9 TV Quotes to Live By at Work

amy-castro.comThis past weekend, I was recovering from oral surgery that left it difficult for me to talk or to get much work done. As a result, I spent a lot of time sitting on my couch watching television. (Here’s a pic from my vantage point on the couch.)

As I caught up on my favorite shows and watched a few new ones, I realized that although we often think of television as a colossal, brain-draining waste of time, there are the occasional nuggets of wisdom we can pick up if we’re paying attention.

Here are a few I found that I think apply well to our work lives (and possibly our personal lives too). Let me know which ones are your favorites!

1. “Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” - Game of Thrones

When we acknowledge and accept our flaws, we’re able to drop our defensiveness about them. As a result, they lose their power for those who would bring them up in an attempt to embarrass, anger, or hurt us.

2. “If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.” - Mad Men

Plato is often quoted as saying, “Your silence gives consent.” If a workplace conversation is taking an inappropriate tone, a meeting discussion has diverted from the agenda, or you don’t want to be drawn into workplace gossip, there’s a simple solution– speak up and direct the conversation elsewhere.

3. “It’s so easy to do the wrong thing in this world. So, if it feels wrong don’t do it.” - The Walking Dead

I don’t think this one need any explanation.

4. “Change is neither good or bad. It simply is. It can be greeted with terror or joy — a tantrum that says, ‘I want it the way it was,’ or a dance that says, ‘Look, something new.'” – Mad Men

Let’s face it, most people are creatures of habit and don’t like change. However, change is inevitable, we can’t always control it, and the more we look at it negatively, the more painful the change becomes. If we choose to take a positive approach to change we’ll not only move through uncomfortable change more quickly, but we’ll also be better able to find the positive aspects of our new reality.

5. “I’ve never met a situation where I don’t have a choice in the matter.”- Madam Secretary

No matter the situation you always have choices. They may not always be great, but they’re always there.

6. “When the door you’ve been knocking at finally swings open, you don’t ask why. You run through.” - The Good Wife

We get a job offer and hesitate to accept because we’re afraid of trying something new or question our ability to be successful. Someone offers us an opportunity and we question their motives. The door to opportunity is open- something we’ve ALWAYS wanted, but when it’s right in front of us, we freeze. Too many times we allow fear and doubt to keep us from moving forward. Stop questioning and start moving forward.

7. “You want some respect? Go out and get it for yourself.” - Mad Men

People don’t give you respect, you earn it, require it, or command (not demand) it. To get respect you have to give it AND you have to have it for yourself as well.

8. “Sometimes when people get what they want, they realize how limited their goals were.” - Mad Men

Too many times people set the bar low because they fear failure. Easy goals are easy to reach. Reaching your potential is much harder.

9. “Don’t try too hard to please everybody. You’ll only end up with regrets.”  -The Night Shift

People who try to make everyone happy usually end up making themselves miserable. If we focus instead on doing the right thing instead of focusing on making others happy, it’s a lot easier to live with the outcome.

Have some other favorite TV quotes to add to this list? Let me know!

7 Bad Meeting Habits You Might Need to Break

Every time I teach a “Making Meetings Work” workshop, I ask the group, “How many of you enjoy going to meetings?”

Can you guess how many hands go up? You’re right — none!

Since so many of us don’t like to go to meetings, I think we’ve developed some bad habits as a subconscious rebellion. Unfortunately, our own bad meeting habits are what contribute to making meetings ineffective and as a result, make us hate going to meetings. We’re creating our own problem!

Here are some of the most common poor meeting habits I’ve observed and even some I’ve been guilty of myself. If you read one (or several) that sound like you- it’s time to start breaking those bad habits.

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1. Arriving late. If the meeting starts at 9 a.m., this doesn’t mean you get there at 9 a.m. (or later) it means you should be seated and ready to go BY 9 a.m.

