Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bugs Bunny Was Right!

Ask more questions.

That’s it.

If you want a more efficient and effective workplace; if you want more Perfect Workdays, you have to ask more and better questions.

Try this exercise: When you go into any type of meeting take a pad and pen and write these seven questions down the left side of the paper: What, Why, Who, Where, When, How, How Much. At the end of the meeting make sure you have good answers for all the questions that apply. Miscommunication and assumptions drop off dramatically.

Look at it this way, Bugs Bunny was right. The more you ask, “What’s up doc?,” the more information you get. The more information you get the better decisions you can make.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Making a List, Checking it Twice

The only way to overcome a lack of focus is with a To-Do List. Short or long, detailed or not, you can’t get around it. And you can’t get around the fact that you should write it down. If you put something on a list it’s 37% more likely to get done, than if you don’t put it on a list.

I started writing the steps for doing a To-Do List and thought, “That’s stupid, these folks know how to do a To-Do List.” So, just to make sure….come up with two lists, a Master List, with everything you have to do, personally and professionally, and a working To-Do List that you create by pulling the things off the Master List that need to be done.

I know, I know…some of you are doing that little whine you do. I can hear you right now, “I don’t neeeeed a list. I know what I have to do.” Right. If your life is so simple that your list would be comprised of : Wake Up and Get Up, I would agree you don’t need a list. Any life more complicated than that, you need a list.

One other thing. If you manage other people, or if you have children over the age of 6, encourage them to do a list. You’ll have more accomplished employees and you’ll raise more ccomplished children.

I’d like to write more, but I’m writing this on Tuesday night and I have to do my list for Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Perfect Workday Triangle

If we are going to work our way out of the economic mess in which we find ourselves the two key words are going to productivity and creativity.

As Americans, creativity has always seemed to be part of our societal DNA. Give us a problem and we can come up with a solution. I can preach for hours about how our open society has been one of the major sources of our creativity.

Productivity is another matter; it’s about getting things done. Here’s the real deal: productivity is about the triangle and interrelationship of time, people, and stuff (ex. tangible resources, tools, information).

Here are the three biggest challenges relating to the three issue above are:

Time…Biggest Problem is Lack of Focus…we have so much stuff coming at us and we often want to try and get so much done that it’s easy to get off track.

People…Biggest problem is Miscommunication…the average American worker wastes 15% of his or her time due to miscommunication…15% of a work year is SEVEN WEEKS! So, essentially, seven weeks worth of your salary if you are just average in terms of miscommunication.

Stuff…Biggest Problem is Disorganization…the average American loses two weeks in time every year just looking for stuff…we lose 15 hours a year just looking for car keys.

For the next three days I’ll give you solutions to the three big problems. For right now, ask yourself these three questions: “How often do I lose focus?” “How often should I ask a question to clarify a misunderstanding?” “How often am I looking for something?”

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fire at Your Fingertips

I gotta get rich and smarter, that’s all there is to it.

If you remember, a couple of weeks ago I made the discovery that rich and smart people don’t produce as much..mmm…waste, as dumb and poor people. My conclusion was based on the fact that Fresh Market, with a target market that is tre’ upscale, carries only one type of toilet paper and it only comes in a 4-roll pack. Food Lion, which sells to those of us in the shallow end of the eco-educational pool has 49 kinds of toilet paper and it comes in packs the size of a postal van.

My new discovery is that rich and smart people can obviously make fire with their fingertips…or some other part of their body! I revisited Fresh Market on Friday (and an assistant manager pointed out that they actually have 2 brands of TP) and asked about matches or a lighter. I was going to grill out and I don’t know how to rub ANYTHING together fast enough to cause it to spontaneously combust.

Miss Fresh Market 2009 informed me that FM does not carry matches or lighters. “I don’t want to smoke in here,” I told her. “I’m just trying to get some charcoal lit.”

Sorry.

Once again, I’m working on the logic thing. Why would a company that touts its fresh fruits and vegetables, roughage in the best sense of the words, have less TP than an average McDonald’s would stock? And with such a wonderful meat department do they believe everyone runs home to make pate’ foi pork chop in the oven?

