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April 29, 2008

Are you in Judger mindset right now?

Judger mindset is critical, reactive, committed to being right, looks from its own perspective only, is win-lose and narrows possibilities. Judger in this sense means judgmental (attacking others or yourself). It usually puts you in conflict. Judger questions may lead you to feel de-energized, fearful, negative, tense or even a little depressed

In contrast, Learner mindset is open-minded, accepting, curious, discerning, thoughtful, looks from multiple perspectives and opens possibilities.

In the fable ‘Change Your Questions, Change Your Life’, Marilee Adams explains QuestionThinking, a system of tools for transforming thinking, action and results through skillful question-asking that helps you be more efficient, productive, successful and happy.

The lesson of the fable
Ask questions, lots of questions but make them skillful questions from a Learner perspective rather than a Judger mindset. Valuing not knowing is the basis of creativity and innovation. Genuine childlike curiosity is one of our greatest assets.

The questions you ask yourself can stimulate curiosity, inspire you and move you toward success OR they can drive you to despair, result in inactivity and failure. Rather than asking ‘Why can’t I meet project deadlines?’ ask ‘What’s possible? What can I learn about how I schedule my work or how much work I take on or my estimates of completion dates?’

External questions
People who spend more time in Judger than Learner can be driven and productive. They can also drive everyone around them nuts, lower productivity, cooperation, creativity and people’s ability to contribute. Operating from Judger can build resentment and conflict. An organization run by people in high Judger tends to have greater levels of stress, conflict and problems.

When you listen and ask questions from the Learner perspective, people feel accepted. They’re more forthcoming, cooperative and creative. It’s civility.

It is mindfulness as Ellen Langer says in her book ‘Mindfulness’:
Mindfulness is creation of new categories,
openness to new information
and awareness of more than one perspective.

April 24, 2008

What is the ratio of questions you ask versus statements you make?

Questions drive results. In the fable ‘Change Your Questions, Change Your Life’, Marilee Adams writes the most effective communication is about 20 percent telling and 80 percent asking.

Focus on questions and curiosity rather than answers and opinions
The ability to think productively rather than reactively lies at the heart of Adams’ QuestionThinking. Quick judgments, fixed perspectives and old opinions are out. Instead use questions for exploration, discovery, innovation and cooperation.

Accomplishments come from all the people you’re working with, not just from your solitary work.

Ask questions to--
Gather information
Create understanding and learning
Build, improve and sustain relationships
Clarify and confirm listening
Stimulate creativity and innovation
Resolve conflicts
Create collaboration
Open possibilities

Are you committed to being right?
If only one person can be right, you, then everybody else has to be wrong. It’s a collaboration of one. Enormous energy goes into being right. It’s exhausting. Find fulfillment in not finding fault. Instead commit to helping create an energetic, optimistic workplace where people contribute every day. Let go of the need to be right.

If you work with someone who needs to be right, you can tell her she is right and then give your point of view.

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 7 Powerful Tools for Life and Work
By Marilee Adams, 2004; Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 170 pages

April 22, 2008

It’s Earth Day—Reduce Waste

The first Earth Day in 1970 is credited with making environmental issues a priority in the politics of the United States government. Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, was the founder of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, Nelson announced that in the spring of 1970 everyone was encouraged to participate in a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment. Twenty million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated in the first Earth Day event.

The two things I see gaining momentum………that everyone can do---including at the office
Use reusable bags and containers.
Whether you’re shopping for groceries or office supplies, take bags for your purchases. The bags are being sold at grocery store check out counters and other stores. When I purchased my first ones, the Fareway bag boy tore off the plastic strips holding the tops together and packed my groceries. I thought, “This kid really gets it.” Or he was trained well by Fareway.
Earthdaynetwork lists what you can do
• Reuse your plastic shopping bags: use them for trash, for storage rather than buying others that are more energy wasting.
• Use paper bags rather than plastic bags when you are given the choice.
• Use reusable grocery bags, which always have a lower environmental impact.

Drink from washable cups and tumblers.
• Bottled water is rapidly losing favor as I wrote about last fall for Blog Action Day. Unnecessary plastic bottles waste energy in their creation and litter the earth in disposal. That post: We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
• Take your thermos bottle or insulated cup to the local coffee shop on your way to work. Offer coffee in ceramic cups or mugs to guests in meetings.

I’m rapidly questioning premium items we use for marketing our organizations. Do these items serve their purpose or do they get tossed fairly quickly? Just think about it before you place orders or snatch them up at exhibits. Are there more earth-sensitive ways to promote organizations and businesses?

Choose civility. Make every day earth day.

April 17, 2008

Civility in job titles

Ever think an organization or company is top-heavy? What does that mean? Generally too many managers, too many executives. Too heavy at the top for the base below.

Several years ago I edited a document about my department. Being a journalist concerned with accuracy, I checked titles. And ended up in several heated debates. I didn’t realize then that it was fairly common to use titles other than those assigned by the human resources office. I was told it’s a common practice in private companies. I see it more and more at Iowa State. People use creative titles or bump themselves up to manager or director. It’s even done in the announcements for jobs.

