Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Would You Like To Erase Parts of Your Past?

 When your past catches up with you, or you catch up with your past. Last month a woman was photographed after paying $53,000 to have puppies cloned from her former beloved pet. When her photo circulated around the world, several people came forward to accuse her of crimes dating back thirty years! She is facing a number of charges right now, although some of them have been dropped because of the statute of limitations. 

You may also recall several cases in which people on 12 Step Recovery programs have contacted people to seek forgiveness and make amends (Step Nine) and been charged and tried for the crimes they committed. In one case the man admitted to a lesser crime but his victim claimed something more serious and he was found guilty of that crime.

In the first situation, the woman’s past caught up with her and she is desperately trying to claim that it was not her. In the other situation, the people brought their pasts into the open in an effort to make things better–not always successfully. What they have in common with many of us is that they would like to erase the parts of their past that are now so humiliating or troubling, or that are creating trouble for them. One man who sought forgiveness for stealing money from his workplace thirty years ago said, “That was another me. The me I am now is ashamed, disgusted and repulsed by what I did.”

Have you ever felt that way? Not about something criminal I hope, but about something you wish you had not done, or swear you would never do now? Have you ever remembered something you said, did or thought years ago–or only months, weeks or days ago–and wished you could erase it? You cannot, and neither can those who are aware of what you did. So, is there any way to make it better?

1. If you can apologize without causing emotional pain or embarassment, do so. If you had a bad relationship or did unkind or ill-judged things, or if someone else “knew you when”, and you wish they had a better memory of you, perhaps you can discuss it with them and feel some forgiveness or at least understanding. That is not always a kind thing, however–and you may find it makes the other person feel bad while you are trying to feel good.

If you do not feel you can apologize or if you think it will create more hard feelings, consider re-contacting that person and focus on establishing a better relationship this time. They may think there are things they need to apologize about as well! Or, if it seems you can talk about it, mention your poor judgment and talk briefly about the old you and how you regret what you did. Sometimes one sincere sentence like that can bring resolution to both of you, without creating even more discomfort.

2. Commit to your new, better and more mature life. Perhaps you were wrong or used poor judgment back then. LIve your life now in the best way possible.  Think of what you want to say about your life in another year. Will you be proud of your work and life this year or will you be wishing you could erase it?

3. Do not make excuses for yourself. It is true that you are probably no worse than many others. It is also true that no good comes from beating up on yourself mentally about relatively minor things from the past. However, do not fall into the trap of convincing yourself you really have no reason to feel remorse or regret. One way you know you have matured and improved is that you see what you did wrong and what was unwise, and you feel badly about it.

4. Be your own parent or counselor. If a friend or your child came to you with the situation you are thinking about, what would you suggest they do? You would probably tell them to try to make it right, and if that is not possible, to simply promise to do better in the future and live up to the promise. That is what you can do as well.

Whatever you did decades, years or months ago, you do not have to do it again. You can be a better person, and a person for whom you have more respect. If you do that steadily, consistently and whole-heartedly, you will be able to see yourself as different than that old version of you was, and others will see you differently as well. Now and then you may find someone who remembers the old you. Let them hear and see the new you, and stick with it. The new you–the best you–can be the real you!

September 7th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 7 comments

Go Home!

“Physician, heal thyself.”

This post certainly comes under the heading of “do as I suggest, not necessarily as I do.” But, how can we justify not trying to help others avoid the mistakes we have made? In this case, I feel like Jacob Marley telling Scrooge, “It’s too late for me, but you can save yourself!”

(Incidentally, in the New Testament of the Bible, in the book of Luke, Jesus said he expected to be told the proverb, “Physician, heal thyself.” That says to me that people have probably always given advice they do not apply to themselves. Since Luke was a physician, I suppose he picked up on that before anyone else would!)

So, I’m not being hypocritical when I advise you, ask you, plead with you, and, if it will help, command you, to start leaving work on time.

Why do you stay at work after quitting time? If you stay more than a very few minutes after quitting time, give careful consideration about why you do it.

*If you do it because you have so many things left to do, challenge yourself–order yourself–to delegate some of it, stop doing some of it, or discuss it with your manager and see what might be eliminated or reduced to allow you to leave on time. Do not even let yourself think that it is impossible. Make the assumption that it is possible–especially since the person before you and the one following you will probably manage to go home on time!

