Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Who Re-Presents You?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the concept of re-presenting someone. You can refresh your memory in a new window by clicking here.  The idea was that when we pass along information at work, discuss a work project or do anything else related to work, we are direct representations of the person who first gave the information to us–often our supervisor or manager, or the higher levels of our organization.

This also applies to how those who report to us re-present us to others–and that is something we should take much more seriously than we sometimes do.  The people who report to you and the people who act on your behalf are you in the minds of many others. Make sure they represent you in the best possible ways.  

I was talking to someone this week who complained about an adminstrative support person (Admin, as we sometimes have shortened the title) who is excessive about her role as a secretary/gatekeeper. Here is what he said:  

“She doesn’t smile at anyone except the higher-ups and acts as though everyone is wasting her time. Her approach is that everyone except her and the top execs are too menial to see the BIG MAN.  She filters information so much, that a lot of the things people leave or send by email don’t get through. What really upsets people is that she takes on things she has no business getting involved with and has messed up several things under the guise of improving what someone else did. She’s like a bossy St. Peter at the Golden Gates! She does a great job with most of her actual work, but everyone dreads walking up to her throne…I mean, desk.”

The irony of that complaint is that the complainer is the employee’s boss! He told me he was at his wit’s end to know how to stop his Admin. from being so unpleasant and unhelpful to people inside and outside the organization.  He needed her to screen some things, but not in the way she was doing it.  What prompted his concern was that some key contacts were angry with him or had lost a measure of respect for him, based on the behavior of the person representing him.

The Alter-Ego Syndrome. Most organizations now and then have someone who becomes the alter-ego of the person they are supposed to be helping. Unfortunately they nearly always assume the role in an officious and obnoxious manner! (I think that reflects on their character in general, and what they would be like if they were given any authority over others. Some may feel sorry for their emotional neediness–I don’t, because I see and hear about the negative results so often.)

A similar situation occurs when supervisors and managers forget that the negative behavior, disruptive demeanor, poor work communications, ineffectiveness or inefficiency of their employees reflects directly and negatively on them as a leader, just as good work reflects positively.

If you have a direct report who has a reputation for negative performance or behavior: View everything that person does as being in your name. Ask yourself if it is how you want to be re-presented to those above you, the others who report to you, your clients or customers and anyone else who encounters that person.

I advised the person who complained to me about his administrative support person–but who was unsure if he wanted the hassle of trying to deal with her–to picture her with a sign around her neck that said,

“Everything I do is a representation of my manager. What do you think of him now?”

If every employee with whom you work wore such a sign, would you be responding differently to their actions, attitudes and performance? Whether you can see it or not, the sign is there!

June 5th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work | 2 comments

Your Favorite Website As A Dynamic Graph. (You’re Going To Love Me For This!)

If your favorite website looked like an exotic space flower!

 This is so much fun! I found a wonderful site that will create a graphic image to depict almost any website. It is based on the quantity of links, tables and images, as well as the format of the text.  It makes me want to do a few things just to make a more visually interesting graph–whether or not it adds value the material!

All of the examples I will give you here open in new windows, so you do not have to worry about navigating back and forth. To see my site, click here. Blue Moose Photography doesn’t have as many violet dots as I expected, but it’s pretty! You can see it here. To see my friend Jeff Adam’s site, click here. Judith Free’s site looks like this. Pastor Bulldog’s site looks like this. Celeste Bumpus, who writes about nutrition, has this graph. One of my favorites is the City and County of Denver site. Check out New York City and the lovely yellow flower that rapidly unfurls, by clicking here. Finally, you can look at the Washington, DC website graph by clicking here.

What do the colors mean?
: for links
red: for tables
green: for divisions within the site
violet: for images
yellow: for forms
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes
black: the HTML tag, the root node
gray: all other tags

In the future, you will notice many more links, tables, divisions, images, forms, and blockquotes on this site. Be prepared!

Do you want to see your favorite website or blog as a dynamic graph? Go to this great site and follow the instructions. Click here.  Don’t you love it?

Application in your life: Everyone you work with, everyone you know and everyone you meet, would look like one of those exotic flowers if you could see them in that way.  When you consider your own life, you know how complex it is, with all the links, images, linebreaks and data that make you what you are. The lives of others are the same. Just for the interest of it, think about your life and the lives of others as graphs much like these, and consider how amazing some of those might be.