Public perception
If you’re an Iowa citizen and correspond with Iowa State staff, are you impressed that an email was sent by a manager? Or do you begin to wonder how many managers Iowa State has and wonder if the organization is top-heavy?

If you are reading about a company or organization, do you check how many executives are listed? What do you think when you find a person in an organizational chart with one title and that person uses a different title in correspondence?

In the editing of the document two years ago, one person truly believed her title was manager and was surprised when I pointed out it wasn’t. The job posting she had filled had used both the point-counted title of coordinator and the ‘working’ title of manager. Conversely, anther person was offended that he was listed as a manager. He said his title was coordinator and I’d better use that title.

What’s the civility angle in this?
Honesty, ethics, self-discipline, humility? Others?
I’ve adhered to writing style guides and checked facts too long to label myself anything other than my point-counted job title. My work and attitude count for far more than a job title.

Wall Street Journal, Dec. 27, 2007
Princess Paysalot and Other Creative Job Titles

You can read for a really long time and be wildly entertained if you check the links and comments from this April 4, 2007 post on Marketing Profs Daily Fix: Job Titles 2.0, http://www.mpdailyfix.com/2007/04/im_a_huge_fan_of.html

April 15, 2008

An ethics program that exists on paper

but never in the hearts, minds and actions of the organization’s employees creates a breeding ground for violations.

This statement is from the executive summary of a research report, Ethical Culture Building, by the Ethics Resource Center, http://www.ethics.org/.

More from the summary
Maintaining a strong ethical culture is essential for complying with the laws and regulations, but this alone cannot be the motivation for ethical culture building. Beyond the large impact an organization’s culture has on the bottom line, the development of programs to foster ethical conduct must maintain a focus on fairness, encouragement and communication at all employee levels.

The attitudes, choices and actions of business leaders play a primary role in the creation of an organization’s ethical culture and climate; expectations for employees’ ethical behavior can only be set as high as the organization’s leadership is willing to meet.

What’s a Leader to Do?
Leaders should work to create a values-based ethics program that also encourages compliance with the law. Additionally, they must demonstrate their concern for the interests of internal and external stakeholders and commit to making the needs of others a business priority. Finally, they must remember that ethical leadership requires modeling, coaching and careful communication. To demonstrate their commitment to ethics and to promote ethics in the culture and climate of their organization, leaders should:
• walk the walk
• keep people in the loop
• encourage thoughtful dissent
• show that they care
• don’t sweep problems under the rug
• celebrate the successes
• be fair
• make ethics a priority
• make the tough calls
• get the right people and keep them.
(End of notes from the Ethics Resource Center.)

I’m worried about ethics
It’s a topic at a session I’ve been asked to attend and contribute to at a June conference. I find it hard to define ethics; I don’t think that’s uncommon.

The part I really relate to in the center’s report---communicate, communicate, communicate. I ask for this every day in my job. I told my church congregation the day I took over as moderator (lay leader) that I had two hallmarks: civility and communication. I am trying to give that congregation and the church staff more information than they’re accustomed to.

I believe people have to help shape the goals and solve the problems, know what decisions are being made, asked to join conversations and feel free to express their ideas and opinions. It’s the way to win hearts and minds…and move forward.

I welcome any help you want to provide on ethics.

April 10, 2008

The incivility of jargon (goobledygook)

“The two words ‘information' and ‘communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
--Sydney Harris, American journalist and author (1917-1986)

Today in this hurry-up world, our messages need to be clear, precise, unambiguous and free of jargon, clichés and goobledygook.

First thoughts for any communication
Whom am I talking to and how much do I know or can I learn about that audience?

What’s in it for that audience? What does that group want to know or how will this communication help them? I try to think as if I’m a member of that audience. If I were a …………..

Will that person understand the jargon? (Do I understand the jargon in my organization?) I could be writing to customers, coworkers or shareholders. I need to communicate to others clearly and efficiently to get any point across.

In my opinion one peek into an organization’s communication may tell you about its values and quality. If the communication is efficient and mindful of the audience, the company is likely to be run the same way.

Those of us who write and edit for a living work hard to get to plain understandable words. And we still get caught up in the jargon and goobledygook.

Woodrow Wilson, twenty-eighth President of the United States (1856-1924), said it well: “If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”

Buzzwords, misuses of language and punctuation
I go through cycles of the top word or punctuation I can not stand and I undoubtedly overreact to edit them out. At the top of my current list are
‘Utilize’ when often the correct word is ‘use’
Every thing is an ‘opportunity’ (It’s a nice word that’s highly overused.)
‘Regarding’ or ‘in regard to’—often the word should be ‘about’
People as ‘resources’
Colons everywhere::::::
The use of exclamation marks is declining, thank goodness!
Acronyms for everything

What goobledygook or misused terms, words or punctuation are on your list?

