, no one else did, because no one else could.

So the next time you find yourself working on an otherwise routine task, ask yourself, "What is it, that only I can do that isn't getting done right now?" And go do that instead. After all, that's what you're paid for. That's what your job is!

Coaching Question: What routine tasks tend to derail YOU from working on what only you can do? What practices have you put in place to deal more effectively with them?

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Friday, September 16, 2005

"Hard" Reading made less-so

I like reading non-fiction books physically. I highlight passages, underline key points and dog-ear pages. (Sometimes I even spill coffee or drop part of a sandwich on then!)

I guess I'm pretty hard on my books. But I treat them with the greatest of respect.

What's fun is to go back so many years later and re-read them to see what struck me as important way back when. Oftentimes, when I realize how far I've come in my understanding of certain topics ... or that I STILL don't have a clue ... it makes me laugh right out loud! I guess I'm easily amused.

Along these same lines, a client recently asked, "How many books do you have to read to become an expert on a topic?"

Here's how I replied:

Hmmm. Well, if the topic is how to play tic-tac-toe, I think one book - probably one page of one book - would be sufficient. More complex issues would require more reading. Quantum physics, for example.

Then, there's the issue of how quick of a study someone is and how clearly the information resonates for them. Example: I could read about calculus from now til the end of time and suspect I would NEVER become an expert. Contrast that with my son - he's been doing calculus for, what, two weeks now? And he already gets a lot of it.

Okay, so with those disclaimers in place. I'm going to pick a number, and that number is ... seven.

Here's the rationale: 1-2 books to familiarize yourself with the topic; another 2 or 3 to dig in deeper (that's 3-5 so far); another 2 really nail it (that's 5-7) and maybe one or two more to confirm that you didn't miss anything or to add some additional subtlety to your knowledge.

So how would YOU answer the question?

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

When are you at your Absolute Best?

So when ARE you at your Absolute Best?
  • Morning ... or afternoon?
  • Early in the week ... or more toward the middle ... or end of the week?
  • With a deadline looming .. or when you have time to be creative?
  • When you're particularly well-organized ... or when things are a total mess?
  • In times of simplicity ... or in times of complexity?
  • In front of your boss ... or your staff ... or your peers ... or your customers?
  • When faced with something new and demanding ... or something familiar and comfortable?
  • When accountable to others ... or accountable to your self?
  • When well-rested ... or highly-caffeinated?
  • When feeling ego ... or feeling gratitude?
  • When there's a crisis ... or when there's not?

When are YOU at your Absolute Best and, more importantly, how can you spend more time in THAT place?

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Monday, September 12, 2005

What is (capital L) Leadership?

Hi All ~ I could use your help.

I'm trying to clarify in my own mind what it means to be a (capital L) Leader and I'm hoping you can weigh in on the following two questions:

Question #1: What are some of the words, actions, thoughts, and intentions, etc. that capture, for you, what it means to be a (capital L) Leader?

Question #2: How do you tell the difference between a real (capital L) Leader and someone who's just masquerading as one?

Now I know that a number of you who actively read my blog entries - thank you for that, by the way - are just not comfortable with posting your comments or reactions on-line. Please know that I am totally okay with that.

But, if you were ever thinking about maybe wanting to post a comment at some point, this would be a pretty excellent opportunity for you to do so. In other words, I could really use your help ... and insight ... on this one!

Thanks.

P.S. If you need it, here's a link on how to post a comment. Again, thanks.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Do you have a recognizable smile?

"Britons are being told not to smile for photographs when applying for new passports to avoid confusing new security scanners introduced at airports worldwide, officials said yesterday." (From today's Jamaica Observer.)

Makes sense if the "photographs must show no shadows: your face looking straight at the camera, a neutral expression, with your mouth closed" for the current iteration of recognition technology to work properly. But it got me wondering ...

What's your usual facial expression at work? Do you smile? Or do you scowl, or purse your lips? Do you furrow your brow, or flare your nostrils? Do you stiffen your jaw or flash white-hot glances? Do you unabashedly yawn or look right through people?

Nonverbals speak loudly. And meaningfully. Often to the detriment of ourselves ... and others.

So take some time today and look at yourself in the mirror. Assess, as objectively - and as accurately - as possible, exactly what message your facial expression is sending when you're not otherwise paying attention to it.

So many are so serious at work. Too serious. While looking in the mirror, practice your smile. If it isn't already, try making it one of you most recognizable facial features and see what happens.

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