2. Completing other tasks. If you have other things to do that are more important than the meeting, skip the meeting. If you’ve been invited to participate in a meeting, you can’t do that and do other things at the same time.

3. Make or take phone calls. It doesn’t matter how important you are, it’s generally considered rude to take a call during a meeting. If you’re anticipating an emergency call, for example, if a loved one is in the hospital, put your phone on vibrate and step out of the room if  you get a call. If you’re getting several calls and need to keep stepping out, you’ve now become a distraction to the meeting and you should probably leave.

4. Arrive unprepared. If the meeting leader has sent out an agenda, be sure to review it in advance and come prepared to discuss the agenda topics. This might require research, bringing certain information/documents, etc. It’s a waste of time when agenda items have to be “tabled” until the next meeting because participants were unprepared to discuss an item.

5. Not participating. Assuming you’ve done your homework by talking to the person who invited you to the meeting and you’ve both determined you need to be there, participate! Actively listen, ask questions, if you don’t understand something- say so, if you disagree- do so- respectfully. Your presence was requested, along with the other participants, because someone believed you had something to give– do your part!

6. Monopolizing the conversation. On the flip side of # 5 above, don’t take your participation obligation too far. It’s great to contribute, but be sure you let others participate as well. Additionally, if you’re someone in a position of power, consider withholding your opinions until others have had a chance to so you don’t influence their opinions or input.

7. Taking the meeting off the agenda. Even though you might have other topics you’d like to discuss with the group, stick to the agenda. If the meeting leader has planned well, the agenda items are exactly what can be covered in the allotted meeting time. Bringing up other subjects takes the meeting off track and is a big reason why meetings run past their end time.

 

These are just a few of the things you shouldn’t do in a meeting. What other “bad behavior” have you observed? Comment and let me know!

11 Communication Weaknesses that Will Kill Your Career

No matter what industry you’re in and no matter what your job title, your job description likely includes some requirement pertaining to communication skills.Log Out

“Great oral and written communication skills a must.”

“Excellent interpersonal communication skills required.”

“Must have experience communicating with staff, managers, and customers.”

Unfortunately, many people tend to spend more time worrying about and working on their technical proficiency than they do their communication skills.

The result? A lack of career progression and sometimes even career death.

It’s unlikely that having just one of the weaknesses below will cause a person’s career to come to crash and burn. However, having several of them, or having a few of them that get worse over time, may have a cumulative negative impact most of us would probably like to avoid.

 

Here are some of the most common career crushing communication mistakes.

1. Having a poor handshake.

2. Poor written communication skills.

3. Inability to adapt your communication style to different audiences, including people of different generations.

4. Nonverbal communication that conveys weakness or negativity, such as slouching, leaning away from a speaker, mumbling, speaking too softly, and vocalized pauses (uhs and ums) to name a few.

5. Inability to maintain eye contact, especially when confronted by an aggressive, angry, or powerful person.

6. Being a poor listener.

7. Saying, “I’m sorry” too much, especially when something isn’t your fault.

8. Using qualifiers, hedges, and hesitations. “I uh, sort of think we maybe should start the meeting, don’t you?”

9. Failing to praise or thank people for their good work.

10. Being late to meetings, thereby communicating that you don’t care, or that you think your time is more valuable than other people’s.

11. Not planning for difficult conversations BEFORE you have them.

 

What other communication “career killers” would you add to this list?

7 Signs that You’re Probably a Blamer

Over the years, I’ve discovered that there are two types of people when it comes to the issue of accountability.

The first is the accountable person. This is the person who is self aware and understands his or her role and responsibility in a problem situation. The accountable person is someone who learns and grows from every mistake and is less likely to make the same mistakes again.

The second is the blamer. This is the person who always has an excuse, explanation, or scapegoat upon which they can dump responsibility. This person is the one who is most frustrating for me because he or she never benefits from learning from mistakes and is destined to make the same ones over and over again.

