Email Sucks!


Ask anyone at your place of work what they think of email and they’ll probably roll their eyes, groan and tell you about the 1500 emails they have in their inbox.  Probe further and they’ll tell you all their pet peeves about how it is misused by everyone but them.  Despite this, email can be an effective, efficient, and necessary tool for all business.  So how do you get more of the good, and less of the bad that email has to offer?   Continue reading

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Want Solutions? Ask the Right Questions.


If I have to inform you of a problem and I know you will ask me a series of questions about why it happened, I will prepare by coming up with a series of explanations and rationalizations to justify the problem.qmark master

If I have to inform you of a problem and I know you will ask me a series of questions about how to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again, I will prepare by coming up with a list of possible solutions.

Are you asking the right questions?

Image courtesy of Master / www.digitalphotos.net

Problem Solvers not Finger Pointers


Think about a time when you needed to solve a critical problem and time was of the essence.  Did you care whose fault the problem was? Nope. All you cared about was what information you needed to get a solution, and who and what you needed to implement it.  In a crisis we filter out irrelevant concerns and focus on the task at hand.

fingerpt pakorn

Finger pointers don’t want to focus on solving the problem.  Finger pointers rationalize that there is no need to change anything because they NEVER would have made the mistake that caused the problem.

Everyone makes mistakes.

Image courtesy of Pakorn / http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Do people in your business, or personal life expend mental energy finding who to blame for problems, instead of solving the problems and finding ways to prevent them?  If so, why would anyone in that environment try a creative new idea that might take a few tries before working properly?  If people are afraid to make mistakes, forget about them coming up with a creative solution to a problem.  (oh, and financial incentives don’t help either, watch Dan Pink’s TED talk for more on that)

If we want to build a problem solving culture, in which deep thinking on elegant solutions is highly valued, our focus won’t be on who caused the problem.  Our focus will be on what needs to change.  And critically, what help is needed to change it.

The next time someone tells you about a problem that has occurred and your first instinct is to ask, “who’s responsible?”, catch yourself.  Instead, ask, “What do we need to do to fix it?”

Don’t point the finger.  Solve the problem.

Let Me Think!


Erica Jong said, “Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.”  I sometimes feel that “Advice is what people ask for when they don’t know the answer and haven’t even thought about it.”

Few things can frustrate managers more than staff interrupting them to ask “What should I do about XYZ?” when the answer is either very simple, or the manager has no more information nor had any more time to think about it than the staff member.

Why does this happen? A big factor is that the environments we ask people to work in these days are rarely conducive to any level of thinking beyond basic, first-level stuff.  How can we expect people to come up with creative solutions to problems, or conduct detailed analyses when they are in an open-office environment and can count on being interrupted constantly throughout the day?

Train of thought?  In most offices you are lucky to get to the platform, let alone on the train!

My ideas for finding ways to think deeply at work – even on the cube farm.

1. Eliminate distractions – fwd your desk phone, turn of your computer, silence your smartphone, clear your desk.  If you’re in an open concept office and you know you’ll be interrupted, book a conference room or see if you can find a quiet place.  Get creative.  Maybe if you can show the results, your manager will let you experiment with spending some time each day in a home office.

2. Write out your thoughts.  Writing helps crystallize your thinking. This is why so many people write journals or keep extensive notes.  It’s not so others can read them later and understand the writer.  It’s so the writer can understand him or herself.

3. Book appointments with yourself to plan / think every day.  Book slots of an hour or two throughout the week and use them to think about current projects and long term planning.  Put them in your calendar and treat them like the most important appointments you have each day – they are.

4. Be clear on your objective when you sit down to think. This makes decisions easier and acts as a filter to eliminate irrelevant concerns.

5. When you have a good idea, but can’t spend time deliberating on it, write it in a specific spot in your planner, make a voice memo on your phone or send yourself an email with the idea so you can come back to it later.

Good, clear thinking is critical to your success.  Your success is important, so give yourself the opportunity to achieve it by finding ways to let yourself THINK!

What’s in a name?


So, I’ve done a few blogs now, and had some great fun watching my stats – I’m up to 92 views now!  Feedback has been pretty positive, but I’ve had some comments on the name – “Work Doesn’t Have to Suck”.  Some felt it was pejorative and doesn’t speak to the right audience.  Some background; the name came to me about a year ago in a moment of inspiration at the company I worked for. As a senior manager, I was trying to figure out how to improve our culture, thinking about our challenges, and the general mood around the office and the line just hit me.  I immediately wrote it on my whiteboard and it’s stuck with me ever since.  When I think about why I’m doing what I do now, I pretty much always come back to it. Instead of being pejorative, I think it’s optimistic.  As individuals we can decide to have an attitude of engagement and enjoy what we do.  As Executives and Managers, we have the ability and responsibility to create an environment that fosters engagement and makes people believe in the importance of the work they do.  And so, I like the title.  Maybe a bit edgy, but I think that’s okay too.

Besides, I think that there is a very large group of people out there, many of whom are quite successful, who can relate to to the sentiment on some level. Case in point, I sent an email to a friend from high school who owns an architecture firm in California. I hadn’t spoken to him in years but we connected on LinkedIn so I thought I’d let him know about the blog.  His reply,  “I will check out the blog.  Though I think I disagree with the thesis.  I look forward to being enlightened.”  Perfect.

Through this blogging journey I’m on, I hope to provide some unique insights based on my experiences and the frame through which I view them.  In addition, hopefully I can provide some practical tips, advice, and get the odd laugh.  Above all, if I provoke some thought about how to improve performance on an individual and organizational level; mission accomplished.

Through the comments section, let me know what you think – about the title or anything else.  I’ll post more links to other interesting, fun, or informative blogs or sites I come across.  Get on board, and let’s go for a ride!

Mike