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February 29, 2008

Time and civility: 7 tips on Leap Day

Does it take extra time to be civil?
You should be able to streamline your work with civility.

1. Communicate clearly and fully. The more information you provide initially, the less time you’re troubled responding to requests for information. Share pertinent information you receive.

2. Get buy in. Involve others in decision-making so they understand the background and will take pieces of the work.

3. Delegate. Empower others to do a job and follow up without micromanaging their work.

4. Be assertive. Say no politely, no you don’t have time to take on that project, no you don’t have time to talk now, make decisions.

5. Be mindful. Prioritize, plan, know your deadlines and then concentrate on the work of the moment.

6. Think from the end-user’s point of view not your point of view. It’s about efficiency of processes. What would that person want to know, what would he find confusing about what you’ve written or designed? Is what you’re doing right now something that benefits the end-user or should it not be done?

7. Manage the balance between work and personal time. Know your priorities in each.

Enjoy Leap Day.

February 28, 2008

Mindfulness, living in the moment

Do you drive downtown and automatically head to the grocery store, only to remember you were really going to the library? Or arrive home and can’t remember going through that major intersection? I do these things and expect some of you do too.

Mindfulness is focusing on the moment. When you go on a walk, observe animal tracks and the sky and hear the birds rather than thinking about work or people. When you eat, enjoy the taste and texture of the food.

It’s hard work to be mindful
Remember a time you lost yourself in work? You were oblivious to email, to the message light on your phone, to others around you.

That is mindfulness, a supreme focus. You’re not thinking about the past or the future but intent on the moment right now.

We’re all involved in change all the time
Instead of wishing things were the way they used to be or being restless waiting for something to happen or making assumptions, mindfulness means you concentrate on this time to observe and gauge the atmosphere. If you live in this moment, you’ll be more perceptive and better able to deal with change.

Civility is respect. Mindfulness is respect for the moment.

Try to be mindful at times today
• When you talk to someone
• When you are on the phone
• When you are in a meeting

Let me know how you do being mindful.

February 26, 2008

Was a cell phone invited to your meeting or dinner?

My parents said it was rude for a store clerk to answer a phone if there was a person waiting at the counter. If a person made the effort to come to the store, he or she deserved first attention. It’s a rule so ingrained that it spills over to other situations.

It’s probably why I cringe when I see a cell phone set down on the table at meetings.

And why I cringe when someone answers a phone call during a meal.

The exceptions
If you are expecting a critical call, set your phone to vibrate. I’ve seen civility extended by someone saying before the meeting or dinner, something like “I wouldn’t have my cell phone on during this get together but my son is on the road.” Or “I’m waiting for a call from a doctor about my mother’s condition.” Something significant, perhaps life and death, about another human being. And when the call came, the person would excuse him or herself and leave the meeting area to take the call.

To take other calls during meals or meetings is truly uncivil. It bespeaks of arrogance…of lack of manners...that you don’t place much value on the people present.

If you forget and the phone rings, turn it off without answering and apologize. I don’t have this down perfectly but I’m trying…..because long after the infraction, I remember who took a disruptive phone call. And I’m offended again.

A very good article from the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas—
Use common courtesy with cell phone, http://www.uaex.edu/news/february2008/0201cellphone.htm

February 21, 2008

A civility story about parking

Anne Adrian out of Auburn University wants to tell more stories in her blog. I’ve not told many stories. Should I? Anne is making me think about it. (Anne’s Spot: Authentic blogging, Jan. 21, 2008, http://blog.aafromaa.com/2008/01/authentic-blogging.html)

A civility story
A coworker and I acted as companions for five job candidates yesterday. Joani and I talked the day before about kindnesses we could extend to make the candidates feel at ease. Joani suggested we send emails to each of our respective candidates to explain when and where we’d meet each one. How we’d escort him or her to the first interview and guide each candidate to the various meetings. Terrific idea.

We talked about parking at our building, which involves many rules and university permits. I said I’d tackle that. I discovered for $10 I could get one parking meter ‘hooded’ for the day. Our candidates would have a space to park despite the many activities scheduled in our building.

Sure enough…yesterday, when I got to work there was one meter hooded. I drove across campus to the Iowa State Center where the interview process started for the candidates. Into the parking lot and there, before my eyes, were some six billion vehicles in the lots surrounding the buildings. Not just vehicles……..but all the accumulated snow and ice. BIG pickup trucks everywhere…parked jutting from one side and then the other into the driving paths. Not only was there no close-in parking, but driving down a row was a challenge course to see if you could make it without scraping your vehicle on someone else’s.