For example:7K0A0752

  • an employer who repeatedly loses great employees
  • an employee who is repeatedly “let go”
  • a politician who runs for office repeatedly and never gets elected

What’s the common denominator here? (Or should I say “who?”)

In order to learn, grow, and move forward in life, it’s critical that we identify and take responsibility for our actions and even in-actions. The sooner we say

“I am responsible.”

“You’re right, I made a mistake.” 

“I’m partly to blame too, I should have …”
or ask
“What was my role in the situation?”
“What could I have done differently?”
“What can I do better next time?”

the more likely we are to identify the true source of the problem and begin taking steps to fix it.

The following “red flag” statements may indicate you’re attempting to avoid responsibility, deflect blame, or worst of all, reverse blame onto someone else.

When you feel the urge to say them, stop and think, “What’s my responsibility?” or “What part of this situation can I own?”

1. “You shouldn’t have asked me to do it in the first place.”

Then why did you accept the responsibility for the task? Perhaps you should have refused it.

2. “You didn’t give me enough time.”

Then why didn’t you negotiate a different deadline BEFORE you missed the one you agreed to?

3. “You didn’t give me enough information.”

Then why didn’t you ask for more when you were given the task?

4. “Well, I suppose you never made a mistake.”

Whether someone else has made a mistake isn’t the issue. The issue is yours- address it.

5. “Oh yeah, well you’re__________.”

Whatever someone else may be, as in #4 above, it’s not relevant now. If you had a problem with that person prior to this conversation, you probably had ample opportunity to bring it up before this moment. Now is not the time.

6. “What about (fill in person’s name)? Why don’t you ever say something to him/her?”

Turning the conversation to another person, especially someone who is not part of the conversation, is just another deflecting technique like #4 and #5 above. If you have a beef with someone else, take it to him or her.

7. “You never liked me.” 
When all else fails, turning the conversation away from behavior to the other person’s feelings about you is a classic technique for redirecting the conversation. How the other person feels about you CAN be addressed if they’re relevant, but only after addressing the concern that person originally brought to your attention.

Can you think of any more blaming phrases? Let me know!

 

The #1 Way to Avoid Misunderstandings and Conflict: Perception Checking

IMG_3289Most of the conflict I have experienced in my life, both first and second hand, has not been the result of factual disagreement, but of differing perceptions.

Every day we interact with others, “notice” their behavior, and then proceed to draw conclusions about what it is, what it means, etc.

Our interpretations, and thus our final perceptions, lead us to act on what we believe to be true when in fact, we have no idea what the truth is.

For example, before leaving for work in the morning, you tell your teenager to take out the trash before walking to the bus stop. The teenager agrees. When you get home after a long day at work, you walk into the kitchen to the smell of last night’s fish dinner wafting from the still-full trash can. Aforementioned teenager is watching re-runs of “Sponge Bob Squarepants” while lying on the couch.

What do you do?

A. Take out the trash yourself, saying nothing (not likely)

B. Ask the teenager politely why he or she didn’t take out the trash? (not likely)

C. Go Ballistic! (yes, that’s it)

For most of us who are parents, the answer would be C. There’s no reason to verify our perceptions, right? We know exactly what happened. That irresponsible, lazy kid forgot to take out the trash because “Sponge Bob Squarepants” is much more important.

So, what’s the problem with that?

Well, although we might be correct some of the time when we run with our perceptions, there are many times when our perceptions are flat-out wrong.

The above scenario is a true one presented to me by a workshop participant who had learned the Perception Checking technique at a previous workshop of mine that she had attended. She told me that the “old her” would have selected “Option C,” but having been to my course, she thought she’d give a Perception Checking Statement a try.

Upon entering her kitchen, she paused, took a deep breath (despite the fish odor), and calmly said:

“Derek, the trash is still inside when you were supposed to take it out this morning. Did you forget, or did something prevent you from taking out the garbage? What happened?

