From www.remember.com– an interesting website.
Hackneyed: A phrase or action that is used so many times it becomes commonplace and dull.
My mother, Creola Kincaid Lewis, told me that her parents ordered her to stop making Egyptian-dancer hand gestures after she had done it dozens of times in one evening. Those hand gestures were popular with teenaged girls that year–1924–because King Tut’s tomb with all its well-persevered artifacts had been discovered and was a cultural phenomenon.
My grandfather, Henry Kincaid, said, “Sis, a few times was funny, but now you’re overdoing it, so stop it.” We could all use that advice.
I won’t give them further attention by listing the popular once-funny-or-cute-or significant-but-now-overdone and hackneyed phrases or actions that distract from communications or reduce it to a trite level. I will just challenge you to notice yourself and vow to reduce the number of times you do, say or write that thing. Then, replace it with something more sincere, personal or original.
Most of us also have figures of speech, comments and opinions that we have said, using the same words every time, hundreds of times, to the point of dullness. Someone I know says, in almost every conversation, “I was a multi-tasker before multi-tasking was a word.” The first time she said it, it was an interesting addition to her comments. After hearing her say it hundreds of times, Henry Kincaid would tell her to stop it.
You can test yourself in several ways:
*What phrases do you use repeatedly that you think are particularly impressive, insightful, funny or current?
*What are the ways you describe yourself or others that immediately come to mind when you’re talking?
*What are the phrases you have read on the Internet or heard on a talk-show or TV or in a movie, that you have adopted for daily use?
Listen to yourself and be on the lookout for overused, hackneyed expressions. Even though you may think it is no worries if you don’t, those who communicate with you regularly will think you are awesome if you do. I’ll do a little Egyptian-dancer gesture to celebrate!
Another Email Etiquette Tip: Make your email subject line fit your message.
It is convenient to select “reply” to an email from someone, as a way to save the time of entering an address–and sometimes that is appropriate for a quick turn-around email. However, it is frustrating to be searching for a phone number, schedule or some other specific thing and find only twenty subject lines that say, “Re: Project Plans.” It is also disconcerting to get a message about setting up a meeting, but the subject line pertains to a message you sent two years ago, and says, “Re: Sad news about Fred Benson”.
A chain of email messages on about the same topic: If each email is part of a chain of messages on one topic, customize each of them in some way, so the sender and you can find it later.
First message subject line: SLR Project Plans
Re: SLR Project Plans-McCorison contact info/schedule
Re: SLR Project Plans-Timeline
Re: SLR Project Plans-Change in email address for Tina Lewis
Re: SLR Project Plans-Immediate response needed: August update/SLR photo/name survey
The idea is to give recipients a way to save and recover all of the email messages related to the SLR Project, but also to find specific information within that group. Think of how many emails you would have to open if those messages all just said, “Re: SLR Project Plans” and you only wanted to know the timeline for the project.
A message about a completely different subject: If you look up a message from John and hit reply to send him an unrelated message, change the subject line. It not only is confusing to see a subject line about a topic you do not recall or that you are not aware of as a current issue, it looks as though you don’t care enough about the message or the recipient to personalize it.
First message: Sad news about Fred Benson
Second message, originally “Re: Sad news about Fred Benson”: Let’s get together for lunch
Forwarded messages: Many people hit delete when they see “FW:” in personal mail. In business settings they may not open it, thinking it is just FYI. Rather than using only the forwarded subject line, personalize it a bit as well, unless the person receiving it is expecting it and knows why they are getting it.
First message: Want your input–FW: SLR Project Plans
Second message: Your ideas? (Fwd msg. from CM to me about SLR Project Plans)
Yes, you do have enough time to make the email subject line fit the message. The email subject line is the first thing people look for, after seeing your name in their In-Box. Make it something that not only lets your recipient know what the email is about, but that also allows them to find it later. Do not give people a negative feeling about your message before they have even read it.
Many people have asked me, “Did Mr. Featherstone contact you again?” Sadly, no he did not. So, today I am going to mail a letter (you remember those, right?) to everyone with his name that I can find through normal sources. There are a surprisingly large number of people with his name!