Another application: Most of us could benefit by linking more, adding more images and developing our lives to be more colorful and interesting. For example, the yellow dots are for forms that allow input and questions from users. Maybe we should all try to get more input! And, did you notice how some of the graphs seem to keep growing and going as you watch? Like, for example, Amazon? Those are content-rich sites–a good goal for each of us!

June 3rd, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 3 comments

When duty called…

This is the time in which we honor those who have passed before us–both veterans and those we knew and loved in our families and circle of friends. For many Americans Memorial Day is simply the Monday that provides us with a three day weekend to start to summer–and it is a good way to do it! However, I fear we have lost sight of its original intent and I think that is sad.

We have almost no solemn occasions left in which our entire country pauses to honor those who died that we might have a country at all. I understand the need to value all heritages and countries of birth, but I regret that in doing that we seem to have neglected, to the point of dishonor, the price so many have paid to make the United States of America a country to which millions of people have come for a better life or better opportunities than they had in their original home countries. They may go back when they have gained the financial goals they had for coming here, but the fact still remains, they had to come to this country to do it. And this country has been kept safe by Americans who gave their all, over many generations.

A short history review: Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was started to honor those who gave their lives in the Civil War (The War Between the States, as some still call it.) There is ample historical and anecdotal information to indicate the practice of setting aside a day of memory was one of those simulataneous events in many parts of the north and south after the war, although Waterloo, Iowa is listed as the “official birthplace” of the day.

My father’s ancestors fought for the Confederacy and my mother’s ancestors fought for the Union, and I find the history of that war to be tragic no matter which side is considered. In a small town near my birthplace in Georgia there is a Civil War monument, erected in 1903, which reads,

“May we never forget the cause for which our honored dead gave their lives and sacrificed their futures. Though their motives be maligned we know the love of family, country, fellow-man and a just God that beat in their hearts. The purity of their thoughts need no justification and time will shine upon their precious smiles and valiant deeds.”

I have a newspaper article from an Indianapolis, Indiana newspaper in 1908, which I found between the pages of an old book I added to my collection not long ago. I was thrilled to find a treasure within a treasure! The headline reads, “Plea Is Made For Sons Of Veterans To Assist.” It was an announcement asking all the veterans of the Grand Army (the Union army), and their male descendants, to participate fully in a solemn day of remembrance on Memorial Day. It concludes with this paragraph from the official proclamation:

Cemeteries shall be marked with flags, and flowers will be strewn on graves of the fallen comrades of the days of the civil war. And in every other way possible the members of the Grand Army of the Republic shall be made to understand that their own flesh and blood will never allow Memorial day to be diverted from its original purpose, and that after the Grand Army is no more, their sons and grandsons and great grandsons in all succeeding generations shall keep fresh and green in the memories of rising generations the illustrious deeds of valor and patriotism of the heroes of the civil war, who saved this nation from being rent asunder by the armed forces of rebellion.

Incidentally, I went to the Indianapolis Star newspaper online, to see how they were remembering their honored ancestors. The front page was about the Indy 500 and rising gasoline prices. There was a small link at the top with the question, “Do you want to thank a veteran?” I went to that forum and found almost all the comments were humorous, “I want to thank a veternarian.” Or, they were against the current political and war situation, so they were flippant or viciously rude. The few serious comments were given insulting responses.

You and I can’t change anyone–especially not those who are so lacking in decency and honor that our efforts would be mocked, or so lacking in knowledge about history that they do not understand the debt they owe to others. But, we can do our own part to remember and honor those who gave their lives, no matter what our political or philosophical views. We owe them that.

The photograph at the top of this post is of my brother, Julian R. Lewis, who wrote the poem for the Denver Police Department memorial. It is fitting for many causes:

When Duty Called

When duty called, there was no thought but answer,
No question but the task that must be done.
Though death their final payment for the victory.
For honor was the battle fought and won.

No monument stands higher than their valor,
No words replace the loss of heroes, slain,
But if their names, remembered, give us courage,
Their sacrifice shall not have been in vain.

I hope you had a weekend that marked the beginning of Summer in a good way. If you didn’t visit a cemetery and honor, at least in your thoughts, those who gave their lives for our country, do that sometime soon. It is a good habit for us and our children–and perhaps in that way it will be a habit for our children’s children and their children, as well.

May 25th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work | 6 comments

The Burma-Ledo-Stillwell Road: “A Man’s Life For Every Mile.”

Several years ago I spoke at a meeting of Veterans of the China-Burma-India Campaign from World War II. Some of them had been engineers involved in the building of the Ledo Road, later called the Stilwell Road which improved and connected to the Chinese portion of the Burma Road. Now you see why it has been described as one of the greatest engineering feats of WWII–and perhaps in any war.