To which Derek replied (and the mom later confirmed to be true):

“I was going to, but Mrs. Davis called because she had a flat tire. I went next door and changed it for her so she could go to work and by the time I was done, the bus was coming so I ran to the bus stop.”

A simple perception check turned what would have been a fight, into an opportunity for a mom to praise her son for doing the right thing.

Perception checking is equally applicable to work situations. Before you assume to know why Karen didn’t get you the report on time, or presume to know what “that look” means on the face of that employee you know has a bad attitude … check it out with a Perception Check. 

Steps to an Effective Perception Checking Statement

  1. Describe the person’s actions or behaviorin a factual, nonjudgmental manner.
  2. Offer two possible interpretations of the behavior—one can even be “negative” as long as the second gives the other person “benefit-of-the-doubt.”
  3. Ask the person to share their “truth”—before you respond or take further action.

 

Perception checking is a great tool for ensuring you don’t start a conflict unnecessarily and for clearing the air when there is a problem. Give it a try this week—your coworkers and loved ones will appreciate you taking the time to “check it out before you challenge.”

 

For more perception checking information or examples, as well as other critical communication techniques, check out my book, “Practical Communication: 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done.”

 

7 Reasons Your Performance Appraisals Are a Waste of Time

Ah, performance appraisals. Some people hate them and the rest hate them too. As a result, many organizations are questioning the need for performance appraisals and others have stopped doing them altogether.

When done properly as part of an overall performance management program, appraisals are an opportunity to reward top performers, help redirect and develop those who need to improve, and overall have a positive impact on the productivity of the organization. However, performance appraisals done poorly have the exact opposite effect. Therefore, if you’re making any of the mistakes below, you should take steps quickly to change these negative performance appraisal activities.

1. You’ve turned “appraisal” into a dirty word. 

You sarcastically announce, “Guess what guys, it’s time for annual performance appraisals,” and your employees let out a collective groan. It’s obvious the word “appraisal” has been turned into a dirty one in your organization. Appraisals aren’t something that should be dreaded by you or your employees. They should be presented and conducted positively! When done right, they’re an opportunity to set goals, talk about accomplishments, and help remove obstacles that are keeping employees from moving forward. Change your attitude about appraisals and present them to your employees as the positive opportunity they should be.

7K0A02232. Your appraisal tool is not aligned with the employee’s actual duties.

It’s hard to evaluate someone’s work when you’re using a tool that doesn’t assess what they actually do on a daily basis at work. If your evaluation tools are outdated, it’s time to review and change them. Ensure the tool is aligned with your organizations mission and goals as well as the specific job responsibilities for each position in your organization.

3. You give all employees the same rating.

Nobody’s perfect, so you can’t give people an “exceeds” rating and you don’t want to be too negative, so you can’t use “does not meet”. Therefore, everyone ends up in the middle. So when it comes time to promote someone, how do you know who is the best person for the job? It’s important to evaluate employees accurately and fairly. If everyone truly just “meets” standards, then fine. However, you’re doing a disservice to top performers and those who aren’t meeting standards by not telling the truth. If you’re doing a good job of keeping concrete proof of performance throughout the year AND you’ve created standards for what constitutes “does not meet”, “meets”, and “exceeds”, then establishing the correct rating for each employee should be fairly obvious.

4. You have quotas for ratings.

Many organizations impose quotas on managers for the number of “exceeds” and “does not meet” ratings they can give on employee performance appraisals. Some of these quotas are in place because of the mistaken belief that employee performance in an organization falls in a normal distribution (bell curve), which recent research has proven to be inaccurate in about 94 percent of cases.  In other instances, quotas are in place for “exceeds” ratings because appraisal results are tied to compensation and organizations limit the number of people who can receive the highest raises. Therefore, a manager can only reward one or two top performers with the highest ratings. It’s time to get rid of the quotas and evaluate employees fairly.

7K0A01165. You’re uncomfortable “judging” others.