The reminder still applies: Double and triple check what you put into those little fill-in-the-blank areas on Internet forms. Last week I realized I had written my name as “Tuba Rowe”. It can happen to all of us!
It is very frustrating to contact someone (like me) to ask for helpful material (for example, about church safety and security) and not hear back about it. It is equally frustrating when the person receiving the request (me again!) sends the material, but it is returned because of an inadvertent error in the provided email address. And I feel badly to think that a very gracious sounding man named Mr. Featherstone will feel that I’ve ignored him.
You can probably tell that I have been trying to locate a person with the last name of Featherstone for the last three hours, to no avail. He wrote a very nice note and I want to send him the material, doggone it! LinkedIn, White Pages, search engines, Facebook, repeat and repeat again, but still nothing for the area where I am sure he lives. Finally, I decided to use this headline, in the hopes he wonders why I did not respond and decides to write again. Maybe he will see this and know I really did try!
Make sure you double check your email address any time you fill in a form. It is very easy to transpose letters, show a former email provider or make some other error. Right now, I am going to try some variations on the email address I have been using, to see if I can figure it out.
You may be wondering what the photo in the article has to do with anything. Mostly I thought it was interesting to see the innovations of 1966. (Although why you would wear a sweater and white pants to watch TV in the sand, I don’t know.) Also, to remind us that technological advances usually are wonderful, but they can also cause a lot of frustration. If you are reading this, Mr. Featherstone, contact me again! Thanks!
Your Police Academy Training is the Start of a Great Career
If you or someone you know is planning on attending a law enforcement training academy in a college or technical school or a police or sheriff’s department, contact me, using the contact tab or the comments under this post (I’ll keep it private), and ask for a free e-book: Developing Your Career From Day One Until It is Done: Success In Your Police Academy. One day soon it will be a regular published book, but for right now I’m giving it away for free to help recruits, trainees and cadets feel more comfortable about their academy training and to help them be the Outstanding Recruit they want to be. I won’t put their email addresses on any list and won’t bother them again–it’s risk-free!
As you can know by looking at my bio information, I taught at the Denver Police Academy, served there as a lieutenant, then later as the commander when I was a captain. I teach instructional methodologies classes for academy instructors around the country and review lesson plans and test items for several academies. I wrote a book on promotional assessment center preparation and it has become a bible for thousands of officers. The bottom line is that I do know how academies work and how trainees can be more successful.
I also have seen many recruits come and go and never be the outstanding trainee or officer they wanted to be. I would like to prevent that in those who have the commitment and capabilities of being more and doing more.
Contact me–double check for accuracy on the email address–and I will send the material. I would like to know a little about the person who is asking for it and what their law enforcement goals are, but only what the person is comfortable sharing. It will be an invaluable and unique resource–and there is nothing else like it available anywhere else.
Police service is public service and law enforcement agencies need ethical, knowledgeable, skillful, fit and effective officers. The law enforcement training academy is where it starts!
I recently attended a high school class reunion. If you must know, it was my 50th year high school reunion, for Arkansas City, Kansas Senior High. I graduated when I was 5 or 6.
My high school friend, Sara Bly, worked like crazy to compile a DVD of video and PowerPoint, complete with music and comprised of old photos, scans of newspaper articles and other memorabilia. I helped by nagging her about it and making copies of her final product. It’s truly a masterpiece and I encourage you to start saving items now, no matter what your age, so your high school class can do something similar. (Even if right now you don’t think you care.)
As I looked over the photos, I realized, more than ever before, how many classmates have passed away. Their stories stopped right after high school or years later. Some were killed in Viet Nam, some died in car accidents, many fought cancer bravely until the end, heart failure took some and several ended their own lives.
The girl on the left is Tina Springgate, a funny and very intelligent girl and woman, who died from cancer shortly after our 30th reunion. She and I were on the Debate Team and she also was on the staff of the school paper,The Arklight. The last time I saw Tina she told me, “You’ll get to be the only ‘Tina’ before long.”
The girl on the right is Leslie Neal, my co-Feature Editor on the paper. We also co-wrote a column called, “Gleanings from the Grapevine”, in which we made what we thought were hysterically witty comments about various things around school, especially about the teachers. Leslie committed suicide when she was in her early twenties and I’ve never known why. I found out later that she was living in Denver at the time and I’ve wondered if I could have said or done something to make a difference–probably not, but I would have liked to try.