The Ledo road portion of the Stilwell road ran about 1,100 miles in every kind of environmental condition from jungle to mountain top, and was built by 15,000 American soldiers and engineers (60% who were African-Americans) and 35,000 local workers. 

In brief, here is the story: It was built to move supplies from India to China, through Burma. It was a vital supply line for our friends the Chinese, through the nation of our other friends, the Burmese, who we wanted to liberate from our bitter enemies, the Japanese, as we fought with our Allied friends Great Britain and Russia against the Axis powers, including our other bitter enemies, the Germans. (Great Britain had “annexed” Burma after a war in the late 1800s, and exiled the rulers to India.)

I’m not being flippant when I say this: Doesn’t it seem, throughout history and up until today, that we could save a lot of lives, property, money and heartache, if, every time there is a conflict, we could pretend that it is 50 years in the future?

The Veterans group I spoke to years ago were a wonderful group of men and a few women, and they were patriotic and enthused about life. They laughed and sang and had a great time. One of them was talking to  me about the 1,100 people, both soldiers and locals, who died while building the road. (Terrible construction accidents were a daily event, as were malaria outbreaks and strafing by Japanese planes.) He said, “It was Hell most of the time, now that I think about it. But in a strange way it was fun. We all had a job to do and we did it faster and better than anyone thought we could.”

Shortly after Buma was liberated and after they gained independence from the British Colonial system, the road stopped being used and the jungle reclaimed large portions of it. Many said the lives lost were even more tragic when one considered how little time the road was used and what became of our relations with China and Myanmar (as Burma is now called by the military government). Nevertheless, it was extremely valuable at the time. It was also a monument to brave men and women, doing the best they could in an incredibly challenging situation.

Since May 3rd when Cyclone Nargis destroyed large portions of coastal regions, you have likely read a great deal about Myanmar. You know now, if you did not before, how repressive (one might even say, murderous) the military government is. Myanmar is also a country of tremendous religious intolerance, and non-Buddhists (entire communities are involved in some cases) are not only persecuted, they are exterminated when possible–statements to the contrary by government leaders notwithstanding! (Buddhist monks who are opposed to the current military regime are also being persecuted and executed.)

Ironically, because the nation is so undeveloped, from the viewpoint of industrialization, utilities, transportation and other aspects of a supportive infrastructure, it also is a natural preserve for many animals and birds that are no longer found elsewhere.

You can read about Burma/Myanmar on many websites, and I encourage you to do so–I will refrain from picking and choosing the links for you, because views vary and not everything can be substantiated. Perhaps this recent tragedy will finally bring the conditions of Mayanmar to the attention of the world and every respectable country will become involved in finding solutions.

While you are reading, read about the Ledo Road. It is a fascinating part of history. But read it with respectful remembrance as well–especially since Memorial Day will be here soon. Look at the 24 switchbacks of the Ledo road, shown in the photo, think of the grit and determination involved in building it, and say thank you–maybe once for every torturous curve in the road!

May 21st, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 6 comments

Keep On Keeping On

Do you ever feel this burdened?

The philosopher Ovid said, “The burden which is well borne becomes light.” I am not convinced that it always becomes light, but my experience has been that it does not become heavier, and that alone can be a blessing.

I have thought of those words recently when talking with several people who are dealing with a variety of work and personal issues. They each had different burdens–work pressures, financial worries, relationship problems, illness, grief, and worry about children or parents. In each case the individuals could be said to be carrying their burdens well and I thought about what I could learn from their behavior, to apply to my own life. I’ll share those thoughts with you!

1. Moving forward with grace and perserverence does not require that you deny you have a burden. One of the people I spoke with had at first made light of a tremendous responsibility that had been placed on her shoulders recently. After a short conversation she said, “I have to tell you, it’s been the most crushingly stressful thing I’ve ever encountered.” I asked her if it felt good to admit that, and she laughed and said yes, it did. She said, “Sometimes I get so darned tired of being strong and invincible!” (She knows she is not, but in her world she must act that way many times.)

You are not diminished by saying to family or coworkers, “I feel terrible right now.” “I want to do well but I’m afraid.” “I’m miserably sad.” “I don’t see how I will get everything done.” “I’m heartsick over it.” Those are reasonable human emotions and reactions. In fact, in some ways it may diminish the significance of a situation if you act as though it has no impact on you or is not important enough to be concerned about.

