Common Courtesy in the Workplace

My wife is a very funny girl!  I am very happy to announce that I have been promoted to Senior Vice-President —– AT HOME!  My wife ceremoniously made the announcement to me the other day and that I would still be reporting to her.  Yep, she just cracks me up!  Anyway….

I thought it might be helpful to highlight a few helpful hints regarding workplace courtesy.  These “suggestions” come from a number of sources, hallway talk, complaints from others, etc. — these are consensus issues, not simply issues observed by any one person.  I know we all see issues from time-to-time that can be frustrating.  However, by doing these simple things you can be seen as someone that is professional, courteous, and a good person to work with.  Anyway, take these or leave them….

  • Be on time for meetings and scheduled events – no one enjoys waiting for someone that routinely disrespects the time for others
  • Start meetings on time – don’t wait for the chronically late individuals to arrive – perhaps, they will realize that they need to be on time in the future – and, when someone does arrive late, don’t “reward” them by wasting the time of everyone that arrived on time to help the late individual get caught up
  • Return calls – it is disrespectful to routinely “forget” to return phone calls
  • Answer e-mail questions – I do realize that e-mails can pile up, but please try to respond in a timely fashion whenever possible (for some individuals, I owe an apology on this one — I can be distracted occasionally and not provide input when asked – I am truly sorry about that and will work on improvement in this area)
  • Don’t waste the time of others – sometimes, it is perfectly fine to discuss the events of the weekend, etc., but just be sensitive when someone appears very busy or seems to be distracted because they may be operating on a deadline
  • Don’t perpetuate negative news – please realize that you drag down others when you continually are the individual with a negative attitude or frequently pass along negative information
  • Treat others with respect at all times – even when you disagree with others, they still deserve to be treated properly
  • On conference calls, announce who is attending the meeting – it is always helpful to know who is attending a meeting
  • Dress and groom appropriately for the event/meeting/occasion – yes, believe it or not, people notice
  • Use e-mail carefully – there is rarely a need to use all CAPS, copy “all”, or involve the masses – additionally, never say anything in e-mail that you would be uncomfortable reading about in the newspaper
  • Respect others while on conference calls – if you have an office, please shut your door when on a conference call – if you sit in an open area, either speak softly or reserve a conference room or borrow an office for conference calls
  • Clean up after yourself – if you make a mess at the coffee machine, clean it up; if you have lunch or make a mess in a conference room, clean it up
  • Thank those that support you – if you rely upon someone else to make travel arrangement, arrange meetings, make copies, or do anything else to make your job better or or easier, take the time to say “thanks”

And finally, remember the motto used in a previous post, “Work hard, play harder, and sleep fast.”  Today is the only day we are promised.

What other suggestions can you provide?   Thanks and have an awesome day!

What is your dream?

A friend recently shared with me the following quote (author unknown) she received from the Business Management Daily:

I watched a baseball team’s jubilance after the final out of the World Series.  How these adults leapt, cried, danced like children.  And I asked myself what pinnacle in my life would make me behave as silly as that… and why I’m not striving for it right now.”

Did reading this quote stop you in your tracks?  Oh, how easy it is for us to get into that comfortable rut and just stay there…  up with the alarm; grab the coffee; make sure the kids have their breakfast eaten and day lined up; shove the dog out the door; go to work; finish that report; rush home through traffic; grab dinner on the way home; wonder when you’ll get the lawn cut; etc., etc., etc.  Then, go to bed, wake up, and start all over again.

Please accept some advice from one of your “elders” today.  I’ve been in industry now for nearly 37 years; been married for 40 years (all happily, I might add!); have seen all three of my children married with their own children; and I wonder where all the years have gone.  It happened like a flash!  Just one blink and the time was gone!  I do have to say that I have enjoyed and savored every minute (almost) and do not have any serious regrets.  But, I am saying to you that still are either early or in the middle of your careers, don’t forget to dream, then chase after that dream.  What do you do that provides the greatest satisfaction in your job, or life, and what are you doing now to enhance that?  Are you thinking “big enough” when it comes to dreams or are you merely satisfied to remain in that rut and count the days rushing by?

Do you have a dream?  Do you have a goal in your life?  Have you even considered what pinnacle in life would make you accept a pie thrown into your face or a soft drink poured over your head — and be happy about it?  I’ll share one more quote from my friend’s source:

“You should follow a dream until it dies — and then, go just a little bit farther.”

Today could be our best day yet!  Make it a great one!

Persistence: See the job through… to the end!

Josh Billings once said,

The usefulness of a small postage stamp is in its ability to stick to one thing until it gets there.”