For all our thoughtful planning, we’d missed checking the schedule at the Iowa State Center to gauge the parking situation. I don’t know that it’s even possible to reserve a space there, but next time we’ll think about parking at all locations.

Do you have stories of civility? Or want me to tell more stories of civility?

February 19, 2008

Looking for honesty in the workplace

"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an ‘honest man.’ Your honesty influences others to be honest."
George Washington, Commander in Chief of the colonial armies in the American Revolution (1775-83) and President (1789-97)

Honesty and integrity build trust which is essential for cooperation and growth
Steven Gaffney has written two books about honest communication. Gaffney says honesty in the workplace equates to simple, straightforward communication between co-workers and on every organizational level. That, he contends, is in short supply which means employees waste time dealing with internal problems.

The lack of straightforward communication costs businesses and organizations billions of dollars because it contributes to
• poor decisions,
• internal conflict and
• lost productivity.

One of the most prevalent issues that Gaffney sees in working with corporate clients is what he calls "the lies of withholding."

"When someone avoids a festering issue with a co-worker, tells a supervisor only the good news, remains silent when he or she disagrees with a proposed initiative, becomes a 'yes-man' with superiors to curry favor or complains to someone other than the person he or she has an issue with, the worker is being dishonest," Gaffney said.

The costs of poor, ineffective communication
The average employee loses seven weeks of productivity every year because of troublesome and unresolved communication. Lack of open, honest communication is at the root of 80 percent of problems at work.

Honesty belongs in the workplace but employ civility
• Be clear about whether you have time to listen now or not.
• Seek honest answers.
• React positively to feedback. If you ask for comments and then sulk or become defensive, no one is going to give you honest feedback.
Focus on facts, not opinions. Focus on achieving a solution. Blunt questions, accusations and assumptions force people into defensive modes. Instead of asking, "Why isn’t this project done?” ask "What do you need to finish this project?"

A July 31, 2006 interview (5 minutes) with Steven Gaffney, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlX8V6HyOeI

Honestly…these Gaffney notes are from a press release and a television interview. I’ve not read his books, ‘Just Be Honest’ and ‘Honesty Works!’, but they’ve gone on my wish list.

Ask questions that begin with what and how, not why, who and when
June 4, 2007 post, The right questions (what and how) for personal accountability
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/mt/civility/2007/06/the_right_questions_what_and_h.html
Use the word ‘because’
June 18, 2007 post, Because, because, because….because……….
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/mt/civility/2007/06/because_because_becausebecause.html

February 14, 2008

Bids---the fundamental unit of emotional communication

A bid is any single expression that says, “I want to feel connected to you.” It can be a question, a gesture, a look, a touch. Bids happen in simple, mundane ways that we don’t recognize as very important. Relationships build and deepen with bids and positive responses. Trust builds.

The response to a bid can be positive or negative. People typically respond to another’s bid for connection in one of three ways.
Turning toward
Positive reaction to the bid.
A woman says she’d like to learn a new software program. A coworker asks about the program, adds his thoughts.

Turning against
Often described as argumentative or belligerent, involves sarcasm or ridicule. Hostility.
A woman says she’d like to learn a new software program. A coworker says, “The old one is just fine. Why in the world would you want to learn this new one?”

Turning away
Ignoring another’s bid or acting preoccupied. Indifference.
A woman says she’d like to learn a new software program. A coworker responds with something unrelated, “Do you know what time it is?” or the response is silence.

The research on bids and responses is from John Gottman, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Washington, and his colleagues. He founded what the media termed "The Love Lab". His research has focused on marital and family relationships. Gottman’s most recent book ‘The Relationship Cure: A Five-Step Guide for Building Better Connections with Family, Friends, and Lovers’ has many examples of relationships and emotional communication in the workplace.

An example from the book

“What are you doing for lunch today?”
“Lunch? Who’s got time for that?”
“Maybe some other time, then.”
“Yeah, some other time.”

“What are you doing for lunch today?”
“I wish I had time for lunch. I’ve got to finish this report. What are you up to?”
“I brought a sandwich. I thought I’d sit outside. But I have to go by the deli for a Coke. Want me to bring something back for you?”
“That would be nice. Can you get me a ham on rye and a Coke?”
“Sure thing.”