Another aspect of saying you are burdened with concern, sadness, excessive work or a schedule that is punishing at the moment, is that you can be a better example of emotional, mental and spiritual strength to your family, friends and coworkers. If you make it all look easy or as though you do not care, how can they know what concerns you, and how can they learn how you deal with those concerns effectively?

2. The mere act of saying you have a plan for dealing with a burden is helpful. Even if you are speaking with a bit of false bravado, acting positive about your ability to deal with a situation is helpful. If you say, “Here is what I am doing to accomplish it.” Or, “I’m going to handle it this way.” Or, “Here is how I am working through it.”, you will almost certainly follow that with one or two ideas that you know intuitively will help.

No one says, “The way I’m going to respond to this new work challenge is to sit and complain for hours at a time.” Or, “I think I will be paralyzed by doubt.” Or, “The way I handle situations like this is to give up and let someone rescue me.” Saying you have a plan helps you realize you have a few ideas at least–and encourages you to follow through on those.

3. You may be able to lighten your burden by not carrying it at all–or by shifting it around a bit. One friend was telling me about a worry she was experiencing, that seemed to me to be unnecessary in the first place. However, I realized that I was looking at it from an outsider’s perspective so I did not express that thought. (Almost a first for me!) A few days later as we chatted again she said, “I’ve decided to not be the only one losing sleep over this. I was starting to feel more angry than worried and I knew I needed to make the other people take more responsibility. Now, I’m not losing sleep at all.”

Not all concerns can be shrugged off, of course. And emotions do not go away just because you decide to stop feeling them. However, even then we may be able to choose to not add to them unnecessarily. Sometimes toting around a specific worry is so habitual we never even consider that perhaps we could unload it or reduce it. (And sometimes we can do that best by not being around the people or situations that we know will add to it.)

4. Live your life in a way that prepares you for the inevitable burdens you will need to carry. You cannot move a heavy item if your muscles are weak because you have never used them. You cannot carry a heavy mental or emotional burden if you have never cultivated inner strength. Strength of any kind does not happen on its own, it must be developed and maintained.

One day–some place and at some time–you will need strength. That is an inevitability that none of us escape. What is not inevitable is how prepared and strong you will be. If the small frustrations and hurts have the power to negatively disrupt your life, work and relationships, you will be knocked down for the count by the large ones. The time to prepare is now.

We say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” We do not say, “When the going gets tough, the weak start developing strength so they will eventually be tough enough to get going.” Handling the big challenges of life effectively and with hope comes from the practice of effectively handling the little challenges every day.

You may have a philosophy or faith that helps you gain and maintain the strength you need. (You may have also found that it is much easier to apply that philosophy or faith in the abstract than when reality hits.) But, you will more likely be able to “keep the faith” during adversity if you have made a practice of it all along.

5. If you have a burden, stand as upright and balanced as possible, smile and keep moving. That may not be the best advice for a physical burden, but it works for a mental or emotional one. I am not suggesting that you cover your worries or problems with grinning, frantic activity. I mean, do not let your knees buckle and do not stop to meditate on how heavy the burden is–just focus on your goal and move toward it.

Keep this in mind as well (as I try to, even as I write these bits of advice): It is nearly always easier to tell someone else how they should carry their burden than it is to carry your own. Do not be quick to condemn the responses or reactions of others to the challenges of their lives. Instead, see what you can do to help or encourage them, without getting in the way of their efforts to move forward.

In my recent conversations with people about their personal and professional burdens I also found this to be true: At some point burdens do become lighter. Sadness lessens, a work project is over, a relationship either improves or ends, circumstances change, or maybe you simply adjust. Sometimes that takes much, much longer than other times, but it happens, as you have noticed in your own life. In the meantime, we can lighten the negative affect of our burdens by carrying them in a way that reflects well on our character and abilities. “I can do this,” becomes, “I did that and I’m stronger for it.”

May 20th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 3 comments

Should You Talk To The Group To Correct An Individual?

duck-shouting-at-babies.jpgIn your work history you may have experienced something like this: One of your coworkers violates a policy or rule, or makes a mistake, and your supervisor calls a meeting and seems to chew out everyone about it. You’re thinking, “Talk to Joe, he’s the one who did it, not me!”

One of the follow-up questions I received about the article on correcting employee performance or behavior (refresh your memory by clicking here), concerned the tactic of talking about problem behavior or performance to an entire group instead of directly to an individual. Some supervisors and managers say this is effective because it ensures everyone is aware of correct behavior. I suspect their primary motivation is that it lets them avoid an uncomfortable conversation with an employee! The best practices of supervision would indicate there are several problems with that approach.

