Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Renew Year’s Day, 2011

Who do you think of on special days?

A seasonal verse I have found to be poignant over the years–and more so in the last few years–is this one, which you have probably seen on many Christmas cards. Think of it more deeply and purposefully this year and spend some time in special remembrance.

Never a Christmas morning,
Never the old year ends,
But someone thinks of someone,
Old days, old times, old friends.

Who does your mind turn to on Christmas morning and on New Year’s Eve? What memories do you especially cherish? Who is thinking about you? Find ways in the coming year to make more memories, touch the lives of more people and appreciate and enjoy your life more than ever.

Spend a few moments remembering all the significant people who have contributed to making you who you are. Then, make 2011 a Renew Year in ways that are noticeable and that you can feel in every aspect of your life.  If you find it difficult to do it for yourself, do it in honor of those you are remembering more than ever right now.

 

 

New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights. – Hamilton Wright Mabie

December 30th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 5 comments

Read Books–In Any Format

My friend, Helen Adams, now has her home in an assisted living residence near Kansas City, Missouri.  When I call her and ask what she is doing, she always has the same response: “I’m reading a good book!”  Her pleasure in reading, even though she is limited about other activities, reinforces that the joy of reading lasts when other pleasures fade.  For Helen, reading is a life-long habit that has allowed her to be entertained and informed while others are watching re-runs on TV in the lobby area.

Many people will give and receive electronic readers for Christmas and many more will give and receive hardback and paperback books. My wish for you is that you will read more–and better–this year, in whatever format you enjoy.  Not just fiction, although well-written fiction can cause us to reflect, apply and evaluate. Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, Rand, Conrad, Lewis, Homer, and other great writers only wrote fiction, but their thoughts can easily be applied to many aspects of our lives.  However, reading dozens of romances, crime thrillers or other quickly churned out and quickly forgotten books , will probably not achieve the same results!

Challenge yourself to expand your thinking and your reading:  Poetry, essays, biographies, autobiographies, historic evaluations, journals, critiques, classics, translations, books from other cultures and books about subjects you’ve never even considered. Make it a point to read something every month that has the potential to inspire you, encourage you, give you insights you need, provide information you can apply immediately, help you in your daily walk and help you help others.

Try these resources and ideas:

  • www.abebooks.com. Use the search function and buy some books on a favorite topic, written before 1930, 1950, 1980 or some other abitrary date.  This is a great gift idea!
  • www.alibris.com.  Or, find a book on Amazon and buy it used there.
  • Go to a library book sale and pick three non-fiction books at random, without looking at the titles. You might not particularly enjoy or even understand the books, but it’s good to read books others do enjoy and understand! Do the same thing in the poetry section, the historical section and others.
  • Swap books with friends or just give them to each other.  When you have friends over, stack some of your used books on a counter and let them take all they want.
  • Have a book swap at  work, church, club meetings or other functions.

The second challenge, after getting a book, is to read it.  There is a tremendous temptation to skim a book, especially non-fiction. Make an effort to read the forward, introduction, all the chapters and the footnotes (often the most interesting part!).  When you read all of the book, you are more likely to be able to share the thoughts and spirit of the person who spent so much time writing all of it.  Give them the chance to convey their thoughts fully through every word, not just the first few paragraphs of three or four chapters. (On the other hand, nothing says you have to keep reading a book just to be doing it. If you can’t find something worthwhile after the first three to five chapters maybe you need to put that book in your giveaway stack.)

The third challenge of reading is to think while you’re reading.  You need to stop now and then, even with fiction, and ask yourself how you feel about it, what you think about it and how it fits with your reality and experiences. Make reading a thinking experience and you’ll enjoy it more–and feel your brain cells growing!

Helen Adams would agree with Mason Cooley, the aphorist (someone who said something you once thought and wish you could have said as well), who said, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

December 5th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 2 comments

Flavor Of The Month Or Tried And True?

Make Up Your Mind

One of the most frequently heard criticisms about decision-makers in organizations is that they won’t change something because, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  I have five books about that concept.

