Sunday, June 8, 2014

Could you be more specific?

In a recent seminar I was leading I asked the question, “What kind of issues are you dealing with that might require some discipline”? One of the attendees answered, that they had an employee who was not getting along with a few of the other employees. I asked her to be more specific. She struggled for a few second with this and then stated that this person seems to “have it in” for a couple of the other employees. Again, I asked “Could you be more specific”? Her answer this time was that the employee was always complaining about one thing or another in regards to the other employees. I again had to ask her to be more specific. (at this point she was starting to get annoyed with me!)

After many times back and forth in this manner, we were able to pinpoint that the “problem” employee was bothered by the fact that the other two had developed a friendship and this person felt left out. The employees approach to deal with this was some passive aggressive behavior to undermine the friendship and to try to draw attention to mistakes made by the other employees.

When we began the dialog, the woman who brought this up was aware of the issues, but seemed unable or unwilling to get right to the heart of the matter in our conversation. I eventually made her give me very specific instances of things that had happened in her place of work.

When you go to a physician with “an issue” they will typically ask you a number of questions to help in their diagnosis of the problem. They are going through the same process I just described. The doctor does not want to prescribe a course of treatment that will not address the very specific problem. If you come in to the doctor and say that you are having pains in your stomach, they will ask a number of questions. They will want to know where exactly is the pain, left right, lower, upper abdomen. Is it constant or occasional. Is it a dull ache or a stabbing pain and so on and so forth.

At work, or for that matter, any relationship, it will behoove you (I love that word) to learn how to be very specific about your needs, your plans, your intentions, etc. I have to admit that hundreds if not thousands of times in my life, I have misunderstood what another person said or wanted because I did not ask, “Could you be more specific”?

Celebrate Gray

All or nothing! You're either with me or against me! You are either part of the problem or part of the solution! WE love these all or nothing cliches but the fact of the matter is that most of life is lived in the shadows...or gray areas of life. It is so convenient when things in life can line up in the black or white category, but they seldom do. Mathematicians love that numbers just are what they are and 2 + 2 will always equal 4. That being said, the mathematics pe3rson still has to live in a world full of gray matter. Kids, pets, spouses, neighbors and co-workers refuse to fit into neat little boxes.
I enjoy the nuances of a sub sandwich with everything on it. I savor all the flavors of a combination pizza. In the same way, we need to learn to not only expect, but to enjoy all the intricacies of this world and the people that we encounter. Let's celebrate gray!

Great Expectations

We have all experienced it. You get all excited about something…and then it is nothing like you expected. In fact, expectations are at the root of nearly all of our disappointments in life. College, new job, vacation, marriage, owning a boat; these are all destined to fall short of our expectations.

The simple solution would be to just lower our expectations on everything so that we are never disappointed and sometimes pleasantly surprised. Our common metaphor for this lifestyle is “a glass half empty” kind of person. No one wants that label. We want to be seen as optimistic, can do, glass half full kind of people. Studies have shown that an optimistic outlook can improve your health and help you live longer. That is a pretty compelling argument for having great expectations.

So are we destined to live out our days always expecting things to be better than they are and constantly being disappointed? I say nay nay! The more mature solution is to use the wisdom that we have gained to temper our expectations. Take that trip to Disneyland with your three kids. You will make lifelong memories. You do need, however, to accept the fact that at certain times during the day, it will NOT be the happiest place on earth. You do not have to go looking for disappointment, but you also do not have to be surprised by it. This is called adjusting your expectations. There’s no need to lower the expectations, but you can relax them a little to allow for detours.

Keep in mind too that we often have expectations of horrible things happening to us, and they turn out to be nowhere near as bad as we expected. This expectation thing cuts both ways. So what kind of day are you expecting tomorrow?

Love / hate relationship

A friend recently sent me an email to inform me that he could not make a breakfast meeting because he was camping with his family. My immediate response was, “If you are checking email, you are not camping!” This unfortunately, is our new reality.

 I recently left on a business trip and forgot my phone. When I realized what I had done, panic set in. I calmed myself and reminded my self that between my ipad, my laptop and hotel phones, I would be fine. But I wasn’t fine. It bothered me the whole trip, that I was so bothered by it.

We have become a society that that is very good at communicating with others and not so good at connecting with others. I believe it began back in the 50’s and 60’s when we began building back patios instead of front porches. Today the statistics are staggering as to how many people do not even know their next door neighbors. People didn’t always like their neighbors, but at least they knew them.

I was in a Subway one day waiting for my sandwich order to be taken. I noticed two “tweener” girls sitting across from each other at a table, both texting away on their phones. I wanted to go grab their phones out of their hands and yell, “Try talking to each other!” But as I watched…. I suddenly realized they were talking to each other. Their faces were 18 inches apart and they were texting each other across the table. Sad as this sounds, a similar scenario is playing out everyday in workplaces across this country. People are emailing co-workers all day, many of which are sitting right next to each other.

We have bought into the idea that “one way communication” is more efficient than face-to-face communication. We have come to believe that 400 Facebook friends trump a couple of close friends.

 I love technology. Every new gadget calls to me and I want the latest and greatest. As a Baby Boomer, I am old enough to remember a time when we didn’t have all this “cool” stuff. I would never advocate tossing all this stuff, but perhaps we could work a little harder at looking people in the eye when we talk to them. Let’s get back to trying to “connect” with each other and not just communicate with the masses.

And one last thing, please stop posting pictures of what you are about to eat.

If I knew then what I know now

"The great aim of education is not knowledge, it's action"  This is one of the quotes in the loop that runs prior to my seminars. We are in a time and culture where the ability to gain new knowledge is staggering. Unfortunately, most feel they "do not have time" to apply the knowledge. We all know we should get more sleep...but we don't. We all know we should eat better...but we don't. We all know we should get more exercise....but we don't.

Merely imparting information, or knowledge is no longer enough. Instilling the motivation to use the knowledge is what's needed. What will it take for you to take action on what you know. What will it take for your co-workers or employees to move forward with the knowledge.

I know I shouldn't check my email every two minutes.
I know I should take my breaks.
I know I should speak calmly when things get crazy.
I know the world will NOT stop spinning if I take some time for my family.
I know ______________________________________________

What are you going to do with your knowledge?