The Gobbledygook Manifesto -- Cutting Edge! Mission Critical! An analysis of gobbledygook in more than 388,000 press releases sent in 2006

April 08, 2008

Criticism and bullying are two different things

Bullying is health-harming
Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behavior directed towards an employee, or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety. Bullying often involves a misuse or abuse of power where the targets can experience difficulties in defending themselves.

Criticism is evaluation
Criticism is an analysis, interpretation, examination or judgment. Obviously, it’s best presented as constructive criticism.

If you are criticized, you shouldn’t immediately label it bullying. It’s simply not so.

Criticism should help make your work better
Years ago I had a supervisor who did outrageously wonderful performance evaluations. She would pull out projects she thought were particularly well done. And then she’d slide, oh so civilly, into the criticism part.

I remember walking out of one performance review thinking, ‘I feel really good and she just told me my writing was pretty awful.’ She suggested I find a mentor to hone my writing. It was one of the best criticisms ever handed me. I knew where to find the mentor. He was a retired journalism professor who was a sharp, no-nonsense editor. I had a good relationship with him.

I took articles to his house and returned several days later to find pencil marks deleting lots of copy, notes scribbled all over the margins, things to follow up on. I was amazed you could delete so many words and improve the writing so much.

That was 16 years ago. At the time I was nearly 20 years past writing and editing courses in college. I had not held jobs that I needed to write like that. I was out of practice. I undoubtedly took the criticism more seriously as an adult than I had as a college student. My self-esteem and perhaps my job depended upon how much I could improve.

That criticism was a life lesson
Today I seek out ruthless editors who will mark through my copy, tell me to move paragraphs and ask questions. My writing is improved by critical review. I try to do the same for others, whether fellow writers or extension professionals.

Very recently
I told you in a notification that I received the writing for the Web gold award for one blog post in an international critique and evaluation. And that I wasn’t sure which post I’d entered. I didn’t remember because I didn’t select the post. I asked one of my favorite ruthless editors to critique my entry submission. She offered suggestions. She went further. She suggested I submit a different post than the one I’d selected. I took her advice. Part of my award must belong to Diane for her thoughtful criticism. The entry was Sept. 25, 2007 post: Do you prefer people who talk or people who listen?

It is not easy to accept criticism
Much depends upon the tone in which it is presented. Much depends upon your attitude. It is not bullying.

April 03, 2008

You make choices that affect your work relationships

“To be successful in today’s workplace, we need to excel in areas such as communication, collaboration, motivation and adaptation to constant change. All these skills require the ability to understand and connect well with other human beings.”
--John Gottman, ‘The Relationship Cure: A Five-Step Guide for Building Better Connections with Family, Friends, and Lovers’

A person’s ability and willingness to turn toward others is influenced by
1. the way his or her brain processes feelings
2. the way emotions were handled in the home where he or she grew up
3. emotional communication skills

When you have good relationships, those that the emotional bids have been turned toward time and again----conflict is a whole new game. You’re going to disagree; you may get upset. But there’s still a connection. There are flashes of affection, interest and respect. The humor is still present. The conflict becomes a discovery and problem solving effort.

If there are not good relationships, individuals or entire work teams may feel alienated, passive or hostile, misunderstood or disrespected. Cut off from vital information. There’s low morale. If the failure is between management and employees, see Jan. 15, Management and information: the broken connection.

People make bids for emotional connection to satisfy one of three emotional needs

1. to be included
2. to have a sense of control over their lives
3. to be liked
When these needs are met, people have a sense of well-being and purpose.

We each make choices every day that affect the quality of our workplace relationships and all other relationships.

Feb. 14, Bids---the fundamental unit of emotional communication

“Good relationships make our lives good; bad relationships make our lives bad.…To learn how to be happy we must learn how to live well with others, and civility is a key to that.”
--P.M. Forni, ‘Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct’

April 01, 2008

Work relationships to stay away from or let drift away

Incivility—Relationships with hostility
A bully can certainly create a hostile work environment. Attacks occur when you least expect them. There are several ways to distance yourself. You can try to separate yourself as much as possible from the person. You can get out. You can revert to no longer caring about any work you do with this person. You have to do something to protect yourself because chances are, no one else is going to.

Stephen Covey in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ talks about being consumed by someone you hate, putting an enemy at the center of your life. That person is at the center of your life only if you allow her or him to be.

Civility---Relationships to let go
You may find as your work or the people change, you work less with someone. Let it be a conscience decision of which relationships are worth keeping and those you can let go. If you don’t have the same values, it’s a pretty easy decision to let the relationship founder. It’s difficult to spend time where your values are if you keep relationships purely for historical reasons.

Separating yourself from one person can bring simplicity or let you strengthen quality relationships.

It's up to you to decide who you let stay, who you let walk away and who you refuse to let go.

Oct. 18, 2007--Most bullies in the workplace are opportunists and workplace politicians