*If you do it because you are a poor time manager during your work day, learn better skills, and discipline yourself to stick with them. As long as you let yourself think you can tack a couple of hours onto the end of your work day, you will dally when you should be doing.

*If you do it to impress people, you can stop now. If employees or others respect and like you, they will continue to do so if you go home on time. If they do not respect and like you, they will think you are a dope for having to work so late. (As someone once said about me, “I don’t see what’s so great about her taking ten hours to do a four hour job.”) (Ouch!)

*If you do it because you feel fearful or guilty about leaving on time, ask someone you trust if they would think less of you. Ask an employee if it makes his or her work easier when you stay late. Or, ask your boss if he or she will be angry if you are as punctual about going home as you are about coming to work. You know what the answers will be.  

*If you stay late to socialize with others, that might be semi-acceptable. But, really, you all need to go home.  If you decide it is fun to stay later to chat, at least turn off the computer and be ready to walk out the door the minute you have finished your after-work social time.

How to break the staying late habit: (I have had to glean this information from others, since I was never very good at it myself!)

1. Make a commitment to do it. You say you are good at self-management–prove it.

2. Get ready for tomorrow an hour earlier. Most people who stay late do not even start thinking about leaving until leaving time. Be ready to go by getting things ready for the next day–when you probably will  be there two hours early.

3. Make the thought of going home enjoyable. Have something in a crockpot; have a ritual of sitting on the patio with a glass of iced tea; go home to a fairly clean house; ask your family to help you by not confronting you with chaos every evening; look forward to hugging your spouse and children…or your dog or cat. (Actually, if you get a dog, you will have to get home on time to let it out, but that seems to be a high price to pay!)

4. Like any other habit you must break or make, stick with your plan for at least a month, until it becomes a firm habit. Remember your commitment. If you told an employee to be at work on time, you would expect him or her to find a way to make it happen. In this case, you are telling yourself to go home on time. Find a way to make it happen!

If you enjoy working, you have received a great blessing. Thomas Carlylse said, “Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.” It is an equally great blessing to be competent enough and confldent enough, to go home when it is time to go home. 

OK. I’m outta here!


August 31st, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 6 comments

“The Snow Will Stop, The Wind Will Cease, And The Sun Will Shine”

Snow and more snow!

Stormy weather: The tragedy and disruption created by Hurricane Fay, as well as by tornadoes, flooding, blizzards and all the other weather that hits our globe, reminds us that there are natural forces over which we have very little control. (Although we are finding out more every day about ways we can have some control as we protect our Earth!)

Usually our best options are to prevent the problems that we can prevent, be as prepared as possible for anything that might happen, then work quickly to repair damage and regain stability.

Work is like that. You can control many aspects of it, but not all of it–and some of it is completely out of your control. The only things you can control are your preparedness for the things that are likely to happen and your responses to them, so they do not have the power to ruin your happiness and inner peace.

Your workplace mental and emotional preparedness kit:

1. A strong foundation of competence. If you are highly competent at your work, you will have evidence of your value and so will others. That alone can be a tremendous source of protection when things are going bad at work. It also helps you feel better about yourself–with something to base those feelings on.

2. A strong awareness of continuity. One of the things that can help us move past problems is being aware that “this too, shall pass.” The situation you are confronting right now may be making you miserable, but there is more to your job than that. There is more to your life than that. Consider the stable parts of your life right now, and keep those strong. They provide the continuity that will help you overcome obstacles and allow you to feel inward calm.

3. A strong feeling of confidence. Confidence is not just about positive self-image, it is about self-reliance, self-management and self-motivation. Confidence comes from within you and transcends temporary set-backs. Remember though, there has to be a foundation for confidence, otherwise you just have ego!

4. A strong sense of courage. There are times when courage can lead us to step forward and assert ourselves when it is needed, or to stand up for others. Perhaps your best display of courage will come when you can get showered and dressed, drive to work with a feeling of energy, walk into the office or workplace with a pleasant smile and greeting for everyone you see, and begin your work as though everything is perfect in your world. If you encounter arrows, knives or barricades, you just keep moving and focus on the future–there is one!

One of the best feelings you will ever have at work is when you are talking, walking, and working with competence, confidence and courage, building a continuum of effectiveness. While you are at it, give your support to someone else who may not be as prepared for the storms of worklife as you are!