  1. There is value in holding individual employees responsible and accountable for their actions. If negative behavior or poor performance is not discussed with the individual involved there is no personal accountability. Some individuals might understand that a group message was meant for them, but others might only feel relieved that they avoided being confronted and would not learn from it.
  2. There is value in the supervisor-employee conversation about problem behavior or performance. It allows both the supervisor and employee to talk and listen–and to understand what happened, why it happened and to clarify what will happen in the future. That cannot be accomplished if the matter is only discussed in a group setting.
  3. From the viewpoint of formal processes, discussing a process with a group does not fulfill the requirement to notify and warn an employee about what might happen if the negative actions occur again.
  4. It is almost impossible for a supervisor to avoid using a chiding or reprimanding tone to the group if that is the only time he or she will discuss it with the actual offender. If not, the comments will be only a mild discussion and that might not be effective to convey the seriousness of the issue to the employee who made the error or behaved inappropriately.
  5. Other employees resent group reprimands when they know the supervisor is really talking about the actions of only one or two people. Most employees view it as a sign if avoidance and weakness by the supervisor–not as a learning opportunity for them.

The best way to approach a situation in which you want to not only correct an individual but also to remind the others, is to do both effectively. Handle the individual situation in the correct way by either correcting at the time if the matter is urgent and/or talking in private if the matter needs a longer discussion. Then, plan verbal or written comments to other employees as strictly a matter of routine training, reminding, updating or clarifying, in a way that will not sound like–or be viewed as–a reprimand. 

Even with this training and clarifying, think about whether or not everyone needs it or if only a select few are likely to benefit from the information. It may be a situation that will benefit from a few personal conversations with employees in which you incorporate a variety of topics, from general chit-chat to specific work issues. That way you will be able to maintain an effective supervisory role, develop good working relationships with both individuals and groups, and be able to document that you have taken needed corrective actions as well as provided training. You will be more effective and you will also be more respected.

May 15th, 2008 Posted by | Supervision and Management | 3 comments

Do Any Of The Employees In Your Workplace Have An Accordion?

Great fun and great music! Robert Herridge on fiddle, Don Patterson on accordion, and Phil Parr on guitar. Photo by Lu Tatum. Thanks!I have mentioned before that I enjoy reading old books on supervision and management. I have dozens of them from the early 1900s through each decade after that. I often find them to contain ideas we erroneously think of as having been introduced in our “modern, enlightened” era. However, sometimes I find them to have thoughts that make them seem even more dated than the copyright would indicate. I may be showing my antiquity when I say that on occasion, as I read about some aspect of work in the 1950s and 1960s or before, I wish we could duplicate some aspects of it–not all, but some.

I recently read a nifty book called Technique of Successful Supervision by Calhoon and Kirkpatrick. (Not Techniques, but Technique.) It was published in 1956, but apparently much of it was written in about 1948 to 1952. The book focuses on the role of a foreman or supervisor in influencing employee behavior. The material covers how to make a presentation to individual employees or groups, to help them accept changes or corrections, and to encourage them about work in general. The concepts are very good and would be useful any time, if adapted to a specific work setting.

Among the chapter headings:

  • Influencing Employees Is Your Job
  • Why Employees Behave As They Do
  • Removing Resistance and Opposition
  • Writing More Effectively
  • A Program of Self-Improvement

The fact that the authors are professors of business rather than actual foremen is very obvious in some of the ideas. Add to that the fact that the book was written in a different era and for different work and social cultures and you get some thoughts that are inadvertently very amusing. I will mention one such example, but want to emphasize that I am not mocking the efforts of the authors or the situations they describe–it was just a different time. Also, I imagine their perspective of typical worklife was rather unrealistic, even in those times. After you read this and chuckle or shake your head about it, think about how it could be applied to your work situation. (The first paragraph could have been written today, it is the second paragraph that might not quite fit.)

Any experienced supervisor knows the importance of preventing resistance from developing. This can be done by raising and then rebutting the employee’s arguments in advance. Saying, “You may think…” or, “I know that you have had trouble…” does show understanding of the employee’s point of view and is intended by you to reduce the strength of his opposition. But, you need to consider some of the dangers of this approach. It may irritate the employee to be told what he thinks. Or, he may have the uncomfortable feeling that you are outsmarting him and he may resist, even though the logic of his position has been taken away.

