Thursday, July 31, 2008

Where Are My Keys?!!! And the rest of the story....

Man, was I glad to touch down at Raleigh-Durham airport. Finally! I've been doing a lot of traveling this summer and still have a NY trip next week, but for some reason I was really ready for the trip to Denver to be over.

I found my car in the parking deck and then started searching for my keys. I always put them in a pocket in my travel bag (so I won't lose them) but this trip I took a different bag. Fifteen minutes later, with all my dirty laundry, books, pens, Palm Pilot, money, shoes, and magazines laid out on the concrete I realized that I had lost my car keys. Thank God for Hide-a-Keys!

But being able to get into my car and get back to the house didn't solve my problem. On the way home I ran through all the metal and plastic keys I'd have to replace; car, house, post office box, 2 gym memberships, 4 grocery stores, Blockbuster, the hardware store, a couple of keys that I shouldn't have on my keyring, but do, and one that I don't have a clue what it goes to.

At the outside chance that there might be a good Samaritan in the world I called the police at the airport, talked to lost and found, and described my keys. The officer said, "Yes sir, Mr. Collins, I'm looking at them right here on my desk." Are you kidding me?

And now, here's the rest of the story....I pick up my keys from the wonderful people at RDU and then stop by Kinko's to use their computers. When I sit down at an open computer I notice a notebook beside the monitor. Looking around, there is no one else in the computer area. I take the notebook to one of the counterpeople and he says, "I know who this belongs to and he really needs this thing. I'll call him and tell him you found it. IT WILL MAKE HIS DAY!"

Today is the birthday of Sebastian Spring Kresge. As the great-great grandson of the man who founded the Kresge department store chain, S.S., as he was known, was CEO of the chain for most of his adult life. On his 90th birthday he said, "Find out where you can render a service, and then render it. The rest is up to the Lord." Kresge was probably referring to rendering a business service but the thought is easily broadened to mean any type of service that benefits others.

I am convinced that someone rendering a service that benefited me, turning in my keys, led to me having the opportunity to render a benefiting service to someone else.

Do unto others.....it will help you and them have more Perfect Workdays.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The 30-Second Secret

The 30-Second Secret
This is one of those strategies that you must get if you want to have a Perfect Workday. It is hands-down, the best, simplest, most effective organization strategy I have ever seen.

Here it is: Don’t walk out of your house in the morning and don’t walk away from your desk at lunch and at the end of the day without taking 30 seconds to straighten up a couple of things and put some things away up.

You don’t have to put everything up, just straighten up a little bit up—30 seconds, that’s all I’m asking.

The cumulative effect of this thing is magical. 30 seconds, 30 seconds, 30 seconds, 30 seconds. After awhile you tend to be relatively organized. And if you keep doing this, it will keep you organized.

Don’t let the simplicity of this strategy cause its effectiveness to slip by you. Try it. You’ll find it to be one of the best ideas you can use.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Get Off the Plane!

People who spend a lot of time on airplanes in the course of their jobs have my admiration. I've spent the last two weekends on planes and it's just about killed me. I'll drive all day, but put me on one of those airborne buses with a bunch of folks who look and act like the Culhanes from Andy Griffith and you might as well slip me the purple pill.

The experience reminded me of the crazy people we run into in the workplace. Again, my definition of "crazy" is the stuff people do at work that leads you to say, "Why, on Earth, would you do that?"

My only explanation is this...many adults, in stressful situations, are going to act like spoiled children or grown-up bullies.

Now, here's how I have started handling situations like this. First, I try to ignore it. I know, I know, the sluggoes can get on your last nerve. But, if you let them see that big vein pumpin' on your forehead they think they have some power and they often get worse. So hum a tune, put on some headphones, dig deeper into that paperback or your work and try to focus on something other than the distraction.

Second, if the distraction is in the workplace ask yourself these three questions: Is the distraction affecting my work (by virtue of the fact that it is a distraction it is, but you have to make the call)? Is it affecting the work of others? Is it negatively affecting the image or reputation of the organization?

If the answer is "yes" to any of the three questions then you don't just have a distraction or an annoyance, you have a problem. And if you are the distractor's manager it is your job to confront the distractor and deal with the problem. If you are coworker you have the right to go to your manager and mention the problem. Your manager should handle the situation with the distractor's manager. If this doesn't happen you have the right to go directly to the distractor's manager. And yes, things may get a little sticky here because of workplace politics, so you have to make the call.