Staying prepared and developing strength: I used the photo and story about snow for a specific reason–the same reason I used the word strong to describe the elements of a mental and emotional workplace preparedness kit: 1.) It is still officially summer, but I know winter will be here, and now is the time to prepare for it. 2.) We cannot have strength in any capacity without consistent efforts to gain and maintain it.

The Big Blizzard: In March of 2008, parts of Ohio were shut down with recurring blizzards–20 inches in a 24 hour period on top of other snow. (Denver had 23.8 inches on Christmas Eve, 1982, Buffalo, New York had 38 inches of snowfall in one day in 1995–so there is always some other record holder!)

The snow and high winds created damage and disruption that had a severe impact on millions of residents, and the economic toll on businesses and governments was also terrible. Governor Ted Strickland surveyed the damage and made a statement that not only was a hit with reporters, but stuck in my consciousness to the point that I wrote it on a card and put it near my desk. He said:

We will get through this. The snow will stop, the wind will cease, and the sun will shine.
But until that happens we need to be smart, take care of ourselves and attempt to be helpful to others.

That seems to me to be a great bit of advice for all the storms of our lives!

August 23rd, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 7 comments

How Many Mountain Goats?

I took this picture at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and only later found it fascinating! As the tram went past it (and do not get me started on how awful that tram ride was. I will never, ever do it again if there are obnoxious children and parents waiting to get on it, which means I will probably never, ever do it again.) the guide said, “This is our habitat for mountain goats. They’re hard to see, but they are up there!”

I saw six immediately, and pointed them out to the people next to me who couldn’t see any of them. I snapped a photo to remind myself of the neat camouflage job. Later, when I looked at the photo on zoom, I realized there were a few more than four.

If you want to give it a try, right click on the photo and save it to your computer, then look at it in your photo manager and enlarge it to about 200%. Enlarging it too much pixelates the image and makes it more difficult to see. Then, use a magnifying glass if you need to, to really see the detail.  Go over each zone of the photo and you’ll see them. It’s sort of like an Easter Egg Hunt!

I wonder what would happen if a few of those mountain goats, surveying their bland and rather bleak surroundings, would decide to jazz things up a bit. How would they redecorate? How would they change their own appearances? What would they do to stand out in the crowd? I suppose the answer is that they would do none of those things, because they know hungry mountain lions would spot them easier. Individualism can be a good thing but attracting unwanted attention is not! Many of us would have benefited from attending Mountain Goat Survival School early in our lives.

Let me know how many you find!


OK gang, time to get the answer. I only am counting those that I can see for sure, either on my own or with a magnifying glass. (Although, even without a magnifying glass I can see most of them fairly well when enlarged slightly.) I have three question marks, and 41 sightings! Yes, 41! I had entered it here as 39, when I found two more, right out in the open!

Pastor Jeff Adams found several that I had not found, but I don’t think that should count, because he is supposed to sort of be like a shepherd, finding the sheep. Right? And, doesn’t the Bible say something about separating the sheep from the goats, or vice versa? Anyway, when it comes to seek and ye shall find, he found them!

Evans, Colorado Police Department Chief of Police Rick Brandt did a good job too. But again, how impressive is that, when he has had a whole career involved with finding people who don’t want to be found?

A friend who wants to remain anonymous was very close to the correct answer. But since she did most of her looking while at work, she felt it would be better to not have her name announced. I tried to convince her that my readership on this site could hardly be considered equivalent to putting it in the Rocky Mountain News, but she demurred.

How many did you find? Thanks for playing!

August 15th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work | 17 comments

Hurdles — Look Forward and Keep Moving!

I was reading about the Olympic Games and was fascinated by information about the hurdle competitions. I couldn’t help but think that life is like that. (I am, after all, the daughter of Creola Kincaid Lewis.)

The article said a requirement for success is for the runner to be aware of the hurdle before he or she reaches it, then at the moment of jumping, forget the hurdle, look forward and keep running. What a wonderful analogy!

I did some research on hurdles as a result of that article and probably found out more than I wanted or needed to know about the activity! However, like all research, it was fascinating for many reasons–and all of them reminded me of life and career challenges.

When you can do a lot, don’t settle for doing less.  As you would expect, runners prepare for the highest hurdles by starting with lower ones. But what I found most interesting was that once a runner is prepared for the highest hurdles they almost never go back to the lower ones just to keep in shape. To do that would hurt their muscle memory and give them a false sense of security. That is like our lives: Once we accept the challenges of responsibility we need to look for even greater responsibility to keep our knowledge and skills well trained.

