Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

The Eagle Has Landed Without Me

Last night I went outside and spent awhile looking at the moon. I do that often and call it my late-night vespers. Last night I thought about the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon–WALK ON THE MOON!!!!! How incredible that was! How newsworthy!  Exciting! Dramatic! Earth-changing! Sadly, I have almost no recollection of it.

Here is why I don’t remember the time Americans spent landing on the moon, walking on the moon and making it back from the moon: I was busy doing really important things:  My birthday was in two days and I was going to the L & M Steakhouse in Lakewood for dinner (Whoo-hoo! $6.00 for a great T-bone.) I was also busy getting ready to start my career the next month (August 15, 1969). Mostly I was busy living a small life in a small basement apartment at 2530 Krameria Street, in hippie-town Denver.  

My mug shot for the DPD. Summer 1969. "Teased" hair! Oh my!

Last night I thought about life then and the comparative importance of the moon and the L&M Steakhouse. Dag Hammerskjold, in his great, introspective book, Markings (which I had read many times by 1969, so you’d think I would have been less self-absorbed), wrote about the young man on one of Columbus’s ships who was only worried he wouldn’t make it back in time to inherit his father-in-law’s cobbler shop. Same thing.

For most people, their own life and concerns are all that matter. There is a tremendous lesson in that when we are trying to teach them or reach them or just trying to figure out how to deal with them. They can appreciate the moon, but the L&M Steakhouse is more immediate.  (I’m embarrassed to admit that was true then and often is true now.)

With many thanks to NASA and Neil Armstrong.

August 26th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 8 comments

The Psalm Of Life And Your March

My father, Ernest Lewis, often would recite his favorite portion of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Psalm of Life.  I heard it many times as a youngster, a teenager and a young adult. Sadly, I didn’t fully understood its significance to him or to anyone who has seen both life and death and who is aware that there is much less time ahead than the time behind. I wish I had talked to him about it–one of those many regrets I have (and with which you may be familiar). One thing is certain: Now I understand.

I’ve especially thought about Dad’s favorite lines since the tragic events last week in Aurora, Colorado, where I live. 

FROM THE PSALM OF LIFE

…Art is long and Time is fleeting,
        And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
        Funeral marches to the grave.

Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
       Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
       Seeing, shall take heart again

Let us, then, be up and doing,
       With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.

There are many things about life and death that we can’t choose. However, we can choose whether our march is purposeful and cheerful or indecisive and sluggish–and whether we are still achieving and pursuing right up to the end of our journey in this earthly life or still dragging our feet and complaining. What tempo is the beat of your muffled drum?

July 24th, 2012 Posted by | Keeping On!, Life and Work | 3 comments

Say What Needs To Be Said, Why Don’t You?

Try Straight Talk

Many of the  problems at work and elsewhere could be reduced dramatically if people would tell the truth in appropriate ways. Instead, problem solving is stalled by those who hint, pretend to joke, talk in round-about ways or try to avoid having conflict. 

What’s worse is that often it is done in the name of not wanting to start an argument, not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, not wanting to sound like a complainer, etc. etc.  But, while others are silent the situation gets worse.

If something is weighing on your mind,
If you want to say something about a problem,
If you wonder what someone meant,
If you are confused about instructions or directions,
If you have an appropriate thought or feeling you want to express,
If someone has a habit or a way of communicating with you that makes you grind your teeth in frustration…..

….Communicate directly in a courteous way.  You will also save a lot of time and you will get to the core of problems, rather than dancing all around them.

If the person you need to talk to is higher than you in the organization, you may be limited in what you can say–but you still can seek to clarify an issue or express a feeling.  If the person is a peer, friend or family  member, you should be courteous and appropriately caring. However, if something needs to be said, say it. You’ll feel better about it and you can get a subject cleared up and out of the way much more quickly.

If you don’t really care enough to deal with a problem or it happens so infrequently that it really isn’t an issue, maybe you can leave it alone.  If you complain about it repeatedly to others, either give them a break and stop complaining or do something effective to bring the frustrating situation to a halt. 