I'm bringing this up because the one thing I keep reminding myself when I'm on a flight with Larry, Moe, and Curlina is that the flight will be over sooner or later. Unfortunately, a lot of folks in the workplace don't believe they have that option. You shouldn't have to work in a circus unless it really is a circus.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Your Job Versus a Visit to the Dentist

In the August issue of GQ (yes, even at 56 I check it out to see what clothes I wouldn't be caught dead in) in an article, "Congratulations, You're Fired!," writer Cecil Donahue makes a great point. He writes, "If a visit to the dentist feels like a vacation compared to your job, it's time to be gone." I couldn't agree more.

I'm all for you having a Perfect Workday and a big part of that is enjoying what you do; feeling satisfied at the end of the day that the hours of your life invested in your work have been worthwhile.

The research on work satisfaction is contradictory. In one report a large percentage of workers will say they are satisfied with their jobs. In the next report the majority say they would leave for a wide variety of reasons. Granted, sometimes it depends on who you survey and what time of day it is.

But the point is this: At the end of the day are you glad you went to work? I'll agree that every day can't be blue birds and lemonade. The simple fact, though, is that if you work from the time you are 18 until you are 65 you'll work for at least 11,000 days. And the wild thing about it is that you are not at work for all 11,00 days. You are actually at work for only 8,000 days; the other 3,000 days are the cumulative number of hours you spend thinking/planning/worrying about work while you are on your way to work, on your way home, and lying in bed at night and in the morning. If you are going to spend 11,000 days doing ANYTHING it should mean something.

I don't have to tell you that we live in challenging econonmic times. I have a 50+ friend who has had a tough time getting a job. He was a successful entrepeneur and things went south on him. Now he's in the job market. It's taken him over a year of letting his house go, moving, doing a lot of soul-searching, and now focusing on a new opportunity. But he's done it and I believe he will be as successful in his new venture as he was in his previous career.

Here's a heretical thought: You never have to work just for the money. I know, you say you have bills, kids, a mortgage. But, if you are someone who can work just for the money and you can do a decent job you can always find work. There will always be someone who needs something done if you don't care about what you do. The classifieds are full of those kinds of jobs. In those kinds of jobs a Perfect Workday really is not being there.

If you want a job that matters, something that feeds your soul, you have to look inside. You have to ask yourself about your skills, talents and abilities. You have to sit down with pen and paper or at a computer and write down your description of a Perfect Workday. What would you do? With whom would you do it? Where would you do it?

If all you are looking for is pay, it's out there if you don't care what you do and are willing to do it long enough.

If you are looking for a Perfect Workday I can promise you it's out there. And I can promise you that it never feels like a trip to the dentist.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Snake is Still a Snake

For some reason, an old story as been on my mind lately. The story is about a woman who finds a frozen snake on a path in the woods. She takes the snake home and puts it next to the fire; warms it and revives it. She feeds it bits of chicken and lovingly nurses it back to health.

A few nights later she is sitting on her couch in front of the fire and the snake is dozing next to her. For no reason, the snake uncoils and strikes the woman in the throat. As she sinks to the floor, dying, she looks at the snake and asks, "How could you do that? You would have died if I hadn't saved you and nursed you back to health!"

The snake said, "Yes, and I appreciated your efforts. But, when you picked me up, you knew I was a snake."

I've recently run into a couple of situations in business (like we all do) in which I put my faith in some folks hoping they would act in a manner that ran counter to their history. And I (we) was disappointed...or was I? I had a pretty good idea how they would act. My initial and deeper judgement was right, and my faith cost me.

I'm not saying I won't trust again. I'm sure I will. I keep hoping I'll be wrong. However, there is a lot of truth to the old saying, "Buzzards don't fly with eagles."

How we react to our contacts with other people often determines whether we have a Perfect Workday or not. Don't give up on people, but if you know a snake is a snake, don't be surprised if it bites you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Time Out for Collards and Macaroni and Cheese

My best friend is in town from LA and last night we went to Chapel Hill for a guys' night out. David and I have been friends since college and at our ages (me, 56, him 55) our idea of a big night out is a couple of cold ones, lots of lies, a meal, and back to the hotel by 9.

Our favorite place to eat is Time Out, a 24-hour, 365 day-a-year restaurant that serves Southern, homestyle food. Fried chicken, BBQ chicken, pork BBQ, macaroni and cheese, collards, butter beans, cabbage, mashed potatoes and gravy, and HUGE biscuits are the menu highlights. No hoity-toity food for us. It was definitely an ETYD meal...Eat 'Til You Drop.