On the whole, it is wiser to anticipate his objections by working answers to them into your presentation without specifically pointing out the objections. For example, you realize that close friendships built up in the gang are a major reason why an employee objects to a temporary transfer. In the course of the explanation, as one item, you can tell about the new group, describing how much fun they have together, such as:

“Just last month they got to talking together and thought it would be fun to get a bunch of ice-cold watermelon, go out to the edge of town, and have a watermelon cutting. Harry took his guitar, Pete his clarinet and Sam his accordion. They ate and sang until dark and had a heck of a good time. When you start in with them, they take you right in as one of the bunch.”

This would put a whole new spin on Choir Practice!

Here is the key point: You probably will not be able to picture your group involved in an activity like this. (Although you might be able to talk about volleyball, pool, video games or softball.) Nevertheless, the concept of anticipating concerns about any issue and addressing them is valid. Working with and through others to achieve the mission of the organization has not changed that much over time and we can learn from anything we read about it, from any era.

Before I do more reading, I will think about the good old days and listen to some accordion music. (As you may have noticed, each of us can think of times in the past–usually a few years before we were born until about the time we left high school–when the world seemed to be as it should be, at least in some ways.  One day 2008 will be the good old days to many people. Scary thought!)

P.S. Here is a classical accordion CD that might appeal to those of you who equate accordion music with Myron Floren or Lawrence Welk performing a polka–although I think that is wonderful too! Check out this YouTube jam session. It isn’t a polka, but it’s good accordion!

May 11th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 6 comments

A Quick Getaway Kit

Up, up and away!I recently read a supposed true anecdote about a woman who told her daughter she escaped a fire in her apartment and was able to save her new swimming suit. The daughter questioned her about why, with all the valuables in her home, she chose to save a swimming suit. The woman said, “Now that I’ve finally find a one-piece suit that doesn’t make me look fat I sure don’t want to lose it!”

Good question: What would you consider your must-save possessions?

If you and I are fortunate we will never have an emergency that requires us to evacuate our homes hurriedly–perhaps in the middle of the night with no lights to assist us as we leave. However, it does happen to some people and could happen to us for any of dozens of reasons. When it does, we want to be able to make a quick getaway and be prepared for “what do we do next?”

Two categories of items for an emergency:
1. Emergency Supplies (Food, water, personal care items, health needs,etc.)
2. A Quick Getaway Kit (Identification and financial items needed to travel, relocate or conduct personal business in an emergency.)

One way to consider what emergency supplies you would need and what you would want to have in your Quick Getaway Kit is to think about the varied situations that might require them:

  • Fires, floods and natural disasters that might damage or destroy anything left behind.
  • Power, water supply and public safety emergencies.
  • An event that makes your home uninhabitable.
  • An event that prevents you from leaving your home to purchase needed items.
  • Any emergency requiring you to leave immediately and for an extended time–perhaps far away from your residence, city or even your state.
  • Any situation where needed services (banks, stores and offices) are unable to be open for business.
  • An emergency–natural, accidental or medical–requiring immediate access to key information.

Emergency supplies: Many government websites have lists of proposed emergency supplies. The lists may look voluminous but you probably have many of the items already and will not have a difficult time maintaining them in a ready condition. These can literally be life-savers if you must evacuate your home or if you are trapped or stranded. They certainly can make life more comfortable and tolerable in those situations.

A Quick Getaway Kit: Consider using see-through storage bags, sturdy over-sized envelopes, or metal fire-resistant boxes for each person in your family. Keep the items in a secured and concealed location, but where you can quickly grab them and leave your house in an emergency. Among the things you would want to have available:

1. Identification and records that are sufficient for immediate needs: Passport, birth certificate or other identification.

2. Health and home insurance and other registration cards that might be useful.

2. A few checks.

3. Enough cash to be able to stay at a motel, get gasoline or buy food, and enough change for vending machines. You do not need an exceptionally large amount, perhaps a hundred dollars in ten dollar bills, and five dollars in change. Even if you have credit cards you may find you need cash–especially in an emergency. Some emergency planners suggest keeping one credit card solely for serious emergency situations.

4. A checklist with locations of other items to be taken if time and circumstances allow–or to allow others to be able to find them at a later time if you cannot assist.

5. Useful keys.

6. An emergency contact list with the phone number of your insurance agent, family members, coworkers and others.

7. Any other documents or items you want to be able to easily locate and take with you in an emergency.

Some emergency preparedness sites suggest keeping a duffel bag with essential items of clothing and toiletries in the same general location as your Quick Getaway Kit, in case you do not have time to get to other emergency supplies. As with all plans, your personal situation is the key to deciding what you will need.