I’m in the middle, smiling with the other two–none of us having any idea what life would hold or how soon it would be over for two of us three.
I’ve included the photo of Tina Springgate, Leslie and me, not to be sad or morose about it, but to say that photos are still the best way to capture our memories. Even a written journal benefits from a photo or two of the author and others. However, take them in a way that gives people a chance to look their best and to smile for the camera, rather than the candid, often embarrassing photos you might take with your phone/camera when no one is prepared. A few candid shots are OK, but most women want to be ready to be photographed and both men and women look better when they are sitting or standing still, have their mouths closed and are looking moderately happy.
Tell people a day ahead of time that the next day is photo day for those who agree. Don’t force someone to get their picture taken, just let them see that you’re not making a huge production out of it. If your supervisor or manager is available, have a photo-op so people can get pictures taken with him or her. Some people will decline, but almost everyone who gets his or her photo taken with the boss, will be glad about it later.
In the 1970’s, Paul Anka sang the Nichols/Lane song that became a Kodak standard, “The Times of Your Life”. It’s easy for us to think of saving photos of family members and close friends, when we consider how quickly time passes. Think also of those you work with or meet with at work. Even the ones who irritate you, frustrate you or make you dislike them strongly, will one day–maybe sooner than you think–bring back worthwhile memories of that time of your life.
Whole-Church Means Everything and Everyone, All the Time.
The theme of all my material and seminars on developing church safety and security plans is this: The most effective programs consider all of the People, Places, Property, Programs and Processes of a place of worship. 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. That means that focusing only on main services or special services or the pastor or children or anything or anyone else, will not be as effective as keeping the big picture in mind. Similarly, focusing primarily on how to thwart or respond to crime, violence, active shooters, disruptive situations or assailants, is also not the complete picture of how to prevent harm.
Any realistic plans and programs can help a church be incrementally more safe and secure, of course. However, I worry when I hear someone talking about their church’s safety and security program and the main conversation is about how they have plans to respond to violent assailants or disruptive individuals. There is so much more to protecting a place of worship than that–as important as that is.
Keep the Big Picture in mind: As you develop plans or procedures for your church, synagogue or temple, please consider the very large picture of what you’re dealing with, even in a very small place of worship. There are people of all ages and conditions, activities on many days and nights, electronics, furniture, money, combustible materials, human temptations, off-site functions and a zillion other things that have or create vulnerabilities.
When you consider how to prevent problems, protect against harm, detect concerns and respond to emergencies, please look at the BIG picture. One way to do that is to have teachers, volunteers and others share the things they’ve worried about. Inspect every aspect of the church, on an ongoing basis, not just one time or in the daytime or in the summer or whatever. Talk to other churches about the things that have been problematic, frightening or resulted in harm. Do some research. Talk to your insurance company. Purposely, consciously keep the whole place of worship in mind.
Church Security Material and Seminars: Ask for my material, using the comment section or contact tab. (I don’t publish the comments for this, so no one is identified.) It’s free and every page encourages expanded thinking. Ask about sponsoring a six hour seminar or working with local law enforcement to do it–be a leader in outreach about Big Picture thinking. I don’t huckster my seminars, but they are tremendously well-received, so I like to mention them now and then.
A good way to consider your efforts is this: Which people, places, property, programs or processes matter? Those are the ones to be concerned about in your safety and security activities.
Tell Individuals They Are Part of a Team
I often refer to teams when I’m teaching supervisors or managers (or sergeants, lieutenants and commanders). That term may not be used in the various workplaces represented in the classes, but it’s convenient for describing offices, units and sections. (It might even be used to describe your Sunday School class, club or other group.) However, the fact that a group is called a team doesn’t mean that is the way the work is done.
Is your team actually a herd? Last week, one of the people in a class on conflict resolution said, “My group isn’t a team, it’s more like a herd. Sometimes we’re busy on our own and sometimes we’re stampeding, but mostly we’re in each others’ way.” We all laughed at that colorful, though cynical, description. Another participant made a very insightful statement:
“I coach 2nd and 3rd grade softball and that’s what most work groups, including mine, remind me of. It’s not that the kids don’t want to be part of a team–actually they love the idea of that, especially when we win. It’s just that they’re so focused on themselves they don’t get around to thinking about anyone else. One of my tasks as a coach is to remind them, every few minutes, to be aware of what’s going on around them and what their teammates need from them.”