Another common criticism, aimed at decision-makers who have instituted a new process or program, is something like, (Heavy sigh) “That’s the new flavor of the month.”  (Rolled eyes.)  I just finished reading three books with “flavor of the month” in their titles, and all were focused on that issue.

Both criticisms may be justified. However, for some people they are merely generic gripes that are appealing because of their succinct mockery.  Many people do not attempt to understand what might be behind a decision and they assume the worst possible motivation for it. They don’t consider any perspective but their own, even though there are usually several valid perspectives.

• If a procedure doesn’t work as well as expected, should it be retained to avoid the impression it was a flavor of the month?
• If a procedure has been working well, should it be changed to avoid seeming to be stuck in the past?
• Should we routinely revise or replace a successful process to show we’re open to change?
• Should we stick with a new process that is not working well, so we don’t seem to be changing things too often?
• Should we reject something as being a fad, even though it might be a helpful new method?
• Should we replace a long-standing, successful method because we want to be on the cutting edge of change?

The bottom line: Sometimes the flavor of the month is a good one and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we should stop doing what we’ve always done and sometimes we should steadfastly stick with it. Whatever we do, we should analyze the totality of the situation before we make a decision–or before we make a hackneyed, unreasoning criticism.

November 24th, 2010 Posted by | Keeping On!, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 3 comments

Leaving Your Mark On The Lives Of Others

Evidence left behind.

Tom Selbe graduated from Arkansas City, Kansas High School in 1964, leaving behind several desks with his distinctive block lettered last name.  I found this desk among several that had been discarded after the old high school was knocked down to make way for the Brown Center, a wonderful center for the arts and events in my hometown. 

Years later, when I was shown the room of discarded furniture from the old school, I recognized Tom’s name on a couple of desks.  I snapped a photo, hoping to send it to him sometime. Sadly, he passed away before I could locate him.  However, I was able to send the photo to his daughter, who enjoyed having the reminder of her dad as a fun-loving (though a bit destructive!) high school student. 

What mark are you leaving?

In a presentation I made recently I said the time to plan our retirement party is the day we are hired. It’s too late to build a good reputation and inspire good memories a few weeks before everyone gathers to say farewell. It takes a large part of a career to do that.

One of the participants in the class told me later that it was a particularly significant thought for her because she had planned many retirement functions as well as transfer parties or birthday events, and the differences in reactions about employees was very noticeable. She said almost all employees, at all levels, were given a polite round of applause and some handshakes, but some were clearly held in higher esteem and affection than others. She mentioned one person especially who was so problematic that the day after he left several people brought in another cake to celebrate!

Popularity isn’t everything

I don’t think being popular is all that we should aim for–although being unpopular doesn’t get you very far.  The reality of work and life is that requiring a lot of yourself and others,  holding the line about good behavior and performance and not supporting negative ideas and people no matter how popular they are, will not always be valued or even understood.  In fact, it may  be loathed, mocked or complained about.  (But, if we’re going to be disliked, it should be for something of that nature, not just for being obnoxious, arrogant or mean-spirited.)

Planning for Your Retirement Party

There are a variety of ways to ensure that the mark you leave is one you can be proud of and others can respect.

  • Be quietly caring and concerned. (See my last article on quiet growth.)
  • Help others to be more successful.
  • Do something worthwhile that lasts and helps others over time.
  • Be a leader in something for which people of high standards can see value.
  • Develop others.
  • Build a team in which high quality and quantity work is the standard.
  • Create a program or process that gets good results.
  • Be someone others want to be around.
  • Be the positive addition to most settings.
  • Minimize habits, traits and behaviors that lead to bad memories of you.
  • Say, write and do things that are memorable in the hearts and minds of others.

Whatever specific things you do, make sure you are continously growing and caring–whether quietly or actively in appropriate ways.  It’s the best way to carve your name on the desk of life!

Thanks, Tom, for the inspiration.  I don’t approve of carving on desks, but in this case I think I’m glad you did it.