You’ll dread it but once you start talking you’ll feel better. You’ll probably  find that straight talk would have been the best response all along.

July 7th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments

How To Solve the Problems Of The Work Refrigerator

23.8 Cubic Ft. of Trouble

We’ve all seen the signs:

*All items not removed by Friday will be thrown out!

*Your mother doesn’t work here. Please clean out your trash and spoiled food.

*Label it or Lose it!

*To the person who ate my lunch yesterday: How does it feel to know that in your heart you’re nothing but a low-life thief?

An employee took me to the refrigerator in her office’s breakroom last week. She showed me the five signs on it and around it telling people to keep the refrigerator clean. When she opened the door I almost gagged, the odor was so gross! Then, she pointed out the notes accusing people of taking food. It was a depressing situation!

There are four actions that will change a situation like that or like the situation in your office: (If you have a happy office situation and no problems, these ideas may seem a bit much. I can assure you, they are not excessive for the needs of most offices):

1. Consider issues related to the break-room/kitchen, refrigerator and microwave just as important as any other source of conflict. It is part of the office environment and is under the purview of the supervisor or manager whether he or she likes the idea or not–just like the thermostat, music, fragrances and the other non-work things that have an effect on work relationships.

Do not refer to this as being the “refrigerator police”. It’s part of managing the office. It’s also a way to test whether or not the manager’s influence and leadership is as strong as he or she hopes it is. 

2. Establish one foundational policy: The refrigerator is only for storage of the employee’s lunch the day or shift it is brought in or for restaurant leftovers that day. If an employee wants to have the food again the next day it can be taken home and brought back. If there are leftover items from an office function, distribute it the same day. Employees can bring their cake back the next day if they want it. 

That one improvement–no items left overnight–will save most of the thefts and all of the rotten food smells. Forget making the rule that the refrigerator will be cleared at the end of the week. That isn’t working anywhere. Bring a lunch and eat it or take it back home, but don’t leave it overnight.  

 3. All employee food items must be in a solid paper bag, stapled and marked with the employee’s name. Have various sized paper bags, a stapler and a pen in a container next to the refrigerator. Even that one apple, container of yogurt or can of soda should be in a bag. (By the way, I think those (and cream, mentioned below) are the most common things to steal, based on many angry reports I receive. I had no idea how many people will give up their ethics for a container of yogurt.)

Employees can bag their items at home or do it at work, but nothing is allowed in the refrigerator without being in a marked and stapled paper bag. After lunch, leftovers can be re-bagged or the first bag can be re-stapled.  

No thermal bags: Thermal bags take up much more space than others. They also prevent the cold air from getting to the food. So, if someone wants to bring a thermal bag they can keep it in their personal space or take the items out and put them in a stapled, marked paper bag.

The requirement to bag, staple and mark food items will eliminate the rest of the thievery and food smells.  It will also make it possible to remind employees that their lunch bag is still in the refrigerator.

*The same rules applies to the cream, milk or soy milk and the various condiments employees may want to bring. Inevitably it will be stolen or tampered with and the uproar begins. So, that too should be brought the day it is needed and taken home at the end of the shift. There is no reason to have hot sauce, soy sauce, ketchup or anything else, taking up permanent residence in an office refrigerator.

*These rules also apply to the freezer. It’s not to be used for long-term storage. 

*Suggest that employees put their car keys in their lunch bags as a way to remind them to pick up their leftover lunch food.

*Acknowledge that this will be more effort for employees who bring food, but it is not horrible work or energy-draining work. The flipside is that since the refrigerator won’t be dirty, no one will have to have the assignment of cleaning out someone else’s old food.

*Make this part of new-employee orientations, even for employees who are not new to the overall company. If they haven’t worked in an office with a clean refrigerator they’ll need to be coached about what your office does to keep it that way!

4. Consider failure to follow these established processes just as much of a behavioral problem as failure to follow rules about anything else, because it is. These aren’t suggestions they are the way things are to be done.