Now, what in the world does this have to do with having a Perfect Workday?

Two points....first, you can only run wide open for so long. Find an "outlaw"outlet for your stress; something that is outside the norm for you. Find some way for you to blow it out without doing too much damage. For us, it's Time Out. We can't do too much damage over a plate of mac and cheese. Second, moderation is the key. David doesn't visit all that often so we don't hit the high collesteral roundup every meal.

Letting go every now and then is one of the secrets to hanging on. Find your release and you'll have more Perfect Workdays.

Friday, July 18, 2008

That's a Lot of Bull

Yesterday at breakfast I had a chance to talk to a young bullrider here in Cheyenne. He's riding in the rodeo at the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration. I've always been amazed by these guys. Most of them are relatively small, about 5'9" or less, maybe 150 pounds. But there is a confident air about them; a fearless look in their eyes that is intriguing.

I asked him, "When you're sitting on top of a ton of ticked-off bull with only a rope to hold on to, how do you decide when to tell the handlers to kick open the gate?" (Because when the gate opens the bull explodes)

He said, "There's no best time. You just climb on, take a second to settle in, take a deep breath, and let'er buck."

The first three days of this week we looked at the three sides of the Time Management Triangle, Time, People, and Stuff. The triangle, in the Greek alphabet, is the delta, the symbol for the letter "D." I believe that stands for Decision. Creating a better work life; creating a better life, is all about making decisions. Being willing to, as noted yesterday, step out...or, as the bullrider would say, climb on.

I'm sure sitting in the stands or standing along the fence is more comfortable for a bull rider. One of the great thing about these guys, though, is that they all know the ride doesn't last very long (in fact, the whole objective is to stay on for only 8 seconds) and it ALWAYS ends up in the dirt. Some may finish the ride standing up, some may end up with their faces in the dirt. And yes, in bullriding, as in life, sometimes you get hurt. But the bullriders continue to find the courage to climb on.

The next time you see bullriding scheduled on television (or better yet, at a local rodeo), take a few minutes to watch them. They take their time climbing into the chute and on the bull. They carefully rap the rope around their hand to get a good grip. Sometimes they will reach up to pull their hats tighter on their heads, and then it's a quick nod to the handlers; the decision is made.

We all have bulls in our lives. We all have people who will help us, either in person or through books, cds, dvds. We all know what it takes for us to get settled in. We all have the opportunity to nod and say, "Now."

I know, it's got to be more comfortable standing along the fence than climbing on a ton of mad bull that is trying to put you in the dirt. But, when I asked the young guy what it was like during the few seconds he was on the bull he said, "It's livin'."

What's your bull?

Climb on.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Are You On the Frontier?

I'm in Cheyenne, Wyoming...here on a biz/fun trip...and am lucky enough to be in town for the first two days of the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration, the largest throwdown in Wyoming each year.

Seeing the "Frontier" reminded me of a recent Wall Street Journal Article. The point of the piece was that America has been one of the few societies in the history of humankind founded on the concept of seeking out the frontier. Settlers came to the new frontier, what would become America, seeking a new and better life. Once here, their sons and daughters advanced west to do the same thing. Once we had settled from sea to shining sea we looked up and headed to space, the moon, and points...out...there.

The article noted that today's frontiers are science, technology, business, and how we can grow as humans. To me, that means that as long as we live in a society in which work defines much of life and lifestyle, the new frontier is the idea of work we have in our minds and how we take that idea into the workplace.

There is a wonderful story about a man walking up a road and encountering three men unloading rocks from a wagon. The walker asks the first workman, "What are you doing?"

The workman answers, "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm unloading rocks from this wagon."

The walker asks the second workman, "What are you doing?"

The second man says, "I'm unloading these rocks because we are going to build a wall over there."

When the third workman is asked what he is doing he says, "I am unloading these rocks so that we can build a wall that will be part of a church. It will be a place my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren can worship."

All three men were doing the same job; all three had different ideas about their work.

When I talk to some people about what they do; essentially, when I ask them why they are unloading rocks, some tell me they have a J.O.B. On some level, that means Just Obey the Boss.

When I ask others the same question they talk about their W.O.R.K. On some level, that means a Wonderful Opportunity for Respect and Kindness.