Notice that the utility of a postage stamp is not sticking until it gets off to a good start, or sticking until it gets near the end, but sticking until it has finished its complete job.  How often have you seen someone do great work to get a project off to a good start, make good progress during the middle of the project, but fail to complete the job at the very end?  I heard of a man once that built his own house.  He did a great job doing most of the work himself.  During the period of several months, the infrastructure was complete, the frame was completed, the roof was finished, the sheetrock finished, all electrical and plumbing work done… all on schedule and on budget.  Finally, the house was close enough to finished for the family to move in.  All he had left to do was complete the final finish and trim work (molding around the doors and windows, backsplash in the kitchen, a few odds here, a few ends there).  The home was 99% complete and well done.  But, because the final details were not complete, the house (e.g., job) was not complete.  He procrastinated several months to finished those final, small details.  And, those final details make the difference between a beautiful home and one that appears undone and not finished.

I worked with an individual once that often asked, “What do you mean by complete.”  He asked this because to some, complete meant that they had started the process by completing necessary paperwork (never mind that the work had not been finished).  He asked this because to others, complete meant that “my part” is complete, despite the fact that other actions were needed before the total project was complete.  We need to adopt the definition of complete to mean that everything is done and the work is totally finished.

Are you persistent to the end?  Do you lose momentum and motivation when most of the work is done and fail to complete the final details?  Those are the very details that others often notice or that might define the final quality of your work.  Let’s resolve to remain persistent “until we get there.”

Thanks for everything you do day-in and day-out.  The grind of the details of life is a challenge to maintain, but worth it in the end.  Have a terrific day!



Avoiding Rigamarology


First of all, let’s take a look at some definitions around the study of rigamarology:

  1. Rigamarole = a long, complicated, and annoying process; confused or meaningless talk; a complex and sometimes ritualistic procedure (yes, this is in the dictionary, look it up!)
  2. Rigamarology = the study or dedication to rigamarole
  3. Rigamarotocol = documented set of meaningless activities or non-value added steps

Growing up, I often heard my father use the term “rigamarole.”  I came to understand that this meant meaningless steps or activities.  As you see from the definitions above, rigamarole describes perfectly what we attempt to eliminate when we pursue continuous improvement, whether at work or in our lives.  A key element of continuous improvement is to identify and eliminate waste in all its forms.  We also attempt to simplify existing steps and activities that no longer add value.

So, why do we put up with rigamarole in our lives?  It could be that it is easier to continue doing what is wrong than taking the effort to make it right.  Or, it could be that we just have not stopped to intentionally consider how things could be better.  Or, it could be that we actually invented the rigamarole that plagues us.  For whatever reason, why continue allowing our lives to be complexified (yes, another new word for today) for no good reason or for no added value?

My challenge to you is this….

Begin asking yourself these questions, “What value is being added by this step or activity or report or meeting?  How will the company or my life be better as a result of this?  Would our customers or patients pay extra for this?”  When you catch yourself asking these questions and providing an honest answer, you will be amazed at how many non-value added activities (e.g., rigamarole) you encounter in a day.   A key element of our future success as individuals or an organization is helping to drive out these non-value added activities.  We must help our organization avoid a dedication to rigamarole and eliminate clutter in our lives.

If you could eliminate one item of rigamarole today, what would it be?  Now, put your thoughts to action and go do it!  Have a great day!

Mark Twain on People and Getting Things Done

Mark Twain, actually, Samuel Clemens, was an American writer, philosopher, and humorist.  He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Today, we look at 5 of his quotes and how they relate to what we do both at home and at work.

  1. Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see – There is never a time or never a place when an act of kindness is out of place.  Because my kids are grown, individuals still with kids at home often ask what one attribute I would choose to instill in children.  You might think of industriousness, positive attitude, persistence, or any of many others.  However, kindness would certainly be one attribute near the top of my list.  Certainly, we have many priorities and concerns and issues confronting us during any day.  Despite this, we should never lose sight of the need to treat others with kindness.
  2. Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please” – Too many individuals like to make up their own facts to fit their specific needs for that moment.  Twain in this quote is essentially saying that facts are still important.  We might twist their meaning or attempt to make them fit our own agenda or hypothesis, but facts are important and should always be of utmost importance.  Making fact-based decisions is critical, especially for us in regulated functions.
  3. It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt” – This one is pretty clear.  Individuals often talk simply because they like to hear themselves talk.  We need to think first.  Before you feel the need to speak in a meeting, ask yourself if your comments will add to the value of the discussion.
  4. There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded” – We are nearing the end of 2015.  Consider this… If you were tasked to bring every item of work or value you have accomplished this year so far and place it on the table, what would you bring?  What have you accomplished this year that has enhanced the value of your company or made it a better company?  Would you pay yourself for the accomplishments you have made to your company?  Which group would you fit in?
  5. The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up” – Try this to see if it is true!  It is amazing that the feelings of encouragement you think you are passing along to someone else somehow bubble up in you when you do it.  It only takes 10 seconds to brighten up someone else’s day.