I wanted to say, “You are in the South, for goodness sakes! They almost didn’t have the Olympics in Atlanta ‘cause no one in this region of the country had ever seen a flame that big that didn’t have a pig near it!”

All I can assume is that for Fresh Market customers lighting a fire is a snap…literally. If their customers aren't using that technique I don’t want to even THINK about where the fire might come from.

Have a Perfect Week.

Friday, April 24, 2009

National Hairball Awareness Day

Please indulge me with another “Day” blog, I promise there’ll be a message.

Today I’m torn about what to celebrate. Today is the first day of the Interstate Mullet Toss in Pensacola, FL. The contest is to see who can throw a dead, one-pound mullet the farthest.

Today is also National Hairball Awareness Day. We are supposed to recognize and help eliminate hairballs in cats.

Finally, today is the first day of National Scoop the Poop Week. We are supposed to catch up on all those “canine calling cards.”

When I read these they immediately brought to mind the fact that even in Perfect Workdays we probably have to do some things we don’t want to do. I know, I know, if it’s a Perfect Workday why would we have to do ANYTHING imperfect during the day?

You know what, I don’t really have a good answer for that.

But, we all know that there are mullets, hairballs, and poop in life that we have to handle…soooooo, I’ve got the answer for you.

Rewards.

If you have to handle some of life’s examples of the unmentionables above give yourself a reward for doing it. In fact, assign an award to an undesirable task and then, when you complete it, you get the prize.

The expectation of a big enough reward can pull you through just about anything.

I expect to have a great weekend. How about you?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Great Could It Be?

What if things were great…could you stand it?

No, really. Many folks go through life with this hum of stress going on in their heads, and when they do encounter a great situation they have a difficult time dealing with it. They can’t believe that things could be that good.

And when the situation does hit a bump, which any life situation will sooner or later, they say, “See, I told you this was too good to be true,” rather than understanding that it’s just a road bump and something to move past so they can get back to the great.

Yesterday, while making a presentation for Administrative Professionals Day, I asked the group to write down two things in their lives that were good, but that they would like to make great. Lots of pens stayed poised in the air.

Later, when I asked a couple of people about the difficulty some folks seemed to have, I realized that the problem was that many of them could not imagine what great would be like.

Ask yourself: Is there something in your life that is good, but you would like for it to be great? What does great look, taste, sound, feel, smell like? What kind of experience would you have to have so that, at the end, you walked away thinking, “Now, that was great!”

Great comes dressed up in a lot of different outfits. Don’t miss great just because you can’t recognize it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Folks Who Make It Happen...Or, Don't!

Here’s to the people who really make things happen! Or don’t!

Today is Administrative Professionals Day. It used to be called Secretary’s Day until the politically correct police got hold of it.

Bosses can do all the yammering, but it’s the administrative folks who either make or break an organization. Think about it, who’s the first person you talk to when you call an organization? If you have a question does the CEO answer it, or someone outside in the front office?

The best administrative professionals are underappreciated and waaaaaaayyyyy underpaid. You could probably take at least 30% of the pay from any executive I’ve ever met, divide it among the couple of efficient people who support him or her and the organization would run a lot better.

However, let’s throw open the doors of truth. All of us have run into administrative staff who had about as much personality as a flounder and couldn’t find their butts with a flashlight and two hunting dogs. They slow the progress of an organization to a crawl and lower morale faster than a “No Raises” announcement. That means the really great administrative people have to handle their own work, AND they have to fill the gaps left by their sluggo co-workers.

So, on this, Administrative Professionals Day, reward the folks who are doing a great job. Tell them you appreciate them and tell them that you know they are pulling more than their own weight.

For those other…mmm….people; get’em a flashlight.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Light's Better Over Here

There’s a great joke that goes like this: A New York cop is walking his beat one night when he happens on a man on his hands and knees on the sidewalk under a streetlight. The cop asks, “Sir, what are you doing down there?” The guy answers that he is looking for his car keys. So the cop kindly starts helping the man look for the keys and after awhile finally says, “We’ve looked everywhere, are you sure you lost them here?” The man answers, “Oh no, my cars across the street and I probably lost them there, but the light’s better over here.” Bada Boom!