 

Tom Selbe-1946-2009--ACHS 1964

November 18th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 6 comments

Pete Palmer And You Have Promises To Keep

In February I wrote an article about my friend, Pete Palmer, who was running for sheriff of Chaffee County, Colorado. I said we all want votes–it’s just that his would get counted more officially than ours. Well, the votes have been counted and he won!

Now what?

I’m confident that Pete will be extremely effective as a sheriff.  He has a strong foundation of experience and is overall a great person. Many of his friends and colleagues are providing free or low cost professional resources in the coming months.  He meant all that he said during his campaign and has plans for all that he promised.

However, sometimes the reality of life, work and situations get in the way of our best intentions, no matter how committed and dedicated we are. For one thing, we must work with and through others to get things done and you know how challenging that can be–often for them,  as well!

So, Pete has a lot of things to accomplish. Many people (especially the sheriffs department employees) will be waiting to find out if he lives up to his promises. Your friends, family and coworkers are thinking the same thing about you. 

What kind of person, coworker, manager, supervisor, friend or family member have you promised to be or claimed to be?  Next, think about what you have done or said that could prove to people that you really are those things.

If you had a platform, what would it be? What proof could you use to show that you consistently live up to (that’s a great phrase, when you think about it!) the good qualities you’ve promised to deliver and the level of work you claim is your habit?  What do you do regularly to make people glad you were hired, glad you are a friend or family member, glad you are the one assisting them or providing service or glad that they have supported you?

For Pete Palmer, the reality is that he already is running for re-election. That’s true for the rest of us as well: Every day is voting day. How is your campaign coming along?

November 11th, 2010 Posted by | Assessment Centers and Interviews, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments

Email, Phone Or In-Person Communication?

 

 

 

There are plenty of reasons to communicate about inter-office business in person, rather than sending an email or calling on the phone–especially if the recipient is down the hall or only a floor away. There are also plenty of reasons to stay at your own desk and send a message or make a phone call. Rather than being dogmatic about it, be situational–just as you probably are with many work issues.

  • If you are communicating upwardly, find out if your manager or others at that level have a preference for communicating about matters that don’t require in-person conversation. Or, call or send an email and ask if he or she would prefer that kind of contact or should you come by to see them in person.
  • Let others know your preference about communication. In your email about a situation say, “Just email me the results, that way I’ll have a copy.”  Or, “Email me the results but call me ahead of time so I’ll be looking for it.”  Or, don’t worry about emailing me the results. Let’s get together and talk about it. What time?”
  • If you communicate in person, be respectful of the time of others. Don’t use every visit to someones office, cubicle or workplace as an opportunity to take a break and take them with you mentally!
  • If you communicate by email or phone, be aware of the frustrations of unnecessary messages or ringing phones. Don’t cc people unnecessarily, just as you would not pull all of those people into a room to talk about it. Also save up messages if you think you will need to get advice or input several times.
  • Even if you talk to someone in person or on the phone, email crucial information as a way to document what you have done.
  • If what you are talking about is not something you would ever want disclosed or reviewed in hard copy, talk instead of emailing.

The bottom line is to have a reason for your choices about communicating. There are times when communicating by email is by far the best choice.  Other times, a phone call is the right call to make. And, sometimes it’s better to walk or drive to the location and be able to talk to someone face to face.  The choice depends upon you, the other person, the setting, the topic and the time required.

Do you have a preference about workplace communication? How do you handle it when someone else wants to communicate differently?

October 20th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 11 comments

Be Dependable. For Sure.

Do you do and follow through?

Of all the traits that can help us gain respect, influence and success, positive dependability is right at the top of the list. It’s not the most significant trait–you could be dependable while needing to be more productive. However, without it your other positive qualities lose some of their value.

Being dependable can mean being trustworthy, constant, consistent, steady, accurate, loyal, responsible and timely.  There is also the component of following through and making sure managers, supervisors, clients and customers received the work or service they were promised or that the  problem or need was resolved. 