The time to get ready is before you get going. As I looked at photos of hurdle competitors I was impressed with their physical conditions. Their leg and thigh muscles are incredible, but they also need total body strength. They do not get in that kind of condition after the race has started! That also applies to our non-running world, If we wait until we face challenges, tragedies or even triumphs before we prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally, we inevitably will handle the situations less effectively. Every day is a training day.

You don’t have to clear the hurdles to win. Hurdles are weighted so they fall over if touched by the runner. But get this: There are no penalities for knocking over a hurdle. The problem is that the pull-over weight considerably slows down the run. Nevertheless, knocking over a hurdle doesn’t mean the race is lost. The runner just has to run faster afterwards.

One thing you will notice: Runners do not stop and kick the hurdle after it falls over. Nor do they stop to trip other runners out of anger or frustration. They keep looking forward and running.  When we don’t clear a hurdle in our work we want to know why, and how we can avoid doing it again. But, we can do that better if we wait until there is a break in the action. Until then, we should keep going and make the next hurdle a brand new challenge.

Characterisitics of a runner with potential to be great in hurdle competetions: An article that discussed the characteristics coaches look for, listed these (See if they sound familiar for success in work): “Above average speed, light on your feet, have good stride length and excellent flexibility.” Wouldn’t that help us in almost every situation?

The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament of the Bible, said of his faith, “I forget what is behind me. I push hard toward what is ahead of me. I move on toward the goal to win the prize.” That applies to every race and to our lives and careers as well. You may be facing more than one hurdle today or in the weeks to come. Look at your hurdle, understand it and accept that it will be difficult, but keep your eyes on your final goal. If you have prepared and are as fit as possible for the race, you will clear the hurdles. And if you don’t, you can still keep running and you can end the race with a smile.

Incidentally, every Olympic game points out something else worth remembering: There is more than one medal. And, finishing honorably is reason enough to feel proud.

August 7th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 5 comments

How To Decide (Without Using A Coin)

Should I or shouldn’t I?

That question comprises about half of our thoughts every day, and the answers we give create the lives we have.

If the answer to that question is so crucial, it would seem that we should do a bit more than mentally–or actually–toss a coin. Maybe you will find some common decision-making and risk analysis techniques to be useful.

Pros and Cons: Almost all of us have done a list of pros and cons or for and against, something we were considering. When I started in high school I had the option of taking choir during the first hour of the day–which would have meant I could have been the pianist for the choir and would have enjoyed that tremendously.  Plus, Mr. Kenneth Judd, the choir director, had repeatedly asked me to do it and I didn’t want to let him down. Or, I could join the debate team, which seemed like a fun activity as well, but a lot of work. My mother told me to do a pros and cons list. But, I found as you may have found, that I had plenty of things on both sides.

Describe the Results: Since I still couldn’t decide between choir and debate, my mother told me to write a paragraph describing what I might say about the results of my decision in a year: My feelings, the possible good and bad things, the results, what I would have gained from it and so forth. Then, she said, I could decide what result appealed the most to me.

I wrote several pages about the results of being the accompanist for the choir for a year and the results for being in debate for a year. That made up my mind even before I was half way through the debate pages. I would never be able to use my choir activities in my future life, but I could easily use the knowledge and skills I obtained from debate. Yes, it would be more fun and less work to be in choir, and all of my friends were in choir, but debate ulimately would offer more.

I was only 14 at the time, but I learned a decision making method that has helped me since then: Write down possible results and decide which fits with what you want out of life. (Just think how my life would have been different, if I had not gained so much public speaking experience then!)

Incidentally, if I had called that concept, One Habit of Moderately Successful People, I could have made money, huh?

BT/WT: Last week I was given a wonderful book by Ben Carson, M.D. (and Gregg Lewis), called, Take the Risk. Dr. Carson is the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and is tremendously gifted in his work. The risk analysis concept he discusses in his book is not unheard of, but he applies it particularly well. It is essentially, BT/WT. Or, “What is the best thing that could happen if I do this? What is the worst thing? What is the best thing that could happen if I don’t do this? What is the worst thing?”

Throughout the book he gives examples of how that has helped him think through issues. He also does that analysis from the perspective of others, as a way to include their viewpoints in his decisions. I found that to be especially useful.

