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January 31, 2007

A resource in Minnesota

My sister is a kindergarten teacher in northwest Iowa. She sent me an article a fellow teacher was sharing in that school system....about dealing with difficult people.

I checked out the author and found lots of information on the Web site, Training for Peak Performance, motivational keynotes and seminars by Alan Zimmerman of Prior Lake, Minnesota. He has articles in 18 categories, from team building to conflict resolution to self esteem and more. One of the categories is "Dealing with Difficult People".

There's a free weekly online newsletter on attitude, motivation, teamwork, communications, and work relationships. I just signed up so may have more to report from this site in the future. Check it out when you have time.

January 30, 2007

I want an agenda

and I want a decent one, at that.

When did meeting agendas go out of vogue? Who decided we had endless time to sit through unfocused meetings?

We’re all pushed to produce more in less time in our jobs. In our volunteer work, which often includes meetings, we have limited time to devote. Unfocused meetings are not a good fit. An agenda, a good agenda, spells out the purpose of the meeting. If there is no purpose, it goes without saying---there should be no meeting.

An effective meeting begins with an agenda distributed several days in advance. It should list the location, the beginning and ending times. If this is a group of people who don’t know each other well, include a list of those invited and each person’s role. An agenda lists problems to solve or motions to be presented.

An agenda distributed in advance gives everyone time to think about the topics to be tackled and about the materials they might bring.

And during the meeting, an effective leader (or lacking that, an effective communicator at the meeting) can focus the discussion by bringing the group back to the agenda.

Do meeting leaders think they don’t have time to prepare agendas?
Then count the time being wasted by those sitting through unfocused meetings. Perhaps meeting leaders don’t know how to create effective agendas. There are good resources on the Web and in books.

When you are in charge of a meeting, prepare a good agenda and conduct a focused meeting. This is so rare today that people will actually be in awe and will tell you so. It’s really fun and quite rewarding.

Take meetings seriously. Have a focused agenda. It is effective communication. It’s a civil thing because it respects the time of those attending.

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”
Benjamin Franklin, American statesman, scientist, philosopher, writer and inventor (1706-1790)

Web resources
www.EffectiveMeetings.com, How to Create an Agenda, Step by Step, www.effectivemeetings.com/meetingplanning/index.asp
Meeting Wizard, Effective Meetings – Tips, www.meetingwizard.org/meetings/effective-meetings.cfm
Basic Guide to Conducting Effective Meetings, Developing Agendas, www.managementhelp.org/misc/mtgmgmnt.htm#anchor632336

One book
Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook, as told to Scott Adams, author of The Dilbert Principle
“If you’re part of a meeting that’s scheduled for 60 minutes, feel free to use it all. And remember: Agendas are suggestions, not rules. And rules were made to be broken; therefore, suggestions are made to be ignored.
Sometimes you’ll blunder into meetings called by people who have a ‘mission’ or a ‘purpose’ for the meeting. That’s the sort of thing they should be doing on their own time, not yours.”

January 21, 2007

The new diversity

As the population of the United States changes, so has the meaning of diversity. No longer is diversity defined solely along racial and ethnic lines.

Diversity now includes
education level, problem-solving style, single versus married, children versus no children, high wealth and low wealth, political affiliation, sexual orientation, age, behavioral style, tenure with the organization, geographic origin, personality type and military service.

It’s quite logical. If we have diversity in our workplace, we have coworkers who can help us identify with and better understand the various clients in the marketplace.

Today’s smart employers are thinking about this new diversity when they look at the backgrounds and experiences of applicants. They assess what each applicant can bring to a workplace. But that’s just the beginning.

How well do these diverse workers fare in the workplace? Do we expect new coworkers to meld into our way of doing things, of thinking? We shouldn’t. We need their different points of view and different work styles because they mirror society. They help us understand the target audiences we’re trying to reach.

One piece of the new diversity--generations currently in the workplace

Generation Y (also Nexters, Millennials): born early 1980s through early 2000s
Generation X: born early 1960s-early 1980s
Baby boomers: born 1946-early 1960s
Traditionalists (also Veterans, Matures): born 1922-1945

Think about the attitudes toward authority and structure in the workplace, about the technology backgrounds of workers of these generations. As we pair with coworkers of different ages, we may be working on common goals but we don’t approach them the same. We don’t work on projects in the same way. Be open to the new diversity.
It's being inclusive to build espirit de corps.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Henry Ford, American industrialist (1863-1947)

January 18, 2007

Difficult people……again

Dealing with difficult people is a popular topic, apparently because so many of us have the problem…in the workplace….in organizations…..on volunteer boards…..in the family. Several people have told me they go back to the entry I posted on Nov. 18 to look at the resources on the topic.

Today a friend sent me a link to an article in today’s New York Times. It’s titled ‘Help, I’m Surrounded by Jerks’. If nothing else, you’ll find you’re not alone if you have to deal with difficult people. The problem is growing or at least coming to the surface more as more books come out on the topic, workshops address it.

This article turns the difficult people situation over and around and looks at it from about every angle conceivable. Be ready to sympathize, smile and be dismayed….at least that was my reaction. Definitely worth the read.

FASHION & STYLE | January 18, 2007
Help, I’m Surrounded by Jerks
By Stephanie Rosenbloom
A raft of books and seminars for coping with people who make life difficult.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.”
Alfred A. Montapert, American motivational author (1906-)

January 12, 2007

What we don’t value….

discrimination and harassment

This week all ISU Extension employees are attending training on preventing and addressing potential problems of discrimination and harassment. The goal is to make Iowa State a comfortable place to work, a place where all are welcome. A place free of hostility.

Iowa State implemented a new policy on discrimination and harassment in 2006. The policy covers protected classes mandated by state and federal laws, and it goes beyond those classes. The introduction to that policy says,
“Respect is the foundation for interchange of ideas, for learning and for working toward common goals.
Consequently, Iowa State University is committed to assuring that its programs are free from prohibited discrimination and harassment based upon
national origin,
physical or mental disability,
age (40 and over),
marital status,
sexual orientation (including gender identity),
status as a U.S. veteran (disabled, Vietnam or other), or
any other status protected by University policy or local, state, or federal law.
Discrimination and harassment impede the realization of the University's mission of distinction in education, scholarship, and service, and diminish the whole community.”

The American workplace is diverse.
The culture of the future is global. Those who work for a higher education institution should lead the way in studying and learning about these differences---every one of us. The one-hour training should be simply the opening chapter. With knowledge, we understand more and become more open to differences. We can communicate better. Each one of us is unique….and different. Diversity provides a real richness in the workplace, in life. Don’t miss it.

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."
- Martin Luther King, Jr., American civil rights leader and Baptist minister (1929 – 1968)

The Iowa State policy, http://policy.iastate.edu/policy/discrimination
Learning about diversity, http://www.hrs.iastate.edu/training/diversity.shtml
ISU Campus Climate Assessment Report, Nov. 2004, http://www.hrs.iastate.edu/AAO/eod/finalreport.pdf