Many managers are uncomfortable being in the position of evaluating people. If you’re one of them, try changing your mindset. Don’t think of performance appraisals as judging others or criticizing them. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to praise employees’ accomplishments and to help them improve performance that is holding them back, causing them stress, or making their jobs more difficult.

6. You rely on memory for evaluation content.

Both you and your employees should be keeping records of performance throughout the year. If you rely on memory, you’ll likely fall prey to the recency effect, which is when you focus too heavily on the most recent events, good or bad, instead of looking at the entire past year as a whole. Relying on memory can also result in a halo or negative halo effect- where your personal feelings about the employee and the good or bad view of their performance clouds the appraisal and doesn’t allow you to get an accurate picture of real performance.

7. You only address performance once a year.

Does it make sense to go 365 days without letting an employee know there’s a problem with his or her performance? Of course not! An annual performance evaluation should be a part of an overall performance management process, not a stand-alone, once-a-year meeting. In my workshop “Coaching Your Employees: The 364 Days Before the Performance Appraisal”, I teach participants the importance of having alignment between the organization’s mission and vision, organizational and individual employee goals, setting clear expectations, and coaching and feedback throughout the year, as part of the performance management process. It’s important that managers have both formal and informal performance discussions throughout the year to address successes and concerns.

 

These are just some of the most common reasons performance appraisals aren’t working. What would you add to this list? Comment and let us know!

6 Discipline Mistakes of Cowardly Leaders

When you accept the title of leader, manager, supervisor, or any other title that puts you in charge of a group of people, you also accept the responsibility of providing feedback to those people. Great leaders accept this and take steps to learn to do it well. Cowardly leaders find all types of ways to avoid dealing with discipline issues with methods that allow them to fool themselves into thinking they’ve done their jobs.

Here are the top five ways cowardly leaders avoid providing true discipline.  

1. The “Overhead Lob” Approach

This method is used when a leader doesn’t want to, or doesn’t know how to confront the employee(s) who have the problem. Instead, he or she confronts the entire staff in a meeting with a generalized, “We all need to do a better job of X,” or “those of you who haven’t turned in X need to get it to me today,” hoping that the feedback will fall on the heads of the offenders. In fact, the offenders are probably not paying attention and those who are doing a good job are offended that they’re being “punished” for something they didn’t do. Additionally, all the non-offenders know EXACTLY who the leader should really be confronting and it exposes the leader’s weakness.

7K0A99142. The “Mass Email” Approach

This method is basically the same as the Overhead Lob, except this leader can’t even take the time (or is too afraid to) bring the issue up in person and instead, emails the entire staff about the issue. However, the result is the same- those who need the discipline miss it, those who don’t need it are offended, and the leader looks weak. Don’t do it!

3. The “You Deal with It” Approach

I want to say upfront that I’m all for employees addressing and attempting to resolve problems between themselves before asking a supervisor to jump in and play parent/principal/referee. However, once that attempt has been tried and failed, it’s a supervisor’s role to take action. It’s not okay to say, “Well, if you talked to him already about it, what am I supposed to do?” It’s also inappropriate for a supervisor to ask another employee to “mentor” the poor performing employee as a way to avoid dealing with the issue himself or herself. Once an employee has tried to address the issue with a peer, it’s the supervisor’s job to take the next steps.

4. The “Send Them to Training” Approach

As a speaker and trainer, this particular method offends me. There’s nothing like a room full of people who have been sent to training as punishment for something– talk about a fun and interactive class! The purpose of training is to help people learn new needed skills. It should not be used as a punishment. Leaders should address the performance issue themselves and not expect us trainers to “fix” their employees. If, after discussing the issue with the employee, training is warranted, then great, send them to us. However, PLEASE present training as an opportunity for the employee to improve or gain needed skills, not as punishment.

