Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Everything You Know vs. What's Requested

It's not unusual for vendor sales reps, customer support personnel, account managers, IT directors, and others, to be reassigned this time of year. And it's not unusual for the departing individual to provide all sorts of non-essential "turnover" information to the replacement.

It's not unusual for a boss to ask for a crisp one page memo on a topic. And it's not unusual for the person writing that "one-pager" to actually submit a multi-page report, complete with pictures and charts and fancy headings.

It's not unusual for a co-worker to ask for the facts associated with a problem that happened while s/he was on break or lunch or vacation. And it's not unusual for the co-worker asked to provide all sorts of commentary and opinion before offering one shred of factual evidence on the matter.

In each of these cases, someone (quite possibly with the best of intentions) responded with everything they knew about the matter rather than with what was requested. And in each case, their over-response was unnecessary and inappropriate.

When you ask someone for some information, do they respond with everything they know, or with what's requested?

When someone asks you for some information, do you respond with everything you know, or with what's requested?

Remember, just because someone wants to know what time it is, it doesn't mean that they also want to know how a watch works!

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Friday, May 26, 2006

What does your boss want from you?

Some bosses prefer you tell them only good news.

Some bosses insist that whenever you bring them a problem you need to also bring a fix for the problem.

Some bosses are more interested in your information being timely - news - whether it's good or bad, whether you've got a solution to go with it, or not.

Some bosses want you to ask for permission; others want to be updated after-the-fact. Some bosses want to know your underlying strategy; others only want to know if things didn't work out as planned. Some bosses are more relaxed early in the morning; others prefer late in the evening.

Many bosses prefer you to send important messages via email. Others prefer you to send them via voicemail.

Many bosses prefer you to implement sweeping changes. Others prefer you to implement incremental ones.

Many bosses prefer you minimize problems by anticipating them. Others prefer you minimize problems by responding alertly to them.

What does your boss want from you? Clearly, you need to know.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Happy B'day to Me!

... and many moooooooooore!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Who Needs to Hear What from Whom?

Conversations can be funny things.

Sometimes we need to have conversations so that we can hear something from someone else. Other times we need to have conversations so that someone else can hear something from us. And knowing which type of conversation to have when is key.

Here's the exercise:
  1. Make a list of 3-5 people in your personal and/or professional world who you feel out-of-balance with. Decide whether the issue is you needing to hear something from them (information, acknowledgement, recognition, permission, etc.) or if it's something that they need to hear from you (information, acknowledgement, recognition, permission, etc.).
  2. Have that (set of) conversation(s).

You may notice that the specific content to be discussed is quite possibly the exact same for either type of conversation. Nevertheless, they are conversations for entirely different purposes.

Knowing who needs to hear what from whom at any point in time is an important realization to keep top-of-mind.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cooking in the Key of Life

As a follow-up to Wednesday's post, Strumming in the Key of Life, this just in from the June/July 2006 issue of Every Day with Rachel Ray:


Q to Rachel: What recipe are you the proudest to serve?

A from Rachel: Anything I serve my family, because it's made with the most love and my sharpest attention.


Q to Rachel: I'm 14 and thinking about becoming a chef when I'm older. Do you have any tips for me?

A from Rachel: Never be a food snob. Learn from everyone you meet - the fish guy at your market, the lady at the local diner, farmers, cheese makers. Ask questions, try everything and eat up!


Q to Rachel: Would you have a tip or tow on how to make dreams come true?

A from Rachel: Work hard. Laugh when you feel like crying. Keep an open mind, open eyes, and an open spirit.
As in cooking, as in life!

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Strumming in the Key of Life

The cover story of the May 2006 issue of Guitar Player magazine is titled, "99 Ways to Play Better Now: Tips from your Favorite Guitar Players!" and it struck me that so as the guitar, so in life.

See if you can connect the dots between what several of them said about music and what you already know to be true about life, happiness, and success at work or play:

  • "Incorporate the feel of what someone plays into your style rather than the actual notes." - Bonnie Raitt

  • "The best performances are completely unselfconscious - where you're inside the music, and it's leading you and you just follow where it goes." - Bill Nelson

  • "Don't spend more time worrying about what it is you're supposed to be doing, rather than just doing the work. Once I was stuck while trying to write some new music, and I asked my friend Wayne Horvitz how he did it. He gave me a pencil sharpener. The moral? There are no short cuts, so stop whining and get on with it!" - Bill Frisell

  • "Tone has more to do with touch than gear." - Eric Johnson

  • "Get in touch with your uniqueness." - Ty Tabor

  • "All it takes is to hear a little improvement in your playing, and that little bit of inspiration is often enough to push you even further." - Wes Montgomery

  • "Don't be precious about anything - much less a certain guitar sound. There is always another interesting sound or effect just waiting to be discovered." - Robin Guthrie

  • "Listen more to the other players on the bandstand than you do to yourself," - Bill Kirchen

  • "Remember that the reputations of some of the greatest jazzmen ever are built on eight-bar solos. Too many guitarists play solos that are way too long." - John Hall

  • "Remind yourself that you're free to feel great instead of reserved or insecure. You automatically become a better musician in becoming a more aware individual." - Eric Johnson

  • "The enemy of inspiration is self-doubt." - Nels Cline

It all sounds like good stuff to remember, doesn't it?!