SWOT: This is a way to look at situations to consider risk as well as to make decisions. You consider the Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat related to a situation, and you can apply it in a number of ways. For the strength aspect you could consider what are your strengths or the strengths of your team. Or, you might think what are the strengths of the person you are negotiating, collaborating or competing with. The same multi-approach applies to the other aspects of this concept. You can find more about that concept on the internet or in various management books.

Decision Trees: These are highly complex and often involve computer assistance, but I use the concept in a much more simple way. The idea is to look at the branches of results and actions from your potential decisions. If you do this, what else must you do, and what will that cause, and what will be the result of that, and so on? If you don’t do this, what will you do instead, and what will that create and where will that take you, and so on? I have found that to be really interesting for considering cause and effect, and how we create the paths of our lives on a daily basis.

The Assessment Center Method: In my Assessment Center training I say that “Every day is an Assessment Center.” I often advise people to pretend they are filling out an assessment form for various aspects of their lives. On one side are the key positive results they want to attain. On the other side they can list their options and give each of them a rating according to how well it fits the positive result–one to five, for example. Or, even just yes or no. When you total the numbers you are more likely to have a clear answer to  the question: “Will this get me where I want to go?” If you weight the most important issues (x2, for example) you will have an even better result. I’ll discuss this in more detail in another article, but this is a quick version of it.

Perhaps you have a method of your own, or you have read about methods for helping you make decisions. Let me know about those. In the meantime, put the coin away and use a more thoughtful method to decide!


August 4th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work | 4 comments

Are You Waiting For All The Lights To Turn Green?

Samuel Johnson, the venerable philosopher and Dictionary compiler of the 1700s, said,

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”

A modern way to say that is,

“You’ll never get anywhere if you wait for all the lights to turn green at once.”

I was talking this week to someone who is anxious to make changes in several aspects of her life. She was telling me how frustrated she was over not being able to get going with her improvement plans. She had bought a goal-setting workbook but was waiting to start it when things were better. Unfortunately, getting things better was her goal!

I certainly could not criticize her, or even advise her very well, because I have the same tendency. If things are not just right, I tend to not get started. However, the longer I wait for things to be just right, the more there is to do to make them right!

Today, think of the stop lights in your life–the people, situations and things that frustrate you, depress you, or make you wish you could move forward and get to someplace else.  Or, the changes you want to make that require long-term action on your part. As my mother–and many other mothers–have advised about driving, “Sometimes it’s easier to make a bunch of right turns than one left turn across heavy traffic.” Just get going, in any way you can, and head toward your destination.

I know, I know, what you can do today is not enough to make things better. But maybe what you can do today is enough to keep it from getting worse. I also know that the little bit you can do today is not enough to get you where you want to go. But it will get you closer–and maybe that little bit will inspire you to go further tomorrow.

You will probably never find all the lights turning green at once. But if you keep moving, even in tiny increments, one day you will arrive where you want to be. Best wishes as you get moving and keep moving this week!

July 27th, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work | 5 comments

Unrealistic Expectations = Asking For Frustration

The sounds of frustration: Have you had these thoughts when someone hasn’t done what you wanted or expected, or has not responded as you hoped?

“I should have known…”
“I don’t know why I tried….”
“I thought if I gave him one more chance….”
“Well, he did it again.”
“I wish just once, she would…..”
“Was that too much to ask?”

The value of Get real! At work and in personal relationships, we often add to our frustration and disappointment by expecting something from someone that experience and intuition clearly indicates is not likely to happen. Think about your last frustration, disappointment or irritation with someone you know well, work with or supervise. Was it completely unexpected? In fact, have you caught yourself fishing for a response that you know is not likely, so you can say, at least to yourself, “See the way she is?”

  • If a friend or coworker has nearly always been uninterested in one or more topics that seem important to you, you will probably be hurt and frustrated if you try once again to get them to show some excitement about it.
  • If an employee has repeatedly done work that is barely standard, you are setting both of you up for problems if you expect things to change dramatically for the new task you assign him or her. Unless you have done something to intervene and make a difference, you will probably not get different performance.
  • If you have a boss who has rarely if ever said one word of appreciation for even your best work, you should plan on only a nod of the head when you get the big project done early–and be prepared to shrug away not even getting that.
  • If you have never enjoyed collaborating with someone, don’t volunteer to work with that person in the hopes he or she will have changed. You haven’t, so why would he or she?