Mark Twain provides good wisdom for us today.  Thanks for everything you do and please, have a “top ten” day!

Results without Relationships

Results without relationships lead to disappointment 

Consider, if you would…

  • Day-after-day, Little Jimmy comes home from school with awards, favorable comments on his homework, and certificates of achievement from his teachers.  He works so very hard to be one of the best.  He volunteers to help the teacher.  His goal is to never disappoint those he loves.  His teachers think he is the most adorable, brightest kid in the class.  Yet, day-after-day, there is no one home that truly cares.  His parents are so busy that they never even look at his papers, his work, his awards.  Eventually, Jimmy loses the desire to excel.  Ultimately, he begins to think that his extra efforts do not matter.  He loses heart and becomes a mediocre student.
  • Individual sports are great.  You rely only upon yourself for achievement.  You don’t depend upon a teammate performing well.  You quietly go about your business.  You win and hoist the trophy alone.  On the other hand, team sports champions have a blast!  They pile atop each other.  They act like crazies.  They have fun.  They share stories as old men or women about “the championship.”  Having teammates to share with in victory has no peer.  The thrill of victory is never better than when shared with teammates!

In his book, True North, Bill George says this about the fulfillment of leadership:

“You cannot find that fulfillment by observing leaders from the sidelines or by being a brilliant observer from the press box, high above the arena.  You have no choice but to get in there and get your face marred by dust and sweat and blood.  That is what life and leadership are all about.  Your fulfillment comes not from the money, the titles, the awards, or the recognition.  These fleeting symbols of external gratification will vanish like the wind.  What will remain are the memories:

  • Working together toward shared goals with a group of people you care about
  • Being passionate about helping other people or righting wrongs
  • Toiling long hours to get it right
  • Debating and arguing to understand each other’s points of views
  • Failing and then regrouping to learn from your mistakes
  • Growing together as leaders
  • Making a difference in the world through your combined efforts

After reaching your goal together, pause long enough to celebrate your success before going on to the next challenge.  Then, pass it on to those that carry on after you.  That is the fulfillment of leadership.”

When I think of the greatest highlights of my life, every single one involves other individuals.  Results, achievements, highlights… they are always better when they involve the culmination of effort from many, not a single person.  Surely, receiving an individual award is nice, but the glow wears away quickly.  The impact of doing something great — with others — outlasts what we do as individuals.

There are many accomplished individuals in the world… artists, composers, athletes, politicians, leaders…. that have done great things.  But, their lives are filled with sadness.  When you share your life with others, including your results and accomplishments, you gain fulfillment.

So, how can this help you become a better leader?  The answer is simple…  involve others in your life.  Share your victories.  Enjoy the victories of others.  Celebrate together.  Let your teammates know that “we win as a team.”  It will enhance your experience as a leader AND it will drive better results in the end.

Celebrate something with someone else today!  Find something positive to share!  After all, “this could be our very best day yet!”

Competence without Compassion

Competence without compassion leads to criticism and mediocre effort

Competence is generally consider a combination of practical and theoretical knowledge, cognitive skills, behavior and values that determine whether an individual can properly perform a specific job.  The more of these you have, theoretically, the better you perform.  We all want to be considered competent.  If you would ever hear the phrase, “I am concerned with your specific competence to perform this job,” during a year-end performance review, you immediately would become concerned.  So, we all want to be competent and should be working to enhance those attributes that enhance it.

As leaders, we all want our team members to view us as competent.  When you demonstrate at least a minimal amount of competence, you have a greater ability to gauge ideas, establish priorities, and work collaboratively with team members.  However, do you feel that the leader must always be the most competent or most knowledgeable person on the team?  I hope your answer is “no.”  As an example, I until recently had responsibility for the Quality groups at ten plants that encompass, literally, hundreds of different jobs, skills, and abilities.  Could I step in today and do all those jobs well?  Of course, the answer is “no way!”  I am not competent to do every team member’s job.  That is not the role of the leader.  The leader’s role is to provide resources, guidance, direction, motivation… then, get out of the way.