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Friday, May 12, 2006

A chance for you to help others ...

What do you do to recover from a bad mood sooner?

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Your Personal S.W.O.T. Analysis

Anyone who's been through an MBA program knows about the "vaunted" S.W.O.T. analysis - but it really is a quick and easy way to get an overview of what's going on inside and outside an organization that's likely to affect (or is affecting) its ongoing success.

But did you knowthat you can also use the S.W.O.T. as a self-analysis tool, too? Here's how:

Take out a clean sheet of paper and draw the following 2x2 matrix:

Now, spend no more than 20 minutes total (5 minutes per cell) competing your personal S.W.O.T. analysis, based on the following definitions:

  • My Strengths - Your personal/professional talents, skills, and abilities
  • My Weaknesses - Your own personal/professional limitations, dislikes, and soft-spots
  • My Opportunities - The things that (and people who) motivate, inspire, and empower you.
  • My Threats - The things that (and people who) frighten, unnerve, and discombobulate you.

Evaluate your conclusions; Tweak your life as necessary.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"And what will I do if THAT doesn't work?"

Contingency plans are important. Having a backup plan has saved many an important project, presentation, and/or deliverable. But sometimes it makes sense to have more than one alternative at-the-ready. The key question to ask yourself is this:
"And what will I do if THAT doesn't work?"
Overkill? Maybe. But the logic is clean - if it's important enough to get it right, then best you know what to do if things go wrong.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

In favor of (yet another) coffee break

"Don't feel guilty about the breaks you've been sneaking at work - they could be helping you learn." So reports Elise Kleeman in her May 2006 article in Discover magazine, titled, "Relax and Think Like a Rat," based on the work of some neuroscientists at MIT:

The experiment: Put lab rats into unfamiliar mazes and monitored their behaviors upon completion of their exploration.

Findings: The rats routinely rested after each 'test.' But their short-term memory neurons were busy at work repeatedly reviewing the maze's path - in reverse - at speeds up to 10 times faster than the original experience.

Interpretation: "This implies that it's not just during an experience that learning occurs," says David Foster, head of the research team. "If we're right, the period after the experience is just as important, but maybe more important."

Implication: All of those late-morning or mid-afternoon Starbucks' run might not be such a bad thing. Not only do they provide that added caffeine kick, but they might also be providing us the opportunity to integrate the day's learning into our longer-term memories.

Who knew?!

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gremlins on Parade

Many of you are, no doubt, familiar with the Gremlin - that voice inside your head that's always telling you what's wrong with you. Or maybe you know the Gremlin by some other name - see http://www.ggci.com/NotCoaching/NotGremlin.htm.

But what can you do when your Gremlin is being particularly loud, boorish, and obnoxious to you?

The first thing is to remember, as Richard Carson, author of Taming Your Gremlin says, that "your Gremlin knows precisely how to get your attention and will create movies in your head suited to your vulnerabilities." So remember that whatever generalizations your Gremlin happens to make will likely sound particularly compelling you to - even if it is factually inaccurate. Let me repeat that last part ... Even if it is factually inaccurate.

Second, remember that your self-concept - AND the one being espoused by your Gremlin - "is faulty for one simple reason: you are not a concept." You're a human being and far too complex to be categorized in such absolute terms. So don't let your Gremlin delude you into thinking it knows more about yourself than you do. It really doesn't; it just wants you to think so.

Third, remember that Gremlin visits are often excellent opportunities for personal growth. You see, while a Gremlin's conclusions are rarely correct, its chattering can actually point us to a constructive learning edge by showing us that we need to learn how to better handle criticism, to feel more comfortable in uncomfortable settings, to recover more quickly from disappointments, as examples.
See the shift? It goes from Gremlin being all knowing, to Gremlin being all wrong, to Gremlin being a catalyst in facilitating our continued development.
Last, remember that you're very good at many things and some of them need your attention right now. So, the sooner you can actually re-engage yourself in what you already know you do well, the sooner your Gremlin-itis will subside AND the sooner can start benefitting from its resultant - that is, constructive - insights.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

How Companies Deliver Bad News

How do YOU deliver bad news?

source: April 2006 issue of T&D magazine

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