A recent Workplace Survey conducted in eleven countries by the global executive staffing firm, Robert Half International, found that your  boss can be a source of great stress. Duh? Not surprising, but the reason can often be attributed to a lack of management skills, not just to the fact that he or she may be a jerk.

Other stressors in the modern workplace include:

  • increased workload
  • too few people to handle the job
  • unpleasant work environment (colleagues and office gossip)
  • inappropriate pressure from the boss
It sounds to me as if the modern workplace could use a huge dose of slow.
First, it is no wonder that more and more people are stressed out, given the bare bones staff with which many industries are forced to operate. Then, consider placing someone ill-equipped in a position of power. Add too few resources such as time, money and personnel, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
Management skills are something everyone can learn. Just take a look at this beautiful performance leadership matrix, developed by Dan McCarthy,  Director of Executive Development Programs (EDP) at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire.

Courtesy of GreatLeadershipbyDan.com

According to Dan’s nifty model, if you’re forcing people to take action, but it has no impact on performance, that’s just plain nagging (note to self: remember the next time you insist that your kids brush their teeth RIGHT NOW, that maybe it could wait a minute). If you’re asking for action and it does impact performance, that’s managing (if, say, it’s been a while since they brushed). No action, no impact ~ you’re on vacation. No action, BIG IMPACT ~ you’re an osterich leader.
Some may have more inherent leadership talent than others, but giving people the tools to do their job will place everyone in a better position. I’m a big fan of guided training; that is, offer up pre-assessment, the training itself, then follow up with a post-training assessment. Life’s in the details. That goes for work too. For all you HR folks listening out there: follow up is everything to ensure your return on investment (ROI) hit the mark. Would you throw money at something just to say you did it? Of course not! The same goes for training. It’s worth seeing what stuck and what didn’t.
Imagine being led by someone who knows less than you? Perhaps you are a technical wizard, while your supervisor made a move across industries to land the job above you.
Now imagine how you might become an invaluable resource to that person because you know your stuff. Your boss will come to you in a pinch. Being a go-to person places you in your own position of power. You are indispensible. Chances are he or she won’t toss you under the bus (or the boss?), as long as you’re performing.
And that’s the clincher. Performance depends a great deal on your office environment. If you can’t stand the people you work with, you are more likely to experience low levels of motivation. That’s when it’s time for an assessment of your own. What are you willing to live with? What not?

Many thanks to Psychology Today reader Kallin, who pointed me to this mind map, courtesy of LearningFundamentals.com.au. It beautifully illustrates how we can regain control of the things we do in the time that we have.

Happy Monday Morning, All!

Simple Ways to Slow - Courtesy of LearningFundamentals.com.au

Is it Wednesday again? Well, you know what it’s time for, then! This week’s Wednesday Wait a Minute examines strategic speed and how going fast isn’t always, well, faster.

HuffPost’s Russell Bishop embraces the slow in his new book, Workarounds that Work. Baseline magazine did a nifty slide show (I just love their slide shows!) to illustrate the points below.

1.       Tangible results come from setting clearly defined goals.

2.       Prioritize. Ask yourself: Will this task make for my team or organization?

3.       Examine how much time you spend working around things versus accomplishing them. Eliminate any beating around the bush.

4.       Fix it, then move on. Complaining is a top time waster!

5.       Those who seek to please are a time drain because they value everyone’s happiness over action. Avoid consensus seekers.

6.       Don’t procrastinate. Approach undesirable tasks as you would a great workout. Remember how good you’ll feel when it’s over!

7.       Only have meetings with those directly involved. Eliminate external voices that only add white noise to the conversation.

8.       Focus during meetings ~ gadget-free!

9.       Close your inbox. Email shouldn’t disrupt, but inform.

10.   Read the latest email thread while eliminating the ‘repeats. Email begets email so don’t respond when no response is needed.

A man after my own slow heart!

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Take Back Your Time

August 2, 2010

Time challenges pervade many workplaces. We feel piled up, dumped on or both as we try to swim our way to the surface. It has to do with work flow issues and unclear prioritization.

When we are in reactive mode, we allow external circumstances to inform our day. What the boss said, how the meeting went, where you’re going next…if we are clear about our goals (and the agreements to reach them), we are much better off. We place ourselves in proactive mode, which is a much more powerful place to be.

“I’m not in control of my calendar,” one HR executive told me recently. She has five administrative assistants who place meetings on her schedule, thereby leaving her with back-to-back meetings with no breaks all day long.

Not good.

Centralization is called for here. That is, having one person act as the time gatekeeper. The admin team needs to coordinate amongst themselves to avoid such inhuman demands.

It is a situation I saw happen often when working at an investment firm in Boston.

“I haven’t had a lunch in months,” my boss used to say. I tried to keep his calendar clear for breaks in between, but the hierarchy of the organization trumped those efforts frequently. He was also the one who used to say to me: “I will do this job as long as I’m having fun. The moment is turns not fun is the moment I’m out of here.”

He left the company shortly after I did.

If nothing else, Corporate America taught me a tremendous lesson about our relationship with time. We have as much of it as the next.  The question is what do we do with it and who really is in control?

It is time that we take back our time and work together as a team to reach our ultimate goals. Besides, a happy worker is a more productive one. Owning our time informs that happiness to a very large degree.

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June 20, 2010

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