I thought that was an excellent analogy and it led to a discussion of how much we should focus on individuals and how much on the team. The majority thought that most adults prefer to be valued for themselves and their individual work rather than primarily for helping their team be successful. This is particularly true when the individuals in a work group don’t get along well. (Not all employees may feel that way, but it’s a safe bet most of the time.) However, just as there are times when every person has to focus on their own work and depend upon others to do the same, there are also times when sharing a task is necessary and collaboration and cooperation is needed.
Contrived methods, such as naming the team (especially for yourself, like “Team Anderson”) are almost always rejected. The main way to ensure a team concept is to talk about it as though it is obvious and expected, then move on and let people work. If you’re a supervisor or manager and are observing as you should be, you’ll notice when the team is functioning like one.
*Refer to the team or group in meetings or when talking to more than one or two people: “This is a great group of people.” “Let’s stay united as a team on this.” “Each of you represents the entire section.” “OK, Team, let’s get started with our meeting.” “You guys know what you need to do on your own, but remember you’re part of a team too, so look around and see if anyone is needing help.” (You’d say something better than any of those–but it needs to be said.)
*Commend people who contribute to the work of the larger group. “Your work on this made us all look good.” “You represented us well.” “Lara, I’m always impressed with how much you contribute to the work of the group.” “Jim, Tom, Deanna, Mike and Maureen, your teamwork made this happen.” (Just make sure you are telling the truth. Don’t thank the team if you know not everyone contributed at an acceptable level.)
*Quickly correct actions that distracts the group negatively or that hurts team work: “When you made it hard for Darren to get his work done, you hurt the whole section.” “You may think you just upset Sherry, but what you did was distract the entire team.” “You do good work when you’re working on your own, but you’re expected to work effectively with others and within the team, too. That’s not happening right now.” “The most harmful effect of this kind of gossip is that it puts people at odds with each other and hurts the team.” “When you two are snipping at each other, you’re snipping away at everyone, because it ruins work for all of us.”
Recognizing good individual work and good teamwork requires awareness of what is happening, then taking a leadership role to talk about it. There is a time to give a pat on the back to individuals who are doing good work on their own. There are also times when it’s good to say, “Let’s go,Team!” Whether you are an employee (team member) or a supervisor or manager (team leader), take that leadership role and help everyone feel better about their work and their herd team.
Do you have a few times and dates permanently printed on your mind because, after that one moment or one event, nothing was ever the same again? You may have had no control over some of those fateful times–although you probably have retraced your steps to see which ones led you most directly to what you now think of as the moment that changed everything. However, many of your career-changing, life-changing, reputation-changing, habit-changing, future-changing, memory-changing moments were the result of your own decisions. It may have been a door you opened or a door you closed; you may have had a brief “aha” thought or an “uh oh” feeling; warning bells may have sounded or the situation may have seemed unimportant. The memory of those times can remind you that today may bring just such a decision-point into your life. Be alert for the moment and in a state of readiness–mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually–to respond in the best way.
*The concept of being in the moment can help you slow down a bit and think about what you’re saying, doing and being. If you have ever eaten a handful of candy you didn’t really even want, but you did it while talking or thinking of something else, you can relate to the idea. In your work and life, give yourself time, even if only a few minutes, to consider what you are doing and whether it is really what you want for your life, now and over time. Give equal thought to the impact you are having on the lives of others.
*Be as alert and ready for good things as you are for things that may turn out badly. You can greet most people and situations with a welcoming smile and cheerful anticipation. Add zest, energy and hope to your life with the belief that something special is about to happen. Even if later events dull the initial glow, you very often will gain new perspectives and personal and professional depth.
I chose the photo at the top of this article because I first saw only the foggy road and thought it was interestingly ethereal. Then, I saw someone approaching through the fog. Is it a stranger or a friend? Is there a threat or an opportunity? Will he or she pass by or stop–and what will be the result? Because it is a photo, the moment is suspended forever and the outcome will never be known. In your life and work it may be the moment that changes everything. Be alert and ready.