5. The “Work Around” Approach

In this approach, the leader basically tells the rest of the employees to just “work around” the poor performer. This can include asking other employees to do parts or all of the poor performer’s job and/or asking employees to ignore disruptive, unproductive, or inappropriate behavior. The bottom line is, your employees shouldn’t have to pick up the slack for poor performers or have to ignore or tolerate bad behavior.

6. The “Do Nothing and Hope it Goes Away” Approach

If you saw a mole on your arm had developed all the signs of skin cancer, would you just say to yourself, “I know this is probably cancer, but I’m just going to ignore it and hope it goes away?” Probably not. Most people know that the earlier cancer is detected and treated, the better. The same goes for poor performance. Dealing with it when you first notice it is going to be a lot easier and will have better long-term results, than waiting until it develops into a Stage 4 malignancy.

If you’ve recognized yourself in any of these examples- you’ve taken the first step to fixing the problem- acknowledging that there is one. Now, you have to make a choice.

Choice #1- You can go on fooling yourself that you’ve addressed the issue using these methods, check the box, and while you’re waiting for your discipline to kick in and start working, your employees are losing respect for you, productivity and morale will drop, and the problem will likely worsen.

Choice #2- Get brave, step up, and start really dealing with performance problems by going directly to the source of the problem and confronting the issue privately and directly with that person.

I hope you make the right choice.

5 Communication Myths Busted

From advice that says you should imagine your audience naked to make yourself more comfortable when giving a speech, to the “fact” that 93% of all communication is nonverbal, communication myths abound.

When I decided to do a blog post about communication myths, there were so many I had a difficult time honing in on just five. However, based on personal experience, and the fact that these issues have come up repeatedly in workshops and seminars over the years, I present you with the following five communication myths you likely believe. Even if you read them and say, “Of course this is a myth,” ask yourself, “but do I still do it?” I think you’ll be surprised by the answer.

Myth #5 – When people say, “uh huh” or “got it”, that means they understood me. 

Busted: Imagine you’re in your kitchen, stirring a fantastic pot of spaghetti sauce. The kitchen smells great, you have the water boiling for the pasta, and the phone rings. It’s your spouse, saying he or she is stopping at the store on the way home and wants to know if you need anything. You say, “bread,” and your spouse says, “got it,” and then shows up with this:

Communication Expert Amy Castro unclear communication example

You quickly realize communication has NOT occurred. What exactly does “got it” mean? Got what? The wrong bread, that’s what.

So who is at fault in this situation? Technically both parties. However, since you were the one initiating the conversation, you bear the responsibility for ensuring communication has truly occurred.

First, you should have been more specific. Having been married 27 years, I have learned to say,

“I need a fresh-baked loaf of Italian bread. You’ll find it at HEB, in the bakery section, second shelf, five loaves in. It’s in a brown-paper bag and says ‘Pane Italiano’ on it.”

Some people argue with me on this point, saying, “Well, if the other person didn’t understand, why didn’t he or she ask?” The answer is, for the same reason you weren’t specific in the first place- you had a mental picture of what you wanted when you said, “bread” so you thought you were being clear. Your listener hears the word “bread” and conjures up a mental picture of something as well, it just turned out to be a different picture.

Second, when your dinner (or a work project) is on the line, don’t let a conversation end with “uh huh.” When someone’s initial response is “uh huh,” “got it” or something similar, and the conversation ends at that, you can rest assured that you and the other person are NOT on the same page. Therefore, ask questions, ask the person to describe what he or she will do, do SOMETHING to ensure that the other party has a clear picture of what you want or need before assuming communication has occurred.

Myth #4 – When people say “yes”, that means they agree.

Busted: You ask your employee to take on a new task. You explain the steps in great detail and at the end of the conversation, you ask, “Do you understand what needs to be done?” There is a big difference between a “Yes, definitely,” said in an enthusiastic tone, and “Uh, yes, I guess so” or “If that’s what you want to do, then yes.”