Too often we are doing a good job of looking for what we want, we’re just not looking in the right place. I know the job market is supposedly tough right now (and while it is in some jobs and industries, it’s jumping in others). But, if you are conscientious, knowledgeable, and ambitious, and you are not being appreciated where you are maybe you are looking for success and the Perfect Workday in the wrong place.

Life is like that. You can spend your life looking for what you want in the wrong place.

Monday, April 20, 2009

You're Back, Again?!

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Our friends in the military will tell you that you don’t want to have to win the same ground twice. But, in life, we often have the same problems cropping up, or a challenge we thought had been overcome, wasn’t. So, we have to go back out and fight the battle again.

Trying to create a Perfect Workday often includes multiple challenges and very often some of them look familiar. We’ve seen this issue/person/challenge/annoyance before. When it rears its head we ask, “Didn’t I solve/finish/reject/satisfy you?”

When this happens ask yourself another couple of questions:
- Is this really the same problem or something different?
- Why is it back?
- Do I really need to solve it again? Can I just ignore it, or keep an eye on it?
- Can I try a different solution?
- What will it take to solve this problem once and for all…and am I willing to pay the price?

What challenges will you face this week that are recurring issues? Realize that they suck energy out of you, energy you could be focusing on other challenges.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Easy Way

Thomas Jefferson once said, "Grasp all things by the smooth handle."

Going with the flow can be taken in some less than positive directions, but why not take the path of least resistance if it's working for you? Why make things harder than they have to be if you don't have to?

What issue in your life begs for the easy way?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are You a Lark or an Owl?

It is waaaaay too early for me to be up. It’s about 5:30 am and I'm wide awake. Went to bed last night at about 10:30 (early for me) so I guess I’ve had a full night’s sleep. The problem is that I’ll be slowing down this evening at about 6 or 7 and I have a seminar to present at 6 pm.

Understanding how your energy flows can be one of the most important discoveries on your way to a Perfect Workday. Ask the question: Are you a morning person or an afternoon and evening person?

The phenomenon is Circadian Rhythms, the process in our bodies that adjusts when our energy ebbs and flows.

From a practical standpoint, if you have what you think will be a stressful meeting or activity and you can schedule when it would occur, schedule it for your Prime Time, when your energy is up. You will be better able to deal with the stress, you’ll think and talk faster, and you will be able to recover from the stress more rapidly.

In their wonderful book, The Power of Full Engagement, authors Loehr and Schwartz note, “Energy is the fundamental currency for high performance.” If you will notice, high achievers almost always have high energy levels.

If you do not normally have a high energy level then you must maximize the energy peaks you do have.

I’m willing to bet that you already know if your dominant energy style is that of a Lark (morning) or Owl (afternoon and evening). Try to start scheduling tasks to flow with your energy level and see if you don’t have more Perfect Workdays.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Recession: Don't Participate

Like many of you I have a friend who has been downsized, riffed, layed off, let go. He’s pretty low right now because he’s a great guy, does great work, and, understandably, has a difficult time figuring out why he was one of the ones with a bullseye on his back.

From what he says, and what I can see, it was simply a management decision. But, there’s nothing simple about it when it affects you or the people you love.

However, events like this are often part of life in early 21st Century America.

So, here’s the deal. THEY may get to choose if you are one of the ones who takes a hit. But, YOU get to choose how you will handle the challenge.

I ran into a guy the other day who has a wonderful take on the situation. He says, “You know that recession thing? I’ve decided not to participate.” His attitude sounds simplistic, but it shows a positive way of looking at life that I really like. He’s going to keep moving, keep creating, and keep being productive. He knows that America is a great society and things will come around and he wants to be positioned for the growth when it comes.

A lot of the times in life you can’t choose the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as Shakespeare would say. But, you certainly can choose your attitude about them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Don't Be Looking Out the Oarhole

This morning I was presenting “Why Do People Act Crazy at Work?” to a group of state employees.

Many of these folks are getting pretty antsy about how budget cuts will affect their jobs. I explained that, yes, some people are going to be cut no matter how good a job they have done. The problem is that they work in areas that are considered expendable.

However, I also pointed out that now is the time to work in a manner that shows people that you are not expendable. Show them that of all the people who can go, you need to be the one they keep.

