Archive for the ‘Self-Growth’ Category

When the squeaky wheel deserves the grease—and when to just change the tire

Friday, July 2nd, 2010
© Peter Burnett |

© Peter Burnett |

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  Whenever my mother said that to me, it meant “Stand up for yourself!  Speak up!  Don’t let the world run you over!”

And as usual, she was right.

But there’s another kind of squeak that really shouldn’t get a bit of attention.  It still does, but it really shouldn’t.  It’s the squeak-squeak-squeak of excuses and complaints.

When someone tells you why they didn’t meet their goals, why they missed the meeting, why their productivity is down for the third decade running, THAT’S a squeak worth ignoring.  But too often we rush in with the grease, assuring the squeaker that it’s okay, that everybody has those decades, blah bah blah.  In the process, we enable the next squeak, and the next.  Worse than that, we’ve pretty much GUARANTEED it.  Hey, why stop squeaking if it brings all that yummy attention?

Yes, it’s true—everybody whines once in a while.  It’s part of being human.  But when someone is a serial whiner and a compulsive excuse-maker, it’s usually an indication that the person has not aligned his or her personal plan with the company’s interests and is busily boohooing about how uncomfortable that is.

If someone is a professional and doesn’t have a quarterly plan they’ve developed with specific numbered goals and deadlines for initiatives, all tied into the organization’s objectives, it’s time to get out the jack and change that tire.  Hard to hear but true. Companies don’t have time to babysit and spoon-feed during difficult times.

There’s another kind of squeak, though—one that deserves all the attention you can give it.  It doesn’t come after the fact (“I didn’t meet the deadline because…”) but BEFORE things go wrong.

Let’s call it “positive squeaking.”

Positive squeaking happens when a team member has her eye on the ball so well that she notices a project going off the rails BEFORE it’s too late—and squeaks her team, herself, even her boss back onto the rails in the interest of the objective.

Positive squeaking calls it tight, insists on deadlines, rejects excuses.  Positive squeaking doesn’t say, “It’s not my fault—I sent an email last week and never heard back.”  It picks up the phone.  It walks down the hall and knocks on office doors until it gets answers.  Heck, it camps out on doorsteps.  It won’t take silence for an answer.

Annoying?  Sure it is.  All squeaks are.  That’s why they get the grease. But a squeak that’s insisting on the objective and refusing to take excuses—well, that’s a squeak well worth greasing.

Follow through to get the bang for your training buck

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
© Jgroup |

© Jgroup |

One semester in middle school, we had the option of taking a bowling class for gym. And I remember clearly, as my ball headed into the gutter time after time—the instructor kept harping on one thing: “Be sure to follow through.”

Follow through? Why? It never made a lick of sense to me. Once the ball is out of my hands, what difference does it make what my arm does?

Finally I got sick of scoring in the low peanuts every game and thought I’d try it. I let the ball go and allowed my arm to continue in a perfect arc.

I can still hear the sound of that strike.

According to the American Society for Training & Development’s Benchmarking Forum, the average annual expenditure per employee on training was $1424 in 2005 (the last year of complete data). But the most successful and productive companies invest $1616 per employee.

Coincidence? You wish. Training provides the best ROI of any investment you can make in your business, period. But there’s something else those high-performing companies do—they follow through after the training is complete. The best way to get results from your training dollars is to expect and measure immediate application of what is learned. Measurement and celebration of the results from the training program need to start within 24 hours of a session or the application of the learned material drops like a stone.

When you work with a training consultant, make sure they don’t pull up stakes and head for the hills five minutes after the last session is over. Good training ALWAYS includes a specific, detailed follow-up plan—or it’s not training. It’s flushing.

Create Better Results by Revisiting Your Company Values Part II – Video

Saturday, April 17th, 2010
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The values you stand for as an organization are what everything else is based upon and what drive your results. Let’s talk about some specific company values that are crucial to achieving better results.

Did you watch part I of Create Better Results by Revisiting Your Company Values? If not, you may want to check it out and then continue with this post.

Dealing with conflict directly. There are a couple of ways to deal with disagreements. You can directly approach the person and tell them you disagree and what you recommend. If instead you decide to gossip and talk about it with everyone else BUT the person you disagree with, you are going to have a mess.  People gossip because they don’t feel good about themselves so they think they must put someone else below them to fix the problem.  How do they really feel after they’ve done that? Even worse about themselves. Listening to gossip is just as bad.