On your own: Whether your office has a process like this or not, if you bring a lunch you could start bringing a stapled and marked paper bag on your own. Maybe it will catch on and maybe not, but at least your lunch will not be stolen and your food will never be considered a problem for odor or anything else.

The bottom line: You may be thinking that Refrigerator Rules shouldn’t be needed. They probably shouldn’t be needed, but they are, aren’t they?

June 8th, 2012 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 20 comments

Tolerance Can Be Carried Too Far

Why do you put up with that??

A supervisor was telling me about an employee who was well known for lying about small issues as well as a larger ones, to the point that the employee wasn’t believed by anyone. 

I asked the supervisor if he had ever confronted the employee about it. “Nah. It makes him feel important, so we all just act like we believe him and walk away shaking our heads.” I don’t think that person’s lack of integrity and respect for others is a trivial matter to them, so this was very frustrating for me to hear.

Someone else was telling me about a coworker who is officious and bosses her and everyone else around. I asked her why she puts up with it and she said if she tried to stop it the coworker would be hurt, so she and everyone else has learned to tolerate it.  I see this a lot: They care more about her feelings than she cares about theirs.

A woman told me about the rants she endures from a coworker who has extreme and angry opinions about everything from politics to religion to social issues and street maintenance, etc., etc., ad naseam.  She said she used to be upset and distracted all day but she has learned to tolerate it so they can get along. Apparently she feels she should be the one to work at getting along, while the coworker can do anything he wants.

I don’t advocate continual confrontation about every small difference of style or opinion. But, it’s foolish and harmful for the majority of people in a workplace to “learn” to tolerate the one or two who are unpleasant or problematic. We create entitled royalty who think they can do or say anything they want–because the reality is, they can.

The next time you wonder why you have a coworker or employee who is unpleasasant or who gossips, gets angry, refuses to cooperate with someone, is disruptive or who exhibits other bad behavior, look no further for the answer than the people who put up with it–coworkers and/or bosses.

If you have sincerely tried to stop the situation and approached it the right way but have been shut down by managers or others, you have my sympathy and also my appreciation and admiration. If you have been tolerating something that continues to bother you, remember that tolerance isn’t always a good thing.  Sometimes what we call tolerance is just a lack of courage. Show some courage this week and speak up about something you shouldn’t be tolerating.  

May 27th, 2012 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 4 comments

What’s New With You?

I love to read old books and magazines–and both Popular Mechanics and Popular Science are favorites of mine. My Dad, Ernest Lewis, read them from the time he was a teenager in the 1920s and he and my mom discussed the ideas for the future that were featured every month. He often pointed out how many of the things we were using had been predicted decades earlier. The Drive-In Bank in the article above, in 1937, is one of those. (The idea is described twice as being novel–although now it seems that such a concept just makes sense.)

This article about a new idea for taking photos before all the teeth are removed and dentures are made is also described as novel.  I prefer the novel idea of finding a way to prevent the decay, disease or accidents that make dentures necessary. (My dentist commented not long ago that, thankfully, dental students nowadays are limited in opportunities for working with dentures.)

The first novel idea–a drive-in bank–takes a successful concept and improves it. The second merely makes a miserable situation a bit less terrible. It was better than before but still not a good thing. Life is sometimes like that, have you noticed?

 In the same issue is an article about a novel new game in which players guess who committed a murder and with what weapon. (I’m certain it was Professor Plum in the Library with a Rope.) That game, eventually called Clue, wasn’t patented until 1944 so it surprises me it was mentioned in a widely read magazine–unless the person patenting it got the idea from the magazine.  

Wander around your office and see what items are likely one day to be considered quaint instead of cutting edge. When new technology is purchased, take photos and scan the ads, instruction book and invoice. Develop your own record of how things have changed.  Do the same thing at home.

Someday you, your coworkers and your children will be fascinated to be reminded of the once novel items that became routine or were replaced with new, improved products. There may also be a few reminders that no matter how improved some things become, we still don’t want to be required to use them–like dentures.