If it doesn’t work out and you are one of the people who has to leave three things are working in your favor: First, you have built some momentum so you can keep the energy going and look for something new. Second, you can leave with a clear conscience that you did the best you could. Third, people will remember that you were one of the ones who was truly trying to make a difference. When it comes time to rehire you may be one of the first they consider.

Times are tough for a lot of folks, no doubt. But, now is not the time slow down on the pace of rowing. It's like in the old Roman movies. When Caesar looked down in the hold of the galley he wanted to see everyone rowing. Now is the time that we need everyone rowing. We don’t need some folks looking out the oarhole and getting a free ride off everyone else’s efforts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Krispy Kreme and Crack

Can anyone tell me if there is a connection between crack cocaine and Krispy Kreme mini-crullers? There must be, considering how I tore into a bag of them on Sunday.

Yesterday was my birthday. I had WILD day! I ate ¾ of a bag of Krispy Kreme mini-crullers and drank a quart of ice-cold milk and then went upstairs and took a nap. No end to the excitement around here!

I’ve had lots of birthdays on which I’ve done crazier, more active, and more expensive things, but this year I did exactly what I wanted to do.

One of the rewards of stringing together a number of Perfect Workdays is to create a day…a Perfect Day… in which you get to do exactly what you want to do. It doesn’t have to be your birthday, it can be any Saturday or Sunday, or, for that matter, any day of the week that you have the freedom to take off. It is, in fact, a mental health day.

If you don’t occasionally have a day that you get to do what YOU want, then what’s all this work and effort for?

Don’t just create the Perfect Day once a year, on your birthday; look for a day once a quarter, or once a month.

I know you have responsibilities. What you have to realize is that your first responsibility is to yourself.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Bunny Hop

How slack have I been! This is the first time I've missed a couple of days in a row.

Wasn't out partying so hard after the Tar Heels won that I couldn't get to a computer, just been on the road almost constantly. I feel like the Easter Bunny hopping from one thing to another.

The lesson I learned is that sometimes things get done and sometimes they don't. But, the world keeps turning and things work out.

Take that into a great Easter weekend. Look at Sunday as a day to be thankful for what you have and don't worry about what you don't.

Hope the bunny comes to see you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Franklin Street at 1 AM

Ok, it’s 8:30 pm on Tuesday night and I’ll admit that it’s kinda late to be posting the blog for Tuesday.

But, coach, I’ve got an excuse!

At 1 am I was on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill watching the jubilant crowd after the Tar Heels SPANKED the Michigan State Spartan’s for the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship!

Standing on a wall outside the Methodist Church in downtown Chapel Hill I watched my life cruise by me in a span of about 5 minutes. I saw every person I have been and am in other people. From the straight-laced freshman in khakis and buttoned down oxford blue shirt and Weejuns, to the wild guy senior in shorts, a Carolina t-shirt and flip-flops, to the 30s/40s guy partying with his friends, to the mid-50s guy on the edge of the crowd, I was right there.

Then, of all days, I had to be a grown-up this morning and lead a seminar. Had about a half-dozen people in the seminar wearing Carolina garb.

Will be back in the morning with a blog, but couldn’t resist saying Go Heels! one more time, and congratulations a group of young guys who have played under tremendous expectations all year. Being good is one thing, but being anointed by the national press as the Second Coming, then stumbling, and then recovering and racing through the tournament like thoroughbreds is something else.

Go Heels!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Twinkies and Tar Heels

I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that when you get to a certain age life should be the way you want it to be. For some people that age comes sooner than it does for others; for the others, it obviously comes later. No matter, though. If you are going to truly live life, you have to make a decision that the time has come.

Here’s a wonderful example: Today is the anniversary of the creation of the Hostess Twinkie. A friend of mine used to take a little straw (the kind you stir coffee with) and stick it in the end of the Twinkie. She would then suck all the creamy filling out. You’d see a plate of Twinkies in front of her and they’d look kinda deflated. She, however, would not look deflated at all. In fact, she’d have this huge smile on her face.