The suffix ship, is used with a large number of words, to designate the condition of being something, possessing skills and abilities related to something, or having the duties or status of something: Readership, horsemanship, fellowship, friendship, dealership, craftsmanship and others–including leadership. Nevertheless, there is something compelling about the concept of a ship, flags unfurled, leading the way for others. That is why it is such a shame when we see leaders and their followers run aground or capsize.
Old military and western movies often had the hero say, “Follow me, men!” Then, the hero left no doubt where they would be going–because he was already half way there.
In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying to a group of men who were fishing, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” They knew he had a mission and was making them part of it, so they threw down their nets and followed him. Uncle Kracker, in his 2001 song, only said, “Follow me and it will be alright.” John Denver, in his 70’s era song could only promise, “Follow me….and I will follow you.” The Great Leader made disciples by telling people what to expect if they looked to him for leadership. He was even honest about the fact that following Him would result in scorn, ridicule and maybe death–but people followed anyway.
I mention those examples to remind you that your leadership is all about encouraging, directing and hoping that people will follow you. But why should they? What will it get them and where will they end up? Calling yourself a leader is one thing. Taking people some place is another thing. Taking people someplace worthwhile is the ultimate thing.
A good way to force yourself to think about this issue is to develop a short statement that says what those who are influenced by you can expect in their work and their lives. You may never say it directly to those you wish to influence–although I think you should. But, just saying it to yourself is a test of whether or not there is anything definite to your leadership or if it is all blah-blah-blah fluff talk.
Will those who follow you be recognized for producing consistently excellent work?
Will they have experiences they can use to develop their careers?
Will they have many finished products they can point to with pride?
Will they be in line for advancement, bonuses or at least some kind of recognition?
What will be the downside? Might they be viewed as over-achievers? Could they be resented for holding to high standards?
Or, is the best you can promise, “Follow me and I’ll appreciate it”?
If you think you are an informal leader or if you have an organizational leadership role, develop an answer to this question: If people follow you, what results will they get?
Another way to put it: Pretend you are in front of one or more of the people you hope will view you as a leader. Complete this sentence: “Follow me, and…………!!”
By the way, Go Broncos!
One of my favorite lines of poetry is by John Milton: “Tomorrow, to fresh woods and pastures new.” The poet wasn’t writing about work, but those words certainly apply to the longing we sometimes have for a fresh start. If you can’t start fresh, you can at least freshen things up in your work space and in your mind and spirit as well. January is a good time for that. (February through December can be, as well.) Here are the basics:
1. Do the most obvious cleaning and tidying first, so those who visit your work area will notice and you will get a positive feeling right away. Completely clear the top of your desk or work top and wash and sanitize it. Wash or dust everything, even if the items don’t appear to be dirty. You will probably be surprised at how much dust and dirt you remove.
2. Decide what needs to be on your desktop before you put anything back. Consider the items that you think of as necessary to have in front of you or at least close at hand. Apply the test of asking how often you use the item and when you used the item last.
If you don’t use an item but you want it for the cool factor (the red Swingline stapler that shows you like the cult movie, Office Space, for example), maybe it is time to move on from there. Maybe not, but at least think about it. By the way, that Milton isn’t related to John Milton, the poet.
3. After you have the essential items in place, consider the other things you have in and around your work space. What about freshening up the photos, cards, notes and other things that you may not even notice anymore? Replace them with new items or rearrange them to add some freshness. Or, take them home and don’t put anything in their place and see how open your work area feels.
4. Your next project can be to sort through desk drawers, bookshelves, the items you have under your desk, things on the cubicle walls and stuff and things in general. Down the line you can work on paper files, books or old forms and items that are no longer needed. You may not get to those things for a while, but at least the area where you do your work will look more fresh and appealing. If not to you, to those who come into your work space.
The bottom line: You will probably have few opportunities to move to completely fresh woods and new pastures in your life and career. You may have thought you were doing that, only to find that the grass was not as green as it looked from the other side of the pasture fence. Try a simple thing like making a fresh and clean work area. After that, focus on creating a fresh you. You can probably also use that at home!