May 7th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work | 5 comments

“Normal Day” Was Written By Mary Jean Irion

“Normal day, let me be aware
of the treasure you are.”
Mary Jean Irion wrote that!

You are about to discover that I’m on a mission! There is a well-known quotation–usually incorrectly identified as a poem–that has meant a great deal to me. It has meant even more as sad, painful, frustrating and frightening things have happened in my life.

You may have seen the quotation too. It begins….”Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.”  It’s the second of two paragraphs at the conclusion of a two page essay. It reminds us that at some point in our lives we may yearn for a mundane, typical, normal day–with its usual frustrations and irritations–to take the place of the painful, tragic or anquishing day we are experiencing.

Here is where my mission comes in: Almost always those lines are attributed to Mary Jean Iron. Hundreds and hundreds of sites have that attribution. I was interested in Ms. Iron, because I wanted to read the excerpt in context. That is when I discovered that there is no Ms. Iron. There is Mary Jean Irion (Ear-e-yon), who, as near as I have been able to research, wrote it in the late 1960s. After it was published in McCalls magazine she included it in a book of essays published in 1970: Yes, World. A Mosaic of Meditation.

Ms. Irion lives in Pennsylvania, wrote for The United Church Herald and was a teacher of English Literature at the Lancaster Country Day School–I think she’s still writing!

She may not care that her name is misspelled on sites that use this quote–in fact I’m sure she doesn’t, given her expressed philosophies. But, I’m on a mission to get her correctly attributed. So far I have contacted 116 sites and asked them to correct it. Most have. I’ll recontact the others and keep going. There have been some interesting results to my contacts and maybe I’ll share those sometime. 

Read Mary Jean Irion’s wonderful prose, straight from the book. It’s the conclusion of thoughts about her day, which had both good and bad elements–a normal day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you see it incorrectly attributed, let the website know that the correct author is Mary Jean Irion, in the essay, “Let Me Hold You While I May”, in the book, “Yes, World. A Mosaic of Meditation”, published in 1970 by Richard Baron Publishing. And it’s on page 53.

 

April 23rd, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work | 19 comments

Share Some Memories

This was a romance magazine from about 1968. I was reminded of it when I was describing to a class for new police sergeants, the way Denver looked on a weekend afternoon in the late 1960s. I said the area from City Hall to the Colorado Capitol building was “wall-to-wall Hippies.” One of the younger people in the class laughed and said, “Oooh, you mean Beatniks or Peaceniks or just Long-Hairs?” Several held up their fingers in the “peace” sign and swayed back and forth.  They were just joking and I realized that since they were nearly all born after 1985, the term sounded antiquated.

I think I called them Rat-Finks and Young Whippersnappers. But for just a moment I wished there was someone in the class who had shared that memory of Denver with me.

When my Dad was in his final days he talked about family members who had passed away, many of them decades before. He said, wistfully, “All the people I could talk to about times when I was younger have been gone for years.” I knew how he felt, but have come to understand it more every year since then.

That is probably one of the biggest values of reunions (both high school and family), retiree associations, and casual get-togethers with those we used to work with. Sure, some of the memories are a bit (or a lot) exaggerated, but at least it brings back shared times and reminds us of the way we were, individually and together. Even if you’re not so very old, there are times past that won’t come again and that are fun or interesting to recall with someone who was there.

This week, send an email, make a phone call or go visit someone who might enjoy remembering some the of the things you remember. Pick a time or situation and start the old-fashioned way: “Do you remember when…..?”

April 9th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 11 comments

Would Someone Drive Farther For YOU?

When my “extra” refrigerator in the laundry room needed to be replaced,  I knew I didn’t want to spend much on a new one so I did a lot of research and comparison shopping. I found the company where I would get my refrigerator, but I disliked the salesperson at the store a few blocks from me, so I put off the purchase for months. I even checked back a few times, but nope, he hadn’t improved!

When I finally decided to make the purchase, I drove a considerable distance farther and was willing to pay more if the less expensive item wasn’t in stock, just to avoid the salesperson I didn’t like. Fortunately, I found a product I liked at a very low price and the salesperson was perfect. I’ve already sent a thank you note to the store manager.