Living your word: Meeting deadlines and commitments. What does living your word mean as a value? If you know there’s no way you’re going to get a project done, before you miss the deadline you say, “I just wanted to let you know I’m behind and don’t want you to be surprised. Here is my massive corrective action plan.” What do you do after you miss the deadline? Bring it up, don’t cover it up. Say, “I’m behind. Here’s what I’m doing to get caught up.” Not doing that in your weekly report is incongruous with integrity. We don’t expect perfection, but we do expect honesty and integrity and living your word. We all blow it sometimes, but are you admitting it when you do? That’s what living your word means.

What values do you stand for as an organization? Leave a comment and let me know!

Point of Clarification—Honest Courage in the Service of Clarity

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
© F4f |

© F4f |

I had a colleague years ago named Sandra.  Sandra had a very special skill.  It’s one part honesty and three parts courage—and it made her an indispensible part of any meeting.

I remember one meeting where a consultant kept using a word that no one in the room knew.  Not that anyone admitted this, of course.  We all sat there like lumps, all assuming that we were the only ones who didn’t know the word, and all afraid to show it.

“You have to realize that the customer may be coming to your brochure with an entirely different hermeneutic framework.”

“It’s essential to take the hermeneutics of your ad campaign into account.”

What worried me most was that this word “hermeneutic” kept coming up alongside words like “essential” and “crucial.”  But did I raise a hand?  Not on your life.

“Excuse me,” Sandra said at last. “You keep using that word—’hermeneutic.’  I don’t know what that means.”

The reason I know for certain that no one else in the room knew the word either was the sudden, visible relaxation of all shoulders around the table, accompanied with a dozen little sighs of relief.  We were going to learn the meaning after all, thanks to Sandra’s honest courage.

The next time you find yourself in the same situation—not understanding something, and certain that all those around you do—know that the likelihood that others are also sitting in silent incomprehension is somewhere around (hmm, let me do the math here…carry the six…) somewhere around 100 percent.  And if everyone else DOES happen to know what’s going on, know that it is 100 percent permissible to reveal that you don’t know everything because NO ONE DOES.

So do everyone a favor.  Be like Sandra.  Be the one who is honest and courageous enough to ask for clarification.  You’ll be an asset to workplace communication and a hero to your colleagues.

Oh, and hermeneutics?  The consultant said it means “interpretation.”  Why he couldn’t just say “interpretation” in the first place is a topic for another day.

The Terrible Trio—Vampires, Victims, and Whiners (oh my!)

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
© Khz |

© Khz |

Part 1:  The Energy Vampire™

“They are Vampires, and their modus operandi is not to steal your blood but rather, your precious energy. Your life-force. Your mojo.  To drain you emotionally and psychologically. To frustrate you with their repetitious, self-indulgent, attention-seeking diatribe.”—Craig Harper

She doesn’t wear all black.  You can see her reflection in mirrors. She likes garlic just fine.  Yet her coworkers know she is a vampire as soon as they open their mouths.  But it’s not blood she’s sucking—it’s positive energy.

“I’m up for a promotion,” you say. “Isn’t that great?”

“Hey, a higher cell in the prison. Congrats on that,” she replies with a smirk.

“Sales are going to be up, up, up this year,” you say.

“That’s only because they were in the toilet last year.”

“My glass is half full.”

“You call that a glass?”

You get the idea.  And you know this person, I’ll bet.  These vampires are as common in the workplace as their bloodsucking cousins are in Anne Rice novels.  Within seconds, they can take your great day and make it miserable.

The vampire’s arsenal is limitless, from rolling eyes and crossed arms to smirks, whining, name-calling…you name it. Whatever the form, know that you have the right to protect yourself and to call the vampire out.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we’ve ALL have had our moments like this—times when we can’t think of anything good to say and seem to want to guarantee the same fate for everyone around us.  But that doesn’t make it okay.

Next time you find yourself on the sharp end of the Energy Vampire’s smile, your job is to suck away their NEGATIVE energy just as hard.  They thrive on commiseration, so deny it!  Answer each pronouncement of darkness with something like, “Oh I don’t know about that—I like working here!”  Then watch how fast they shrivel up and blow away.

Now if the person is part of your responsibility, you’ll need to get serious about this.  It’s up to you to either convert the vampire to a productive human or join the mob with pitchforks and torches and get that person out of the company before their toxic behavior spreads—and you end up with a company full of the walking undead!