Monthly Archives: October 2012

Look out into the world…

30 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

A little boy wrote to a famous scientist, Buckminster Fuller, and asked him, “Dr. Fuller, what should I be when I grow up?” Dr. Fuller wrote back, “I can’t tell you what to be when you grow up. You have to look out into the world, see what you see that needs to be done, and go do it. No one looks at the world exactly as you do. So if you see something that needs to be done, and you don’t do it, it will go undone.”

What do you see that needs to be different, needs to change, or should happen a different way? Have you decided to go out and ‘fix’ that piece of the world?

No one sees the world exactly as you do…

We each have our opinions, maybe moreso on frustrating days in the workplace, and have a picture how things should happen. This is the basis of our individual vision.

The horse who is a little crazy…

I grew up riding horses, and I would always choose the horse with too much spunk over one I had to kick to get moving. I like to interact with people who are stronger in their opinions – and are able to turn that into productive movement forward – a challenge I would gladly take on in riding a horse. (However, it hurts more now to get bucked off than it did 20 years ago. )

We all have a little craziness inside us.

Our opinions. Our frustrations. Our grumblings. And if we listen closely, behind them all, we hear how we look at the world, and we also receive our mission in life – not from someone else, but from where our passions, values and drive points each one of us individually.

Never ignore those frustrations.

There is a strong value behind what is upsetting to you. I get frustrated by bad drivers, especially those who move slowly in the left lane. But it is not because I think what I have to do is so important, that my time is more valuable than theirs or that I think for some reason that I deserve to go first and should not have to wait. For me in particular, it bothers me because they are either unobservant or defiant, both unproductive behaviors. If we were each observing others for how we could help someone in some way or move out of their way if that is the best way to help, we could all accomplish more every day.  This leads me to work with people who wish to be more productive to increase their level of critical observation and strategize in order to remove their defiance.

What drives you crazy?

Make a list on a particularly frustrating day. Then, take Dr. Fuller’s advice, and use that information of how you see the world to determine your marching orders for making your workplace and this world, a better place.

Top 10 Rules for ‘How, not If,’ Conversations

15 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

How to address your biggest challenges, not If you will succeed. 

  1. Don’t “Should” all over them 
    When you want to say, “They should have…” question how clearly you have communicated what they should do.
  2. When we talk, “I will… and you will…” 
    Setting this simple agenda can clarify miscommunication, set expectations, and save a whole lot of time and frustration in conversations.
  3. Address the elephants
    Address those issues that fill the room with tension.
  4. Use the Opportunity SpaceTM
    In that moment between when someone does or says something and you respond, ask yourself what you really want to accomplish, where they are coming from and how you are making them feel – before you respond.
  5. Ask clarifying questions
    Get them to talk.  They think, engage and learn best when they talk, not when you do.
  6. There is always a good and valid reason
    For everything someone does and says – even if the resulting behavior is inappropriate.
  7. Listen with genuine interest
    To hear what is important to them, what they expect, and how they are thinking – all to be able to respond in a way that drives results.
  8. Take responsibility for your impact
    You can’t change how they react, but you can change how you approach them.
  9. Tell the truth, tactfully, with specifics
    Pinpoint the specific behaviors you wish someone who ‘lacks initiative’ to change.
  10. What will I and they do differently?
    Doing something small, but different, is what makes change happen, not repeating yourself, and ‘trying harder’.

Succeed by working to determine HOW you can address your biggest challenges, not IF you can overcome those obstacles.

That Deadline? Yes I’m serious!

09 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

What creates the mentality that a deadline of October 15th means somewhere near that date? Or that the deadline is the ideal, but no one really believes it will happen? Or that the deadline, while important, is totally impractical and therefore can be ignored and close enough will be good enough? Or, as long as I help you diffuse the commotion we’ve caused by being late, I am doing my part.

If you experience these situations, you have not created a Culture of Deadlines. You probably haven’t set the precedent and may not have led strategically.