The old adage that we judge ourselves by our intentions and others judge us by our actions also applies to our dependability. We tend to judge ourselves based on what we could have done, would like to have done, thought about doing or might have done if things had worked just right or if we hadn’t been so busy. Others judge us on: Did you do what you said you would do?

Your self-check for dependability:

  1. When you promise to do something can the person to whom you promised it feel confident? (Or, are you required to give many assurances because of past problems?) 
  2.  Do you turn work in on time (Or, do you often have to ask for more time?)
  3. If several people and you are asked to do something are you an example of doing work the right way? (Or, are you often the one who has to be asked and asked and asked again–and everyone else knows it.)
  4. Do you turn in nearly all your work exactly as requested or directed? (Or do you often have to explain why it’s not exactly what was expected?)
  5. Are most people very satisfied with your work? (Or, have they often expressed disappointment about the final product?)
  6. Are you consistently dependable? (Or do people have to catch you at a good time, less busy time or some other time, to be sure you’ll do good work?)
  7. Is there something someone thinks you are working on today–but you probably won’t start until tomorrow or the next day or the next?
  8. Do you have a large menu of excuses?
  9. Can you be relied upon to do what is needed if it is your responsibility? (Or, do you often respond to requests with excuse making, complaining or reasons why you can’t fulfill a request or do a task?)
  10. Do you do your work without needing to be supervised closely? (Or, do people have to go to your supervisor or manager quite often to resolve a problem or get something done, going around you in the process?)

You may think you are dependable but you know someone else who isn’t.  (Our egos are very protective of us that way!)  Ask others–especially the person who evaluates you–what he or she thinks about it. Look at the work you have waiting right now. Consider the work you’ve been asked to do in the last month. If you are a dependable person, congratulations! You will be valued more, respected more and will have more influence than most others.

If you come to the conclusion that you’re not as dependable as you should be or would like to be,  it’s relatively easy to fix it: Use your calendar, clock and mental strength to help you break the procrastination habit; challenge yourself to stay ahead in your work not behind all the time (that might help you stay even); and, let your supervisor or manager know you’re working at it. That will gain their appreciation while you’re trying–and will be good motivation for you to keep at it. 

Do and follow through.

What if you have failed in the past? So, at one time, did every man we recognize as a towering success. They called it “temporary defeat.”  Napoleon Hill

 Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

If I were dropped out of a plane and told that the nearest land was a thousand miles away I’d still swim. Abraham Maslow.

 

 

 

October 14th, 2010 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 4 comments

Chilean Mine Rescue–Be Thankful For Your Work!

What Have You Done Since August 5th?

Very soon, if all goes well, the 33 miners who have been trapped in the San Jose gold and copper mine in Chile, will begin the long process of being brought to the surface after being trapped since August 5th, 2010.

I’ve been particularly proud that there are North American experts in the rescue operations, including two from Denver, Colorado. One of them, Jeff Hart, is tremendously skillful. He has stood all day for 33 days, operating the huge drill that will provide a way out for the miners. I’m sure he’s thought about the significance of the days and the number of miners whose lives he hopes to save.

He said, “You have to feel through your feet what the drill is doing.” A wonderful example of becoming one with your work and giving it your all!

The miners will have more to deal with when they emerge than you or I could ever imagine. I wish them well, but I feel positive about what has been done to prepare them as well as to help them for months to come. 

One last thought: The first four people being brought out, one at a time, will be the most experienced and the strongest. That’s because there is a chance the process won’t work correctly and those first men may become trapped again, only this time in the narrow tube that is supposed to be the route to safety.

As with all work, there is sometimes a price to be paid for being the strongest and the most knowledgeable and skillful. Those are the ones who lead the way. If everything is successful they may seem to be coming out on top before others. But, if things go wrong, they are the ones who must react quickly to find a way to make it right and to guide those who are following them.

Be Grateful And Thoughtful

Whatever your work may be, be thankful for the comfort of your workplace, the freedom to go home when work is done and the ability to quit and go to something else if you feel trapped and miserable. I hope you don’t feel that way–but if you do, at least you have options.