Where then does compassion come into play?  Is compassion really an attribute that should at all be connected with leadership?  My answer to this last question is, “Yes, compassion plays a critical role in the success of any leader.”  Compassion is that attribute that provides balance.  It provides perspective to the needs of the team members.  It is the “brake” that slows a runaway train rolling down a steep hillside.  It is that quiet voice that asks, “Will this work?  What do you think?”  It is that prod in the side that helps guard against work/life imbalance.  It is that inner urging that wants the very best of life for every team member.  It is the foundation for integrity.  It is the fuel that drives kindness.  Compassion is that corner of our soul that moves our thoughts from “I” to “we”; that changes “selfish” into “self-less”; and motivates team members to give their very best every day.

So, competence is good.  However, when competence lacks compassion, team members rapidly can go from motivated to critical to non-responsive to non-caring.  And, team performance is dropping all the while.  It is often difficult to diagnose a declining team that suffers from this “lack of compassion” root cause because it is so subtle.  However, if you pause and consider the possibility, you might find team members would say, “If he/she doesn’t really care about me or how I feel, why should I care about our team?  I will do only what is necessary, but no more.”

What are some practical ways you can either develop, demonstrate, or diagnose the impact of lack of compassion on your team?  Here are a few:

  • As a leader, you must frequently (e.g., daily) “walk a mile in team member shoes” – put yourself in the place of your team members – would you feel valued?  Would you feel appreciated?  Have you ever heard anyone say “thanks”?
  • Has your team performance declined for no visible reason?  Could a lack of compassion be the possible root cause?  Is it worth working to bolster the sense of appreciation and pride for team members?
  • Do team members demonstrate kindness and caring for each other?  When you see this, does it make sense to highlight it to the team?
  • Do you emphasize results inordinately more than behaviors?
  • Do you really know your team members?  By this, I mean, do you know the names of their spouse, their kids, and their hobbies?  Do you know what is personally important to them?  Do you know what struggles they might be facing?  Do you care?

In short, a great leader is competent and expects team members to be competent.  However, a great leader also cares personally for his/her team members and actively demonstrates a proper balance between results and behaviors.  Without compassion, don’t be surprised when you see excessive criticism of decisions and an effort that can only be described as mediocre.

Have a great day!



The Wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt

 Today, we look at some of the amazing quotes and wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt.  She was, according to Wikipedia, an American politician, diplomat, and activist.  She was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, holding the post from March 1933 to April 1945 during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s four terms in office.  President Harry S. Truman later called her the “First Lady of the World” in tribute to her human rights achievements.

Eleanor Roosevelt was also a lady of great wisdom.  She was known as an individual that was not afraid to speak her mind.  She endured significant hardship in her life, but left a lasting legacy.  Let’s look as some of the things she had to say that might apply to us:

  1. You must do the things you think you cannot do. – To grow, we must challenge ourselves.  Some of the greatest accomplishments in history occurred because an individual did what they thought might be impossible.  If you think you are too little, too unskilled, too inexperience, or too powerless to make a difference, you probably are.
  2. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” – Experience is valuable.  Once you have experienced something, you generally have less anxiety the next time (unless, of course, you are talking about a visit to the dentist).  View these experiences, good and bad, as a way to polish our rough edges and as equity we can use in the future.
  3. We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.” – Mrs. Roosevelt here is saying that we should not fear being vulnerable and of showing others that you care.  In the business world, we often feel that we must remain dispassionate, professional, and rigid.  Whether others care or not, it is important they know that we care.  In short, don’t be afraid to demonstrate emotions, especially that you care what happens with and to your teammates.
  4. One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility. – Personal accountability is needed.  We demonstrate who we are, not by our words, but by our actions.
  5. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – There are those that live their life elevating their own status by demeaning others.  Don’t get caught in that trap!  Those individuals typically have low self-esteem and struggle excelling on their own merits.
  6. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Do something!  Don’t be a victim!  When things are not going well, it is important that we take action, rather than wait for something to happen to us.
  7. It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” – As leaders, we need to remember this.  A true leader serves others.  Unless you show your willingness to be an active participant in solutions to problems, you cannot expect your followers to care enough to do their best.
  8. Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” – I think what Mrs. Roosevelt is saying here is we should not necessarily take the first “no” that we hear, if it is not the ultimate decision-maker.  Persistence may be the difference-maker.
  9. In all our contacts it is probably the sense of being really needed and wanted which gives us the greatest satisfaction and creates the most lasting bond.” – It has been said that most people thrive in their jobs when they feel appreciated and needed.  It costs nothing, but means much.  This cannot be overdone.
  10. When life is too easy for us, we must beware or we may not be ready to meet the blows which sooner or later come to everyone, rich or poor.” – We are blessed to live the lives we have.  Let’s never forget that.  Be ready for what comes next and be alert for those that need us to walk with them through difficult times.