That experience made me think about how each of us are salespeople for something–or we should be. Would someone drive farther to do business with you or would they drive farther to avoid doing business with you?

*Do you make them feel like an interruption or like a valued person you want to assist?
*Are you nicely groomed, pleasant, smiling and helpful?
*Are you dependable, so if you say you’ll have something done at a particular time, you do? 
*Do you answer their questions in a way that is respectful and helpful, even if perhaps they don’t quite understand the subject as well as you?
*Do you greet them, talk to them and say goodbye to them in a way that gives them a good feeling about you and about themselves?
*Are you a top salesperson for yourself, your work, your section or unit and your organization?

You don’t have to be so glib and smooth talking that you can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo, as the old saying goes. But, you should be the kind of person with whom people enjoy working and communicating. A good goal is to make them feel better just because they’ve been around you.

Your customers and clients may not be able to drive farther to get away from you if you’re the only resource for them. But, you’ll never be as effective or successful as you want to be and you’ll never get the cooperation and assistance you want, if most people would do almost anything to avoid you. 

Promise yourself to make a few sales tomorrow!

March 25th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 6 comments

Stir Your Own Beans (Mind Your Own Business)

I was reading an article about the diet of pioneers on their journeys to the West.  It said a party of four was advised to bring: 600 pounds of flour, 400 pounds of bacon, 200 pounds of dried beans, 120 pounds of biscuits (probably the “hardtack” kind, not fluffy ones), 120 pounds of dried fruit, and pounds of other items such as seasonings, sugar and various chemicals.

Although meat was hunted and fish was caught along the trail, often beans were the main food.  The article commented that both men and women cooked on the trip, but one thing was a no-no: Cooks didn’t go to other campfires to give advice. They stayed at their own wagon and–to use the phrase I adopted for this article–stirred their own beans. 

Don’t you wish people you interact with at work would heed that advice? We all need to spend more time stirring our own beans and less time stirring the beans of others, so to speak. (I’m sure there’s something vaguely off-color about that analogy, but it still makes sense to me!)

There are certainly times when advice or help is asked for and you can give it briefly, then step back and let the person take care of things on their own. There are also times when the outcome is your responsibility and you need to do more than give advice, you need to correct or completely change the way something is done. (Even then, you need to be certain the change is really, truly necessary.) Those situations involve minding business that is yours or at least partly yours. 

The advice or false help that isn’t needed or wanted is when it is merely meddling. For example, you’re working very hard–maybe rushing–on a project or task that you have expertise in and experience doing. In the middle of that, someone who has plenty of his or her own work to do and knows nothing about what it takes to do your work, gets involved under the guise of helping. 

*”I know you were placing those orders but I went ahead and did ours so you wouldn’t have to.”
*”I saw the handouts on the copying machine so I distributed them.”
*”I know you said you wanted to contact people personally, but I was in the meeting so I told them about it already.” 
*”You said you’d bring it, but I wasn’t sure you’d remember, so I brought some too.”
*”I know you use that vendor, but I’m sure you can get it cheaper if you just check around.”
*”I put those tools away because I didn’t think you were using them.”
*”That’s no way to do it. Here, move over and let me show you how.”
*”I know it’s not my business, but really, don’t you think you should do this instead?’

 If you try to explain why the advice isn’t very helpful the rescuer will usually insist it could be helpful if only you would see it their way. Finally, if you’re not very gentle about it, you’ll get a huffy, “I was only trying to help.” as Mr. Fixit or Ms. Rescuer hangs up or stalks off.

The bottom line: Most of us have enough problems handling our own work without trying to tell others how to do theirs. If something being done by someone else will harm your own ability to work, that’s one thing. But, if you just think you have a better idea, can show how smart you are, want to rescue people and make them grateful to you, or whatever your other motivation might be, stay at your own campfire and stir your own beans.

This is a cookbook with some good recipes and interesting tips from pioneer times.

March 1st, 2012 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 6 comments

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