Be sure to pay attention to HOW someone says yes. Is there hesitation? Does the person’s face look worried (i.e., telling you no nonverbally) while saying yes? Is there a “qualifier” before or after the yes? Any of these should signal to you that although the person SAID yes, what he or she meant is NO.

Myth #3 – If I tell others “my door is always open”, they’ll come to me with problems.

Busted: For years, managers and leaders have told their employees they have an open door policy. The problem is, no one wants to walk through the door.

Going to, or being called into the boss’ office is a big step for employees. It’s not just another office, it’s the boss’ territory. Not only does it conjure up the feelings one might have had going to the principal’s office in grade school, but people become very concerned with what their coworkers are thinking when they walk across the threshold and close the door. Additionally, many bosses SAY they have an open door policy, but they’re either never in the office, have the door closed, or look/act annoyed when an employee drops by.

It takes more than an open door policy to get people to come to you with problems. Be sure to take opportunities to go to them. Check in with others frequently to see how they’re doing. Take the time to really listen and you’ll likely be surprised what they share.

Myth #2 – When someone says, “I’m over it,” they’re over it.

Busted: I’m always amazed when people will tell me about a past slight, difficult situation, argument, etc., sharing their story with obvious anger or frustration in their voices, and then end the story by saying, “but I’m over it.”

So if they’re over it, why are they still talking about it?

If someone is still bringing up a past situation, they’re not over it, no matter how many times they say they are. The question is, what do you do about the fact that they’re not really over it?

It depends. If it’s not your place to get involved, you might just move on. If the issue involves you, you might say, “You say that you’re over it, but I think the fact that you brought it up means you want to discuss it further. Let’s talk about it.”

Myth #1 – Communication always makes things better.

Busted: Used correctly and in skilled hands, communication is an excellent tool and often makes situations better.

However, “more communication” in and of itself does not make things better, and in fact can make things worse. Here are some examples:

  • Writing a 200 word email when your message could have been communicated in 20 words.
  • Fighting with a family member about an issue, only to have the conversation disintegrate into name calling, insults, and other hurtful comments.
  • Pushing someone to give you a solution when he or she hasn’t had a chance to think about the problem.

Quality, not quantity of communication is what makes things better. Timing, readiness of the other party to communicate, and other factors also impact communication effectiveness. So when you want to “fix” something, don’t just throw more communication at the problem, create a plan for effectively communicating with others.

 

Why Laziness is the REAL Mother of Invention

tp empty rollWhile having lunch with my friend Beverly the other day, she was lamenting various employee challenges- from lack of personal responsibility to downright laziness.

Case in point, the simple act of changing the toilet paper roll in the restroom. She just couldn’t understand how someone could be so lazy that they couldn’t take the 10 seconds to replace the toilet paper roll properly and instead, stack the new roll on top of the TP holder.

tp empty roll 1

 

 

Or, even worse, tell themselves they hadn’t actually used the LAST of the TP on the roll.

 

 

This age-old act of laziness apparently doesn’t just make Beverly’s blood boil. There are countless articles on the internet ranting about such laziness. In fact, there’s a video on YouTube made by a dad for his teenagers called, “Toilet Roll Changing: Teenage Instructional Video #1,” that has more than 4 million views!

I realize that changing the TP is an extreme example of laziness and it’s hard to come up with an argument that justifies it.

However, if you look at the issue of “laziness” another way, many of our greatest innovations have been been borne from laziness. It is laziness, not necessity, that is the real mother of invention.

The car, microwave, remote control, escalator, calculator, and countless other inventions all came about because we were too “lazy” to walk, cook, get up and change the channel, climb the stairs, and add 1+1 on our own. This type of “laziness” is not about a lack of caring, it’s about finding an easier, better, more efficient way of doing things. In fact, the very definition of efficiency, “Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.” implies that laziness is a requirement!