If you can not fathom that your JOB can be your WORK then you have an opportunity to explore a new frontier, to try and look at your work in a new and different way. If you were proud of your WORK at some point in your life but it has deteriorated to a JOB you have the same opportunity.

The explorers (and don't mistake it, the people who put everything they owned in a wagon and pointed it west were definitely explorers) who have defined Americans as a people who sought the frontier started with a step into the unknown, the unfamiliar, sometimes the undesirable. If your worklife is not what you want it to be define your frontier and take a step.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Catch'em Doing Something Right

The best investment you can make in creating a positive workplace is to catch people doing things right. Whether it's your boss, a co-worker, a direct report, or the janitor, catch'em doing something right and thank them.

When people are shown appreciation it literally makes them "feel" good according to The Carrot Principle, a book about how praise not only improves production but actually makes people healthier.

And praise has an echo effect. If you praise a person and others see the praise being given studies show that hey get a good feeling too. Catching people doing things right on a regular basis is the best way to create an "attitude of gratitude" in your workplace. More gets done, people are happier, and increasingly studies are showing that positive organizations are more profitable.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What If You Had Two Weeks Free and Clear?

The third side of the time managemnt triangle relates to ....stuff. I really don't have a better word than "stuff." Stuff refers to all those emails; magazines, newspapers, books and reports you haven't read; the cluttered shelves; and the desk that looks like either a mini food court or a shrine to your family.

The biggest problem we encounter related to stuff is disorganization. I'm always amazed when I talk about the clutter of stuff and people in the audience chuckle and grin at each other like it's a badge of honor! It's like they are saying, "My desk looks like a dump, how about yours?" What a waste!

Here's the deal...the average American workers loses two weeks in time just looking for...stuff. What if you had those two weeks to do anything you wanted to do? On average we waste 15 hours a year looking for car keys.

So, here's the best solution to clutter I've ever seen...I mean, it is hands-down..the..best. It's called The Thirty Second Secret. Here's how it works: Don't ever leave your home in the morning; don't walk away from you desk at lunch or at the end of the day without taking 30 seconds to simply put a few things away.

That's it. 30 seconds. No kiddin'. The cumulative effect of 30 seonds, 30 seconds, 30 seconds is amazing. In a short time you get organized. And as long as you keep up the 30 seconds, you'll stay organized.

Finally, whether you believe it or not, your co-workers and managers are seeing how disorganized. In a survey of managers disorganization was stated as one of the key reasons they DID NOT give workers plum job assignments, raises, and promotions. Think about it...if you are too inefficient to keep your own desk clean, why give you something bigger?

Does all this talk about getting organized make you tired? In the next blog we'll talk about whether a Snickers and cup of coffee is the breakfast of champions.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Time Management and the Fact That People Are Crazy!

The second side of the time management triangle relates to people.

How you manage your personal and work relationships has an impact on your time. If you are one of those wonderfully tactful, patient people who doesn't know how to say, "Sorry, I'm busy right now, could we get together later," and you let someone yammer on and burn up your time you can't complain at the end of the day that you don't know where your time went. The time-wasters stole your time and you let them. There is a wonderful book, 1001 Ways to Say No. Find the book and you will find a variety of ways to get rid of the time-wasters.

On the other hand, investing a small bit of time in catching an employee or coworker doing something right, and praising them, builds your "account" with them so that later, when you are pressed for time, you can delegate a task or ask for help and they will be glad to assist.

The best example of the impact people have on our time is children. Having a child has a dramatic effect on your time. Managing your relationships allows you to better manage your time.

In the next blog you'll see how all the stuff in your life life has an impact on your time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Time Management Ain't About the Clock

I get people all the time whining because they don't have time to get things done. I hate to say it but the comment is silly, and here's the first reason why.

Time management is not about a clock on the wall or a watch on your arm. It's about a triangle. The first side IS time, and you have just as much as everyone else; 1o,080 minutes a week. The biggest problem related to time is procrastination and the best way to deal with procrastination is finding rewards that pull you through the issue you are putting off. The rewards have to be big enough and personal enough to really matter to you. I don't want to put too fine a point on this but if 9/11 didn't prove anything else it proved that humans will do anything, good or bad, if they think there is a reward that matters to them on the other side of the accomplishment.

In my next blog I'll share how the decisions you make about people (especially the talkative/gotta steal your time/needy sluggoes) steal your time.