  1. Set the deadline. Don’t assume the urgency in your mind will somehow automatically convert to a specific date in the other person’s mind unless you have spoken about the date: October 15th, close of business. It is incredibly common to delegate a task without a specific deadline – you probably do it at least 20 times a day.
  2. Set the deadline. Set a specific date, and test commitment. “Uh-huh,” or “Okay,” or “Sure,” are not good enough. Ask some clarifying questions to ensure they understand.
  3. Clarify Expectations: What specifically must be done by that time? Project A must be done. Not just started, not just outlined, not just discussed as a group, but done, and done means… Again, ask questions to test they understand: “Please describe how you see the end product looking. What will be unique about it when it is done? What is the first step you will take?”
  4. Set a sub deadline to check in on progress, especially if you are concerned about their performance on the project. “By October 10th, outline the steps of the project and how you will approach it.” Then, review those steps when they are submitted. In other words, break the project into manageable bites, and strategically involve yourself in the process to ensure success at the final deadline.
  5. Run through the ‘what ifs.’ Create a thorough list of all the possible, yet reasonable things that could go wrong. You know there will be daily interruptions, unanticipated rush projects, occasional employee illness, technology interruptions and dependencies on other people involved in the process. These are typically NOT reasons to miss a deadline. These are real challenges, we know these things happen and we must build in time for reality to occur. Again, ask a question: “If the server goes down temporarily, what is your plan to continue to meet the deadline?” If the answer is that they will just miss the deadline, without the ability to think through alternative plans, then you know not to be surprised if deadlines are missed unless you work through these things ahead of time.
  6. Deal with the Elephant. If you know a particular colleague routinely misses agreed upon deadlines, you can either ask for things several weeks before you really need them, or address the Elephant: ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t work, ‘patching up’ the mess, and having ‘talking them down off the ledge’ conversations with the stakeholders, is helpful in the moment, but not the answer to the real issue that things are routinely late. Ask curious questions and determine what you and they will do differently to meet deadlines. “Let’s come up with six possible ways to address each probable ‘what if’ scenario.”

How to Address the Missed Deadline Elephant

02 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

The elephant is the huge problem (they frequently miss task deadlines) that is preventing you from being able to successfully address the problem at hand (one missed deadline).

Speak in a way that demonstrates your determination and your belief that they will resolve these situations successfully.  Ask all questions with genuine curiosity.

I noticed that Task A was not completed by the deadline.  What happened?

Employee:  Excuse, excuse

I’d like to hear your plan to complete Task A and to communicate with the stakeholder.  Before we have that discussion, I’d like to discuss a situation that seems to be recurring.

Not only did Task A not get done by today,  Task B did not get done by the deadline earlier this week, Task C did not get done by a deadline last week and Task D was a month late.

Let them speak, and then continue.

When you and I have spoken about these past due tasks, you tend to mention the fires that have arisen and the obstacles that others’ have created.  Knowing that fires will arise and you will need to effectively communicate with, and rely on, others to get your job done well, I’d like to discuss what you will do differently in order to complete your tasks by deadlines, despite these realities.

Let them speak, and then continue.

Each of these deadlines is real deadlines that exist to meet the needs of our customers, and they are not moveable.  When we miss them, there are tangible negative consequences for our customers.

Explore all variables:

  • § What types of tasks do you find you have the most difficulty in completing?
  • § You have agreed to the deadlines.  Can you explain how you determine your plan to meet deadlines before you agree?
  • § Share with me how you prioritize your week.  Your day?
  • § What are the most common ‘fires’ that pull you off task?
    • Are you the best person to address those fires?
    • How do you determine if they need to be addressed immediately?

Then, get commitment to no more than three specific action items about what they will do differently in order to interrupt this recurring pattern – and set a specific time to follow up.  They write the action items on paper and make you a copy.  These are specific items and detail different behavior from the current actions, not simply to “try harder” or “focus more.”

The Elephant in the Room Be Careful! He’ll Squash You!

02 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

What is it in your work environment that annoys you or that you find unacceptable, which you have not addressed or have not resolved successfully?

Typically, each person has their own levels of tolerance for different situations and the behaviors of others.  Combined with their comfort zone, this determines what they are willing to actually address.

Have you worked with:

1. Whiners?

2. Absolute minimum performers?

3. Missed deadlines but not by much?

4. Chronic poor performance in one area, with a million excuses?

5. Unspoken tension?

6. Give an inch, we’ll take a mile?

Have you tried to address situations such as these?  Maybe you have resolved some of these situations well, but you probably tolerate other situations, although grudgingly, because you’re not quite sure what to do.

The Elephant

Think about yourself in a conference room that seats eight people.  Now add a full size elephant.  It would be crowded, difficult to communicate, a bit intimidating and probably downright uncomfortable at times.  Pretty similar to the feelings people experience when one of the problems above stays unresolved, especially for any significant period of time.

The first step is to name the elephant.  Think about yourself in the same room above with a blindfold on.  It gets stuffy in the room, you keep walking into a ‘wall’ and there is no space, you get hit by a trunk every now and then and it doesn’t smell so pleasant.  You must name the problem that exists in order to change it.  Look beyond the obvious.  Look for the root of the problem.  Look deeper than you may think necessary.

Then, decide to have a conversation about it.  Don’t dance around the problem.  Talk to the person.  Connect with them and try to understand where they are coming from and why in the world they are acting the way they are.  Then, come up with what can be done differently to change the situation.