The researchers found people quickly loose heart when their bids are greeted by indifference or hostility. The bids stop. Civility would be turning toward another. Incivility would be argumentative, sarcasm, hostility, ignoring.

The book is fascinating, absolutely fascinating
If you too want to be more aware of how you respond to bids, read the book. (And of course, you’ll find yourself watching how others respond to your emotional bids.)

February 12, 2008

Play Well with Others: Develop Effective Work Relationships

Once in a while, I find something so in snyc with what I believe constitutes civility that all I need to do is point you to the article. Let me entice you to read it---

The top seven ways you can play well with others at work.
1. Bring suggested solutions with the problems to the meeting table.
2. Don’t ever play the blame game.
3. Your verbal and nonverbal communication matters.
4. Never blind side a coworker, boss or reporting staff person.
5. Keep your commitments.
6. Share credit for accomplishments, ideas and contributions.
7. Help other employees find their greatness.

I would expand number 3 to include---just talk. Go look the person in the eye and talk, dial the number and talk. Ask questions rather than wasting time and energy speculating. Good communication can be surprisingly effective.

http://humanresources.about.com/od/workrelationships/a/play_well.htm

February 07, 2008

Customers, clients, coworkers or colleagues?

People view these ‘c’ words differently and the associations they represent differently.

We in extension communications create products for extension subject specialists. So are those people our customers, our clients, our coworkers or our colleagues?

Think about relationship marketing
It is designing business strategies that emphasize keeping customers as much as attracting them. You invest the time and resources to know individuals. In return, you get loyalty and commitment.

Isn’t that what we do inside our organizations? Build relationships on the ability to respond to the needs of others.

A Yale University study showed that work groups’ performance suffered when members didn’t communicate well or didn’t pay attention to one another’s feelings or when individuals became so controlling that they didn’t allow others to contribute.

When people treat one another with civility, that is, with respect, the result is positive synergistic results. People motivate one another. The combined efforts are better than a person working alone.

Do we treat our customers, our clients, our coworkers and our colleagues differently?

I think those inside our organization we work with have all those labels……..but we really need to think in those terms. It’s a dichotomy to treat those we consider our customers with the utmost respect and then send a snippy or condescending email to a coworker.

If I’m snippy and condescending to everyone, then I’m consistent…….but not civil. And frankly, I’d bet you’d just as soon not work with me….whether you’re my customer, client, coworker or colleague.

February 05, 2008

Hire civil and passionate (great) people

Hiring new staff impacts your organization for a very long time. Will this person care about the organization or himself? Will she be inclusive or exclusive? Responsive or be convinced he knows all? Have leadership talent, knowledge and skills?

Guy Kawasaki in ‘The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything’ says ignore the irrelevant and that can include education and work experience. Passion is far more important in hiring new employees.

There is no ‘perfect’ candidate
Prioritize your wish list and look at the big picture. Is the candidate a problem-solver, a critical-thinker, a good fit for the company culture and enthusiastic about the job? Look for listening skills, problem-solving ability, a sense of fairness and someone who is trustworthy. All these attributes are very much in the civility camp.

Businesses and industries hire students on cooperative assignments and internships. They get to see the real person at work and judge whether students would be good permanent hires. And if students don’t fit, they’re gone after the internship. That luxury often doesn’t exist in hiring full-time employees.

Hiring great people is serious business
Savvy businesses don’t leave interviewing to a search committee. They ask many to be a part of the interviewing process. Potential coworkers, supervisors and people who would answer to the new hire share in interviewing candidates and have a say in the hire. A hire that doesn’t fit is a problem for the organization for a long time.

Organizations have long used networking to get information on candidates. Today companies are seriously seeking out alternate references because there are enough untruthful people and bullies out there that organizations want to ensure they don’t hire one.

Hiring is not a process to rush through or to take lightly
Not if you want a hire that embraces civility and can bring real passion to your workplace. Those are the qualities that spread through a workplace and infect it to bring about innovation and progress.

More reading
The Google hiring process
http://www.google.com/support/jobs/bin/static.py?page=gettingintogoogle.html&sid=hiringprocess

Businesses may be trying to find people who have real dirt on you, The Indianapolis Star
http://blog.marketplace.nwsource.com/jobsnews/2007/11/02/110507_dirt.html