There is much we can learn from the ten brief comments above.  Have a fabulous day!  Remember, this could be your very best day yet!

Learning to mind your own business

A friend of mine was telling me the other day about an important lesson he recently learned.  He was walking beside an old school that is now used to house low-risk inmates near his home.  He heard the guys inside the wooden fence shouting in unison, “13…13…13…13…”  Well, knowing that Alan is a curious sort, he found a slot in the fence to look through to see what was going on when one of the residents poked him in the eye with a stick.  Immediately, the guys started shouting, “14…14…14…14…”   You can determine the moral of this story for yourself.

There is always that question of when to get involved and when to stay quiet.  I would like to simply outline a few of each just for your consideration:

Speak up and get involved when:

  1. There is the potential for danger, injury, non-compliance, or risk to the company
  2. Someone is being hurt
  3. Someone needs a friend or a good listener
  4. You see a better way
  5. You have an opinion that needs to be shared to make a positive difference

Consider remaining quiet when:

  1. You have been asked to stay out of it (except for 1 and 2 above)
  2. Someone else already has it under control
  3. All you hope to do is elevate yourself, demotivate another, or throw someone under the bus
  4. Your “better way” has already been considered by the team
  5. Your opinion will or could make a negative difference

There are many others that could be added to each list, but consider today whether you have remained quiet when you should be speaking up or vice versa.  We need to build up, not tear down, others.

Have a “top ten” day!  Thanks to all of you that make a positive difference in my life!

The Perfect Christmas


In a conversation with an individual recently, she described all the preparations still needed at her house. She needed to wrap the gifts, get a ham, and make cookies… all around her work schedule and just a couple days before Christmas. When I asked if she was hosting a large group, she said, “No, just our family. But, I want it to be the perfect Christmas. I want it to be something our kids will remember.”

What constitutes the “perfect Christmas?” In our mind, we probably think of a country house in the hills. We think of snow with family members all arriving just in time on Christmas Eve. The house looks worthy of Good Housekeeping magazine, the food is wonderful, and everyone made it home on time. The tree is huge with dozens of perfectly wrapped gifts. The house smells wonderful and Grandma and Grandpa are healthy and happy. The children are happy, excited, and well-mannered. Everything truly is “perfect” for Christmas.

However, that isn’t reality for most. Most people I know never experience Christmas like this. They are burdened with broken families, parents with health issues, financial difficulties, and family members away. Some have sons or daughters in the military. Some are experiencing their first “divorced” Christmas. Some are worried about nearly grown children. Some expect to lose their job early in the new year. Some are saddened by the loss of loved ones. Some are just disappointed with how their lives have turned out. Some are lonely.

When I think of my very best Christmases, I don’t think of that Christmas from a movie or our dreams. My very best Christmas memories include times like these:

  • Christmas when I was a child included two brothers and a sister. My Dad worked, my Mother stayed at home. We were far from wealthy, but Christmas was a blessing to us. We always visited Santa in our small town. We always received an orange in our stockings. We usually received one large gift, like a fire truck, or bicycle, or car race track, but nothing extravagant. We always visited my Grandparents on Christmas in the country. They had a Christmas tree (cedar tree cut from their farm), but gifts were sparse or absent under the tree. Our “big meal” included game hunted on the farm. Simple, but it still brings back nice memories.
  • Christmas with our kids is always special. Their excitement when young still brings a smile. Seeing them give gifts to others was special. Going to church service together has always been important and memorable — we still laugh about things that have happened at Christmas Eve services. Spending time with them now is wonderful. Every year we look back at these times as perfect for us.
  • Remembering loved ones from past Christmases now gone… my parents, my father-in-law, and friends. I remember some of those experiences like they happened just last year! I think of those times every year.
  • Those first Christmases with my new wife. We were barely getting by financially as college students, but that little Christmas tree in our small mobile home was the “perfect Christmas” to us.

The “perfect Christmas” doesn’t come with that dream home in the country in the snow. It doesn’t come from the gifts, the wrapping, the food, or even who was able to be present. The “perfect Christmas” comes from the warmth in your heart celebrating the “perfect Gift” — the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Only Jesus can bring that “perfect Christmas” we all seek.

So, today, let’s celebrate the One and Only Savior of the World. It is only through Him that we can have a “perfect Christmas.” And, let’s share that love that comes from Him. Let’s seek those hurting or sad or lonely that need a call, a visit, a text, or some expression of our love. Let’s not let anyone look back on this Christmas and say that no one cared. Let’s share the “perfect Gift” that brings the “perfect Christmas” with them this wonderful day!