Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On Having to Freestyle in the Overlap

Today's USA Today Snapshot reported that less than one out of every two employees believe their company's culture is widely embraced and understood. Shocking?

Not really. Especially when you consider the conflicting goals and objectives that so many companies (and their departments) have in place these days. Consider the following examples:

  • Company A preaches cost reductions AND innovative thinking as two of their key goals.
  • Company B touts superior customer service AND maximized productivity as theirs.
  • Company C believes in both customer courtesy AND customer safety as their two top priorities.

To a boss, these might seem like completely fine statements. But employees know that they spend an awful lot of time having to freestyle - that is, decide for themselves in the Overlap of conflicting organizational/departmental priorities. Again consider:

  • An analyst in Company A has a fabulously innovative idea to improve her area's quality controls, but she needs to purchase some equipment in order to make it happen. She's in the Overlap and must freestyle a decision as to whether to bring the idea up to her boss (and be chided for her lack of cost-consciousness), or forget about it entirely (and be slammed at review time for her inability to think out-of-the-box).
  • A customer service rep in Company B has to decide between really helping the end-of-shift customers and meeting his/her productivity metrics. He's in the Overlap and must freestyle a decision as to whether to go-the-extra-mile for a few aggravated customers (and miss his numbers ... again) , or give 'em the bum's rush (and achieve Top Performer status for the week).
  • Attendants with Company C can't help but wonder if it is better to be impolite - or even rude - to lessen the possibility of someone getting a little scraped, or just be as courteous as possible to as many guests as possible and only address imminent safety dangers with patrons?

These may not be decisions you want to delegate. Not because you don't trust your employees to make the right decision, but because you don't want them to even be decisions that employees to have to make. Besides, if the USA Today survey is right, chances are that only 44% of your staff would decide as you would.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, that seems like a problem just waiting to happen.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Key Networking Skill: Saying Goodbye

Some people just don't feel comfortable networking. But with the holidays approaching - and along with them, those ubiquitous holiday cocktail parties - it might be helpful to take a closer look at one of the most-overlooked networking skills of all - saying goodbye.

Hey, it happens. Sometimes a conversation just runs its course. Other times the 'chemistry' is all wrong. And every now and then, it's just time and you're ready to move on. So how do you gracefully end a conversation so that: (a) you don't look - or feel - like a jerk; and (b) you don't spend the whole evening trying to make conversation with the same person?

Here are some ideas:
  • Excuse me, I have to go to the wash room. It's been nice talking with you.
  • Excuse me, I'm going to freshen my drink. It's been nice talking with you.
  • Excuse me, there are a few more people I'm hoping to meet this evening. It's been nice talking with you.
  • Excuse me, I'm going to mingle a bit. It's been nice talking with you.
  • Excuse me, I'd like to meet three more people tonight. It's been nice talking with you.

Notice the three-step format:

  1. "Excuse me"
  2. (some reason)
  3. "It's been nice talking with you."

Many people might say that the "reason" - that is, step 2 - is the most important part of this process. I daresay, however, that it's actually the least important - just wrap it between a respectful "Excuse me" and a genuine "It's been nice talking with you" and the rest will take care of itself.

Key words: respectful, and genuine. Go on and try it and see for yourself.

Bonus: Once you're clear on how to pleasantly exit a conversation, you might just find that the conversations you stay with are that much more enjoyable for you. It's odd how it works, but it usually does.

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What are your favorite ways to politely extricate yourself from networking chit-chat? Please post your tips so that other GottaGettaBlog! readers can benefit from them.

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Welcome to Cyber Monday

For brick-and-mortar-type retailers, the holiday shopping season officially started last Friday - Black Friday, as it's called. Today, Monday, though, is considered the official start of the 2005 holiday shopping season for online retailers. Hence the name, "Cyber" Monday.According to a Shop.org/BizRate Research 2005 eHoliday survey (and as reported by CNN Money.com) 77 percent of online merchants reported substantial sales increases on the Monday after Thanksgiving last year, a trend that is expected to prompt big online promotions and discounts on Cyber Monday this year.Some stats:
  • 43 percent of online retailers plan to offer special promotions and discounts on Cyber Monday. Deals will range from free shipping to gifts with purchase to percentages off.
  • More than one-third of the 1,890 consumers surveyed for the report said they will use Internet access at work to browse or buy gifts online this holiday season.
  • More than half of young adults the ages of 18 to 24, and nearly half of those aged 25 to 34 said they would shop online during work hours.

