Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When You Feel Stuck, Focus On What You CAN Do

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Do you ever feel like you are just spinning your wheels-getting nowhere fast? In my time management class I start by helping people look at what they can control vs. what they can't. It seems we wear ourselves out focusing on things over which we have no control.


How often do you get frustrated and start complaining about what someone else did or didn't do? How often do you feel like you are stuck and can't move because someone won't let you do something, the policy is restrictive, or you are waiting for someone to make a decision?


When you feel that way, stop and ask yourself what you can do. You almost always have options if you choose to take them. Here are some suggestions for focusing on what you can do, not on what you can't do.


  1. When you want to do something the "policy" won't allow, talk to several people in charge of the policy to understand why the policy exists. Often times a policy has been put in place because someone did something that no one wanted to address with them, so they wrote a policy for everyone. Sometimes a policy is old and needs to be changed. Many times it is the spirit of the law, not the letter of the language that needs to be followed. Find out the real intention of the policy and act within the latitudes available. Policies can always be changed unless they are the law, so make specific recommendations to the appropriate people if you believe you can improve the policy yet stay within its intention.
  2. When you are waiting for someone else to make a decision, provide to them everything they need to make an informed decision. Provide deadlines for when you need to have information so you can proceed with your part. Tell them the consequences of not having the information to you on time, if there are any. Send periodic reminders so the deadline doesn't slip up on them. If it looks like you won't be able to meet your deadline, let the people waiting for you know that the deadline will not be met so they can plan accordingly. Finally, understand that different people have different priorities. Ask for support from someone higher than you to raise the priority level if necessary.
  3. When the way someone else does their job keeps you from performing your job well, focus on your customer/supplier relationship. This person is the supplier and you are the customer. Talk with them about what you need from them to do your job well. Become a more proactive customer to get what you need so that you can be a good supplier to your customer. If your supplier is not cooperative, go to your manager and discuss what need isn't being served. Perhaps your manager can remove some obstacles or provide different resources.
  4. When someone tells you no, you don't have to stop there. My daughter says that when someone tells her no, she thinks they don't have enough information to say yes. Therefore, she works harder to make her case and prove why what she is proposing is the best way. Do you give up too easily when someone tells you no? Ask more questions to understand why they are saying no. How much effort do you put into your proposal in the first place? Be customer focused when making a proposal and help them say yes.

We are rarely so dead in the water that we don't have choices. If nothing else, we can choose to work on something else until the roadblock is cleared. By focusing on what we can do, even in a small way, we can maintain a positive outlook and feel more empowered in our lives. We are only stuck if we do nothing.


Thanks to Vicki Anderson / Leadership Matters


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Monday, January 31, 2011

Not Everybody's A Superstar

Books On "Human Resource Management"     
Books By "Eric Davis"

It's time to take off the type-A blinders and get some perspective; not everybody in the workplace is a superstar or future leader, and a lot of people don't want to be. They want to work, to get things done, to keep things moving, and to do a good job of it. They don't have huge egos or need constant attention, validation, public praise, or a corner office; however, just because they aren't tooting their own horns every time they do a good job doesn't mean they aren't as valuable to an organization as any recognized hi-po or future leader.

How organizations value people and their contributions can be a source of toxicity and a serious team killer if not managed well. Moreover, i4cp's recent study on performance management shows that, more often than not, it's not managed well. High-performing organizations take the time to do it better, but even among that group less than half (47%) agreed that their performance management processes promoted the desire behaviors to a high or very high extent, and only 42% considered their processes efficient. More telling is that, overall, even fewer employees find the performance management processes to be fair (38%) or valuable (27%), numbers that climb to only 49% and 42% respectively among higher performers.

If you've spent any time in the workforce, you know that it's not uncommon for work groups to be demoralized by a culture that promotes an "either you're a star or your dead weight" mentality. Instead of acknowledging reliable workers as the core of a company, these people are treated like "low-potentials" for not constantly seeking advancement and attention.  Consider, however, how many times you would have paid more for one good follower than ten wanna-be leaders stumbling over each other to take charge and do it their way. Followers are there to focus on the work at hand and get it done, arguably qualities and skills unto themselves.