Few people are so attuned to you, and you to them, that they can be everything you need and want. You probably have friends who are great for one activity, but you call someone else for another activity. You work with someone who is the guru about one thing but not as knowledgeable about something else as another coworker. You supervise someone who is strong in one area but needs help in another–and you get them the help they need to improve. You don’t have it all, either!

The key point is this: You and I are being unrealistic to keep trying to get something from others that they are either unable or unwilling to provide. If we cannot tolerate the way they are, we should stop the relationship. But if we keep the relationship we must accept that the person will always essentially be the same as they are now. Without being fatalistic about it, we should try to keep the attitude that our friends and loved ones are as they are, just as we are as we are. There is no point in putting them to the test one more time to see if they are different today than they have been for the last ten years.

Far too many supervisors do nothing to help or require employees to improve, but continue to supervise as though every employee is able and willing to do every task. This is an unrealistic expectation that is doomed to problems. A supervisor’s main job is to provide the guidance, support, directions and clearly stated expectations, that will ensure good work. It also means you must provide enough oversight to ensure that behavior and performance are at the correct level. There is no point in merely observing so you can say with disgust, “See? He just can’t get his act together!”

Don’t set yourself up for frustration. There are some aspects of friendships and work that will probably never change. Employees can learn new knowledge and skills through training, but they will always have the same traits and personality. Friends may change some behaviors in order to show their caring for us, but they probably will always have the same intrinsic attitudes they do now–and will occasionally revert back to what is more comfortable behavior for them.

Use the team concept, even in your friendships. The value of a team is that each person has strengths that, when combined with the strengths of others, makes for the most effective work. Apply that concept even in your friendships. You know which of your friends can provide the different elements you need–do not expect them to be completely interchangeable. Also realize that the reason they have friends other than you is that you are not all they need either!

Do you know someone who has it all, all the time? If know someone who has it all, and thinks you do too–you are indeed fortunate! Express and show your appreciation every chance you get, be the best possible family member, friend, coworker, employee or supervisor you can, and don’t burn them out or use them up! One way to keep such great relationships going is to keep finding new things to share.

July 21st, 2008 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 4 comments

Professional Associations — When To Join and When To Quit

Professional groups and associations can have value.

If you are building a career and want to develop professionally you can benefit from becoming part of groups and associations that focus on your interests.

If you want to develop colleagues and friendships, membership in associations and groups can provide a professional community with which you can interact.  Such memberships are also useful if you want to contribute to a body of knowledge and use that knowledge to improve your profession,

  • You will be more likely to keep up with trends and training, as well as have access to conferences, seminars, and certification programs.
  • If you attend meetings you can get information and make contacts that might be useful.
  • If your group is primarily long distance, you may receive benefits of being part of the group without going to meetings at all.
  • Your active participation can help you gain other skills.
  • You may receive useful written material, magazines and books.
  • Your membership may indicate a level of professional status that is beneficial.
  • You can list your membership on resumes and discuss it in interviews, to show that you are staying current and active.
  • You can represent your organization positively through your activities.

 Some things to consider before joining a group or association.

1. Is there value in it for you, or are you only joining to say you are a member? Few groups are so prestigious that you should spend money or time unnecessarily. If you are only joining to have the membership on your resume–or a lapel pin to wear–think twice. I’ve never been aware of someone who was picked for a position or who scored higher on a process, simply because he or she was a member of the International Association of High Powered People, or some such thing.  

If you really don’t want to join, but you are thinking about it because a very nice person wants to sponsor you–say no. Not, “Maybe.” Simply say, “Thank you for asking me, but I have so many other things to do I can barely breathe right now! I swear, even one more ounce of pressure and I’m liable to have a nervous breakdown just like the one I had last year. As it is, I sometimes feel like crying, I am so stressed about how much I have on my calendar and in my life. I hope you understand.”

OK. That might be extreme. But, you get the idea.  

2. If you have to pay for it yourself might you consider it differently than if your organization will be paying for it? Just because you can get it approved does not mean you should spend the money. It smacks of being unethical to join a group merely to get an annual conference/vacation paid for by your organization. (As in the case of the person who joined, quit and rejoined groups based on where their international conferences were being held.)

There can be value in moving memberships between associations every year or two if you want to gain several perspectives or contact lists. You may find one is preferable and stick with it.

3. Are you joining mostly to get the magazine or to find out about training, rather than for interacting with people? If so, see if you can subscribe to the magazine without being a member. Or, check out the organization’s website regularly to find out about conferences or training. A magazine subscription is a lot less expensive than a full membership just to get the magazine!