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The message: Don't expect all that much from your staff today. Not only will they be probably be pretty "draggy" from the long Thanksgiving weekend, but they've got some pressing priorities to attend to today ... like cyber-shopping.So be nice, and maybe one of their purchases will be for you!

-----11/29 post script: According to USA Today, "Cyber Monday looks like it lived up to its hype" as online traffic was more than 30% higher than a typical Monday. It just shows to go ya!

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Making Real Progress, 1.0

Whatever it is, it's an issue. And it's up to you to deal with it. But no matter what you do, it seems it just doesn't want to go away. Or so you say.

People often confuse 'trying and failing' with 'not really trying at all'.

I'm not talking about spinning your boss into thinking you're doing what you can. I'm talking about really doing what you can. And knowing the difference between the two.

Simply stated, the single best step to take when you're stuck is exactly that ... a step. Step-by-step. Inch-by-inch. If you don't own the issue, it's gonna own you. It may already own you. Now that's not how you want to feel as Thanksgiving* approaches, is it?

So what can you do in the next two days to make some real progress? What Decisive Action can you take over the next 48 hours to move your issue meaningfully forward?

Use Thanksgiving as your deadline. You don't want to be another turkey at the dinner table, now, do you?!

(* My apologies to my international readers. Thanksgiving, after all, is a decidedly American holiday. But that doesn't mean you can't still use it to stimulate your own progress, you know.)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Recall vs. Recognition

You know what it's like - someone asks you a fact-based/trivia question and you just can't come up with the answer even though you know you know it. And then, to add insult to injury, as soon as they give you the answer - as soon as they start to give you the answer - you're like, "Duh! Of course that's what it is!"

That's the difference between recall and recognition, two powerful ways to access information inside our brains.

Applying this to a work setting, imagine your boss asking for your opinion on what to do about a particularly thorny issue, but in that particular moment, your 'recall' brain freezes up. What to do? You can't just sit there like a deer in the headlights. And you probably don't want to act like you're completely clueless ... even though you very well may be. If this happens to you, try switching the conversation to Recognition Mode.

How? One way is to ask your boss to make it a multiple choice question. "Hmm. Give me some choices to choose from," you could say. The benefits could be threefold:
  1. your boss might appreciate the playfulness in your request to do a little brainstorming
  2. s/he might come up with some pretty good ideas that you never would have thought of on your own
  3. his/her suggestions might be just enough to get your own creative juices flowing again.

And what if the boss doesn't want to play game-show host with you? Chances are good that in the time it takes for him/her to say so you'll be able to jump-start your Recall Brain and come up with a reasonable response. So either way, the process can help.

Go ahead. Try it and see.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An introduction to life coaching

Geoffrey Litwack recently contacted me for an article he was writing about the life of a life coach. He's since uploaded it as a blog posting titled An introduction to life coaching. I think it's a worthwhile read, not just because I was one of the life coaches he interviewed for the piece, but because of how wide-ranging his questions about coaching were. Here's what he asked:
  • How is it that life coaching is what you came to want to do with your life?
  • What goals are your clients typically looking to achieve?
  • How should someone go about choosing a life coach?
  • What is the time and monetary commitment required?
  • Are there any common problems or misunderstandings you run into with new clients?
  • Does any particular theory or philosophy guide your coaching?
  • Do you see coaching as an alternative to therapy? Have you ever coached someone through a time of mental hardship, or worked with a therapist to help a client?
  • Are you comfortable coaching someone via the phone or email, or do you think it’s best to meet in person?
  • What do you consider to be an end point for your coaching of a client?
  • Is the ICF the only coaching organization that matters, or are there others?
  • What is the difference between life coaching and specialty coaching?

You'll have to click to his article for the answers, but if you do, you'll not only get my views, but the views of Dr. Ken Byers, another life coach, as well. I think you'll find it meaningful reading.

Thanks, Geoff.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Blog Squad Live!

Coaching world update: I've been recruited as a guest blogger for The Blog Squad Live! to report on my experiences and observations at this year's International Coach Federation conference.

The Blog Squad Live! was created by blogging pros Patsi Krakoff and Denise Wakeman. The guest blogger line-up includes:
So if you ever wanted an inside look at what it's like when 1,500+ life coaches get together to sharpen their skills and have some fun, here's your chance to check it out!

Press Release