I'm not saying that high-potential recognition and leadership development aren't important, or that these people don't need a lions-share to stay motivated. It's not about making everybody a winner or not addressing low performance. A lot of talent and initiative are buried out there, with the only missing skill being the art of self-promotion in the void of substandard performance management. With the sad state of most performance management programs, it's no wonder that engagement is dropping while voluntary attrition is rising. Perhaps, it's time to reevaluate priorities in pay-for-performance and work on developing teams rather than focusing the spotlight solely on the stars.

Every superstar needs a manager, a stage crew, a stylist, security, personal assistants, and a cadre of other hard-working people doing what they do best to ensure their success. Think of some of the award show acceptance speeches you've seen, specifically, the list of names you've never heard before being read off a scrap of paper held by a gushing star—the "little people" that made it all possible.

About the Author(s) Eric Davis, Institute for Corporate Productivity. Eric Davis is associate editor at i4cp.

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Tit For Tat: Establishing A Credible Reputation

Books On "Interpersonal Skills"     Books By "AMACOM"    
Books By "David W. Brown"

If you have a new job, you know how important it is to gain the respect of those with whom you now work. Here, I'd like to share with you a very simple strategy to establish a credible reputation in your new organization. It's called "tit for tat," which is to say "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Well, it isn't exactly the golden rule but it is a kind of variation.

Tit for tat asks you to shape a style of play that is both adaptive and consistent. At first blush, to be adaptive and to be consistent seems at odds, but they are not. The strategy of tit for tat has you reciprocate cooperation for cooperation and noncooperation for noncooperation. You adapt to others while offering predictable responses. Such moves build a credible reputation quickly. You become known as someone who is always ready to cooperate but will not be played for a sucker.

Such behavior, however, does not tell you what to do in the initial round of your many two-person multiround games in the organization. Tit for tat would have you cooperate in the first round using the golden rule. If your cooperation is not reciprocated in fair measure, then tit for tat has you reciprocate in kind while remaining ready to return to a cooperative relationship if the other person gets the message and resumes cooperating in your next round together. After the first round, you become known as someone who is conditionally cooperative.

At first glance, tit for tat does not seem to have a mind of its own, but that is not really true. Develop a credible reputation for initiating cooperation but make it clear that you are not willing to let others take advantage of you. The simple progression of play for your tit for tat strategy is (1) cooperate in the first round; (2) continue to cooperate in succeeding rounds as long as the other person cooperates; and (3) be prepared to terminate cooperation immediately if the person defects; but (4) don't hold a grudge if the person resumes cooperation and reciprocates immediately.

Adapting your behavior to others and the consistently with which you do it clarify how you treat others and how you want to be treated. When others find that there is nothing unpredictable about you, you will have fewer adjustments to make. As those who have not yet played the game with you learn about your style of play, they are likely to adapt their play to yours. After all, consistent cooperation is more productive than the short-term gain of defection.

Tit for tat is as effective a strategy, whether you are about to leave your current organization or if you are new to it. Last impressions, just like first impressions, have consequences.

Tit for tat is not a winner's strategy, but it is a way to establish a credible reputation as someone who is ready to contribute to the welfare of colleagues as long as they return the favor. That's not a bad way to introduce yourself to a new organization when people are trying to size you up. It's also not a bad way to be remembered when you leave.

Furthermore, as you go from one position to another, you probably will remain networked with a lot of people who may have little to do with your latest organization. They are your former colleagues from other organizations—a host of pairings where tit for tat also got played out. Wherever you find yourself, you need to continue the practice of tit for tat to maintain or enhance your networking relationships.

Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from Organization Smarts by David W. Brown.  Copyright 2002, David W. Brown. Published by AMACOM.

About the Author(s) David W. Brown is professor of professional practice at the New School's Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy, and coeditor of the Kettering Foundation's Higher Education Exchange. He is author of Organization Smarts, published by AMACOM.

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