I’m getting to the point that I’m going to start looking at life like that. I have to. If I don’t, life will fly by me, and at the end I’ll look back and regret having not lived it to the fullest. So, if I want to suck all the creamy filling out of Twinkies I’m going to do that. Life’s too short to have it not be the way you want it to be. Or at least, to not try and make it the way you want it to be.

In order to make life like you want it there are usually difficult decisions you have to make and difficult discussions you have to have. It would be nice if it was easy. We all want tidy solutions to life (which is an untidy process). Sucking the filling out of Twinkies can get messy and there is always some cleaning up to do…and, unless you can find someone who likes the cake part of Twinkies, there will always be casualties in making some of those difficult decisions.

Here’s to Twinkies, to smiling, and to recognizing that “live” is an active verb.

Finally, my Tar Heels play for the National Championship tonight. If you don’t have a favorite, pull for light blue. If you go to Franklin Street after the victory I’ll be the guy with Twinkie filling in my hair!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Most Dangerous Three Words

While speaking at the NC Association of County Clerks yesterday we discussed the importance of asking questions. The more questions you ask the more information flows to you; the more information you have the better decisions you are able to make.

Near the end of the discussion I asked the question, "What are the three most dangerous words in life?" Lots of good answers popped up, not the least of which was, "I love you."

But, the most dangerous three words are, "What about me?"

When people start asking, "What about me?," it shows a measure of dissatisfaction. The feeling of being dissatisfied can lead to a wide range of issues and actions that signal a need for change in life.

In work settings, when the question is asked it means that someone does not feel that they are getting their fair share of money, attention or promotions. In marriages, asking "What about me?" usually means that one partner believes that they have been doing most of the giving. In caregiver relationships the question will be asked as the caregiver begins to feel overwhelmed.

Is there an area in your workday, or in your life, in which you feel the need to ask, "What about me?" If so, what would help you feel fulfilled? If you can describe it, you can ask for it. If you can ask for it, will you?

Have a great weekend, and pull for the Tar Heels in the Final Four.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Let Me Tell You a Secret

You know that I am all about fun.

Am in Atlantic Beach, NC, with a group for the NC Association of County Clerks...now, if it seems that these folks couldn't be further from fun you couldn't be further from the truth. They are wide open!

Outpsoken, open about offering suggestions, and great senses of humor are the best descriptions for what the group was like this morning. At lunch one of the members let me in on the fact that a lot of these folks have known each other for a long time and have no trouble bringing up tough issues. One of them said, "We know what to expect from each other and can rely on their honesty, candor, and confidence."

We all need someone like that description. Do you have someone in your life to whom you can open up; someone who will give you honest, but positive, feedback? Do you have someone who will build you up, not tear you down, or take what you've said and use it against you?

We often cruise through life with blinders on, not knowing whether or not what we are seeing and hearing is the truth. What we all want is a confidant; what we all need is trust and truth.

If you have someone who can be a confidant count yourself as fortunate. If you don't have someone like that, start working on finding someone. If you act as a confidant for someone, they will more than likely act as one for you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Grown-Ups Are Out of the House!!

April is National Humor Month! That’s not an April Fool’s Joke.

Today is a great day to start the month with a lighter heart. And, in today’s life the one thing that can get you through all the dreariness is a sense of humor.

Charlie Chaplin said that humor is serious business. You have to make a habit of looking for fun, it doesn’t just happen.

If you do not already have digital and hard-copy fun files, you need to start them today. Collect funny quotes, cartoons, stuff (ex. funny toys), lists, analogies, definitions, and observations.

Be careful about cynical or negative humor. Research shows that that sort of humor does not have the same healing, uplifting affect as positive humor.

Fun and humor strategies can be used as diffusers of conflict, educational tools, stress relief, as meeting ice-breakers, in memos/messages/emails, and to help people deal with change.

I keep a collection of joke books nearby. When I have a down moment or day, I reach for one of the books and read jokes until I find one that makes me laugh out loud. Problem solved.
Find reasons for fun and to smile.

In fact, I’m headed to Atlantic Beach, NC, for two days of seminars, and I’m planning on having a ton of fun in addition to the fun I have presenting seminars.

Since I’ll be out of town for two days blogs may be a little late or non-existent. So, while I’m gone, look at it like the grown-ups being out of the house. Have some fun!