Secure your Quick Getaway Kit. This kit will have essential personal and financial information, so keep it in a concealed, secure location. A good general rule is to keep your kit as high up as practical on the ground level of the house, in a container or location that does not signal, “Important papers kept here.” For example, consider the top shelf of a pantry or cupboard. If you want to keep the items in your file drawers, keep them in a folder or envelope marked in an unexciting way. (When I had an open office and knew that files of other supervisors had been rifled, I kept private documents in a folder marked, “Odometer Records”.)

Perhaps the biggest benefit to planning what you would need in your Quick Getaway Kit is that it makes you pause to evaluate the status of your emergency planning. It also will ensure that you have vital documents, items and information in a secured location instead of in drawers and files all over the house. This weekend, set aside time to plan and prepare for an emergency. A Quick Getaway Kit is a good way to start.

May 7th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Safety and Security Planning | 6 comments

Police Assessment Centers — Why They Work For You

Whether you have a complex Assessment Center or just one or two components of an Assessment Center, the concept works for you. It allows you to demonstrate what you can do, and forces others to do so as well. That gives you the same chance as someone who is glib but not skillful, or slick but not knowledgeable.

How a Police Assessment Center Works

Exercises: The concept of an Assessment Center is to provide multiple techniques (exercises) in which you participate while being observed or having your work examined by several trained assessors–usually from outside your organization.

The panel: You may wish you had your friends or those who know you, on the panel–but think about the increase in fairness for all, when what is rated is what the candidate can actually do, rather than what people think he or she can do or wish he or she would do. Most of us have enough issues to live down that it is preferable to be able to show what we know, rather than fighting an uphill battle against a negative feeling going in.

Assessors are trained before the process to understand the differences between your behavior and their opinion. They are usually scrupulously honest about keeping those separate. That also works for you.

Notes about your behaviors: The assessors will take notes about all of your behaviors (what you say and do and how you say and do it, and the thought processes you express about it). Then, they will link those behaviors to the competencies that have been identified for the job. Those should be no surprise, even if you are not told specifically what they are.

Competencies: If you wonder what compentencies you should demonstrate, check the job description, or just think about it: Communcations skills, problem solving and decision making, job knowledge, role readiness, interpersonal skills, planning and organizing and professional development are among the most obvious. Everything else will probably fit within those, whatever they are called in your process. For example, leadership, flexibility, conflict resolution, community knowledge or team building, all can fit within those basics.

Linking notes to competencies: The assessors hear you, see you or read what you have written. They take notes, based on what they know to be significant, because of their knowledge and experiences in the rank you have and the rank above you (what they probably are right now). They link those notes to the competencies and decide what supports those competencies and what would detract from them.

Your rating in each competency and for the whole exercise: Then, they give you a rating, usually from 1-10, to reflect their judgment about how well you demonstrated the competencies from the viewpoint of the role you seek. 0-4 is usually low, 5-7 is usually acceptable, 8-9 is usually excellent, 10 is usually considered outstanding.

You are not assessed about the role you have. Rather, about the role you seek. You must demonstrate that you can do the work of the rank you seek, not that you are doing well at your current work. In addition, assessors don’t rate you based on whether they like you, just on how you demonstrate competencies. Ironically, we used to complain about in-house interviews for promotions, and now I hear officers say they don’t like Assessment Centers and want to go back to in-house interviews! Those are usually officers who think they deserve a higher rating. But we all think we deserve a higher rating!

The book I think you should read over and over until you can apply it in your sleep: My book on preparing for police Assessment Centers, A Preparation Guide To The Assessment Center Method, has been helpful for thousands of officers, based on the sales and the wonderful emails I receive. Check it out at Amazon. If you have read it and found it useful, please write a review. Or, link to me in your own website or blog, so others can have the information. (I’m finding that to very helpful.)

The process works. However you prepare for your Assessment Center, remember this: The process, as it was developed, works. How your organization implements it might be problematic, but if a professional company produces it, you can feel very confident about its fairness and effectiveness.

Of course, I remind people of what Paul Whisenand, an AC developer and police author, said: “We identify people who have the basic skills to be effective in the role. It’s up to the organization to make sure they live up to their capabilities.” Very true!

Keep in touch about your promotional process plans! 