Rescue of the miners will start at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning, November 13th, 2010  That is 9:01 p.m. Tuesday evening, Denver time. I hope you’ll mark the time for your location and think of the miners as well as the North American and Chilean team that is working to rescue them. This transcends national or continental boundaries–it’s about getting the right thing done in the right way, together.

 

 

 

October 11th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 5 comments

Personal and Professional Growth–Quiet Rather Than Dramatic

Growth doesn’t necessarily involve moving.

It is easy to assume that personal and professional development involves action and motion. When we read about the topic it is nearly always about doing something. Nothing I’ve read–or taught–on the subject says, “First, stop working at it and just relax.”

However, there is a lot to be said for quiet concentration, calm confidence and gaining wisdom through waiting and watching. Have you noticed that most of the unpleasant situations at work are the result of too much activity? Busybodies are called that for reason! Hyper, obsessive, over-the-top, stirring the pot, out of control, bulldoze, frantichectic, running around, bouncing off the walls, are all words and phrases we use to describe people and situations that involve negative activity.

Dag Hammarskjold, the remarkable statesman who was the second Secretary General of the United Nations, was noted for his humility and quiet but strong convictions. He once said that his goal was simply not to encumber the earth.

After much prompting by friends and colleagues he decided to allow his journal of meditations to be published as a way to help others. It was aptly titled, Markings. It was not only his personal markings in a journal, it has left a mark on millions of readers around the world.

One of Dag Hammarskjold’s prayers was, “If only I may grow: Firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.”  That is the English translation, by Auden, of the Swedish text.  Another version is this:

With all my heart I want to grow: To be more calm, more steady, more at peace and more caring of others. 

A worthy goal for all of us.

October 5th, 2010 Posted by | Keeping On!, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 6 comments

Being Busy Is Not Always Effective

Part Two of the SueJanTina Ant Eradictor Story

Remember the ant in my last article? The one who worked and worked on an impossible task and finally had to stop? I ended that article by asking if you know someone like that. I heard from many people who do–and a few who admitted to being that way. This post adds to the first article.

 Being Very, Very Busy About The Wrong Things

Someone with whom I used to work was like that ant in many ways. She was busy, busy all the time and we couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t getting her work done. That is when we discovered she was taking on tasks she wasn’t supposed to do, because she liked those better. Volunteerism and creative initiative can’t take the place of doing one’s real job.

Many offices have one or more employees who seem to be involved in Heculean labors. They sigh heavily, talk about how early they arrive and how late they stay.  Often they try to drag others into the drama of their work by asking for excessive help, making every request a rush job and generally being a pain in the neck. 

Ironically, often the work being done by those employees isn’t vital work anyway. It’s a big crumb that didn’t need to be moved in the first place and won’t be useful when it is moved.  Many managers and supervisors allow that to continue because it’s difficult to tell someone who seems to be working hard that their efforts are resented and ridiculed more than appreciated. 

Are you that kind of employee? If you are the kind of employee who feels you are doing far, far more than anyone else because of the hours you work , the way you rush around or because you’re over your head with busyness all the time, consider how you might appear to others.

Instead of seeming to be dedicated and hard working, you may just appear to be showing off, disorganized or foolish. Are you doing your real work to the degree needed or are you creating work so you can impress others?

Do you  manage or supervise the work of an employee like that? If you are a manager or supervisor with an employee who has become a joke for his or her excessiveness about work or attempts to seem like the only one working, take action to bring that back into balance.

*If you evaluate the situation and decide the employee is truly inundated with work, see about realigning it to be more equitable.

*If you think the employee’s heart is in the right place but he or she simply isn’t managing time well, do some one-on-one training about that and consider reassigning work.

*Stop work that is requiring far more staff and resources than the end result justifies–and don’t reward attempted martyrdom. 

*Be direct about the ineffectiveness of the employee’s work and the negative effect it is having on others.

*Provide guidelines, set parameters and discuss what the employee should be doing more of and less of and what they should not do again.

That is the manager’s kinder and more gentle version of SueJanTina, the miracle ant eradicator.

September 29th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | no comments

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