4. If it is local, will you attend enough meetings to be a contributing member? If you don’t intend to participate, maybe you should not join. Or, join as an associate member if that is available. If you do not participate someone on the “Let’s Get Everyone Involved” Committee will contact you regularly about it–which is irritating to you and them both.

5. Will meetings and activities create more pressure in your worklife or result in work being affected? Even if you decide to join, it is not necessary to become the secretary, president or board member right away–or ever. Do not let membership create more pressure in your life. Rarely does the business of an association have a lasting impact on very many things. (A cynical, but true, statement!)

When it is time to quit a professional group or association:

  • (If the group meets locally.) You dread going to meetings and welcome reasons to not go.
  • (If the group does not meet locally) Months go by without you opening the mail from them.
  • You resent the money you are spending–or you cannot afford it in the first place.
  • You cannot list more than one or two things you have gotten from membership in the last year.
  • You cannot list more than one or two things you have contributed in the last year.
  • It has so little value to you that you would not put it on a resume or mention it in an interview.

Final thought: Research the groups or clubs that could benefit you in your professional development and consider joining them. They can have value in many ways. However, keep in mind that your time, money, energy and interests are limited. Only join groups that add to your professional development significantly. Look for groups where you enjoy other members and are proud to say you are part of it. Then, be an active member who not only gets something from the group, but gives back as well.

July 15th, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments

Ken Blanchard and Tina Lewis Rowe — We Agree About Praise

About Praising

Praise what you want to have repeated. To praise someone means to commend them, congratulate them, honor them, extol their virtues, go into raptures over something they have done, or to strongly compliment them. Those descriptions set some high standards for what is praiseworthy! It also reminds us that there is a difference between thanking someone and praising them.

Ken Blanchard and Tina Lewis Rowe. Ken Blanchard wrote about the One Minute Praise in his books on the One Minute Manager concept. I teach about the Instant Impact Praise, which is praise that only takes a few seconds.  Both Ken and I (If I had ever met him I am sure I would call him by his first name) point out that praising not only emphasizes what behavior and performance is valued, it also is a way of saying that the employee is valuable. That is what makes praise so effective.

Tips for praising in ways that mean more to employees and you:

 1. Praise individuals. Telling everyone in staff meeting that you appreciate all they have done is appropriate. However, it will not have the same impact as communicating with each individual. If you have more than twenty people to praise, you may have to rely on mass compliments. If you have a smaller number, thank each person for his or her specific role.

2. Praise specifically. There are times when a general “good job” is sufficient, because the employee knows what you are talking about. Most of the time praise should be specific. For one thing, “good job” is not really praising, it is simply acknowledging in a rather tepid way.

3. Praise honestly.  When a supervisor walks through a workplace, smiling and saying, “Good work!” to everyone, it dilutes the praise for those who really are doing a good job, and gives false approval to those who are not. Look for ways to praise to the appropriate level of accomplishment, and look for ways to recognize what is praiseworthy.

* Develop a Praise Phrase Vocabulary: Use the concepts that fit the work and the person, and praise high enough to show how valuable the work and the employee really is. “Wow! You’re really impressive in the way you handle an upset customer.” “That was exactly the way that project needed to be done.” “This report is a masterpiece of organization.” “You are certainly catching on to this assignment considering the short time you have worked on it. You’re doing the inventory just right.” “When I hear compliments from clients like the ones I heard about this program, I am so glad you work here!”

Don’t those sound more like praise, than, “Good job”? You need to say more than one sentence. But, even if you have to stop at that because of time or the situation, you will have really praised!

* Praise when it is merited, not just to be tossing out praise. Praise is a form of training, because it lets employees know what is valued, and encourages them to do it again. If you praise when work or behavior is not good, or if you praise in generalities when only one specific thing was good, you still are training–but not about the right things.

If you think you will never be able to praise an employee, because he or she is not very praiseworthy, consider these two thoughts: 1. Watch more closely and find something to praise–it nearly always is there. 2. If there really isn’t anything to praise, what are you doing about it?

Enjoy praising–it is one of the best perks of being a supervisor or manager.

Most coworkers do not praise each other. If they do, the praise is more like friendly support. When a manager or supervisor praises it often has more value to the employee–not always, but often. Praise individually, specifically and honestly, and it will brighten an employee’s day, and yours too!

July 10th, 2008 Posted by | Supervision and Management | 5 comments

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