May 5th, 2008 Posted by | Assessment Centers and Interviews | no comments

A Lesson From JoAn Parks — It Is Never Too Late To Say Thank You

It's never too late to say thank you. When I found the note shown here, in my mother’s saved items after she passed away, I was not surprised to read it. Mom was known by many for her acts of kindness and support. I smiled at this particular item, because Mom was not a great housekeeper. (I did most of the housecleaning and did not always do a very good job of it.)

Mom worked six days a week, primarily as a department manager and sales clerk at Woolworth’s. (Are you old enough to remember those?) She rushed home and fixed hasty-but-tasty-meals, went to church for an activity almost every night, and spent her free time counseling and helping people–in spite of a chronic physical condition that made her feel tired and sick much of the time. It is very probable that while she was washing dishes for someone else, our house was a mess!

However, this post is not about my mother’s helping spirit. This post is about JoAn Parks, who wrote a thank you note twenty-six years after my mother helped her.

Think about it: My mother washed a woman’s dishes in 1953 and received a thank you note for it in 1979. Mother saved the note the rest of her life, until 1996. Now, I am writing about it in a technology unknown at the time the act was done or the thank you note was written. Isn’t life amazing? This series of events reminds us that it is never too late to tell someone thank you for even the smallest things–and that those thanks are precious to people.

Who do you need to thank?

  • A supervisor, manager or boss from your early years.
  • A friend who was loyal and true when others were not.
  • Someone who helped you when you were stressful, busy, unhappy or grumpy.
  • Someone who gave you helpful information even though that person was not your friend.
  • A steady employee who made work easy because of his or her positive, upbeat approach.
  • Someone from whom you now are estranged, but who once was close to you.
  • A loved one whose acts of kindness and support you may not have appeared to notice at the time.
  • A neighbor who always took care of his property and made your home look better as a result.
  • A former school teacher, doctor, plumber, or member of a club or group who left a mark on your life.
  • Someone in your organization who made a tough decision that had good results–or, though it was meant well, it did not have good results. We should sometimes thank people just for trying their best!
  • Someone who gave you a gift or had you over for dinner, but you forgot to send a thank-you note.
  • Someone who you will never forget for some positive reason–any reason at all.
  • The person who helped you unjam the copier yesterday; the person who cleans the restroom in your building; the supervisor who approved a request of yours last week; the people who process your paycheck; the person who picks up your garbage; your pastor; your child’s teacher from grade school; the person who assisted you five years ago; the colleague who told you the truth you needed to hear; or, any one of hundreds of other people, going back months, years or decades. It is never too late to say thank you.

Mentally review your life and career and think of the people who have moved in and out of it. They had their concerns, worries, needs, goals and sadnesses, just as you did. Because of that, many of them were only focused on their own lives, just as you were on yours. Others took the time to do something that helped you in some way.

Pay forward or pay back? The concept of paying it forward–doing something good for the next person–is a valid one. However, you will feel better if you combine doing a good deed for someone else with thanking the person who helped you. If that person is no longer living, you can say thank you by thanking someone who loved them–or even by contacting someone who knew you both and telling that person about it.

An easy and comfortable way to say thank you, a long time after the event: One way to thank someone you have procrastinated about thanking, forgot to thank in a timely manner, or want to thank again, is to pick an approximate anniversary to do it. “It has been three years….” “Every year on this date I think of you, because…..” “About eight months ago….” You can increase the value of the appreciation by letting the person know you have thought of him or her regularly.

I have a friend who sent thank you notes for wedding gifts ten years after she received them. The gift-givers were even more impressed than if she had written them on time! (They were probably most impressed with the fact that she was still married.) There is no one who will resent your thanks, even though it is late in being expressed.

JoAn Parks is no longer living–I know, because I tried to locate her and thank her for writing the note to my mother. I also tried to locate her family, to no avail. However, I have her handwriting on a yellowed piece of stationery to help me remember her–because she remembered that my mother washed her dishes twenty-six years earlier and my mother was so touched by the thank you that she kept the message safe until I could find it, seventeen years after that.

It is absolutely never to late to say thank you. Who do you need to thank?

Wonderful news! It’s July 2, 2009 now–and I had a very fun conversation with JoAn (Parks) Beemer last night! She’s alive, well and living in Oxford, Kansas. Her daughter was surfing the ‘net a couple of  nights ago when she discovered this post and saw her mother’s note. We had a great phone reunion! You can see a comment from her son, below.  I have the material for a brand new post.

See how that whole thank you thing works?

May 3rd, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 6 comments

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