This type of “laziness” was one of the reasons I started my own business 20 years ago. My daughter was just a few months old when I was offered a job that paid well, but would have required me to work 60 hours per week. I just didn’t want to work those long hours when I had a new baby at home. My “laziness” forced me to get creative and to seek a way to make the same income working fewer hours. I decided to start my own business speaking and facilitating workshops on communication. I started small, speaking at breakfast meetings and luncheons, and as my daughter grew older and went to school, I was able to offer my clients longer workshops and built a thriving business.

So, the next time you’re feeling too “lazy” to do something, take the time to find out why and then get creative in identifying alternatives to get the task done.When you see your employees (or children) being “lazy”, instead of getting frustrated, look for solutions, or even better, ask them to identify solutions or alternatives. You’ll likely find that laziness leads to increased productivity and better, more creative ways of doing things.

That’s what Beverly did. Problem solved.

new tp holder

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Challenging Question You’ll Ever Ask

Any parent can tell you one of the most annoying questions kids ask is, “Why?”

Why is the sky blue?

Why is the grass green?

Why do I have to take a bath?

Although it may sometimes feel like kids ask these questions merely to annoy us, kids ask them because they’re trying to understand their world.

The question, “Why?” has come up over and over again this week in a variety of places in my life.

My friend and colleague Michelle and I have committed to a weekly study session to help each other plan the direction of our businesses. When we met this week, it seemed the question, “Why?” or some variation came up repeatedly.

Why are we (do we want to be) speakers and trainers?

Why do we think there’s a need for our services?

Why would someone buy our products?

These questions are often challenging to answer, but essential to our future success. Why? Because they will help us define our motivation for moving forward and rationale to stress to our customers for selecting our services and products.

I’ve known many people who were unhappy in their careers because they never asked themselves why they were working in their field, why they were so miserable, and why they didn’t make a change. I’ve seen many businesses in my community come and go because they obviously didn’t ask themselves these questions either. In fact, at one point it became a game in our family to take bets on how many days it would be before a new and poorly-thought-out business closed its doors.

For example, at one time, a small, expensive pet boutique opened in my town. I gave it 90 days before it closed. I won the bet. It’s not that the concept of a pet boutique is a bad one. However, the person who owned the shop probably didn’t ask himself or herself why someone would buy their products in a community where people appear well off, but many live above their means AND one that also boasts at least four, national chain pet supply stores within 15 miles. 

In teaching a public speaking class the other day, we were discussing the importance of answering the question, “Why?” during our upcoming “How To” speeches. The purpose of the exercise is to give students the opportunity to teach the class how to do anything from making enchiladas to building a computer. I told the class that they can’t just tell people how things are done, but must also tell them why. Why? Because people are more willing and accepting of doing what we tell them when they understand the rationale behind our instruction or requests. I also advocated the age-old advice of asking, “Why?” five time to get to the real reason.

For example, a student gives a speech to introduce himself to the class. The student states that video games are a big part of his life.

Why are they so important? Because I like to play video games.

Why do you like to play video games? Because I play with my best friend.

Why do you play with him? Because he and I have been friends since we were five years old.

Why have you been friends so long? Because I can always count on him.

Why do you count on him? Because he’s stood by me through many bad times, including when my dad died.

Ah. . . now we get to the real reason playing video games are such a big part of his life. They give him the opportunity to spend time with someone he trusts and relies upon and someone who helped him through one of the most difficult times of his life.

Amazing what you can learn by just asking, “Why?”

Finally, asking ourselves, “Why?” when our work or personal relationships are unsuccessful can be important in identifying our role in the situation. When relationships don’t work out, the easiest thing to do is to blame the other person, or some external factor over which we have no control. However, when situations repeat and patterns emerge, we need to look to ourselves for answers, even if it involves  some uncomfortable soul searching and the answers we find might point uncomfortably toward ourselves.

Why am I able to attract talented people to my organization, but lose them shortly thereafter? 

Why does every interaction with my business partner turn into an argument?

Why can’t I trust my employees?

Why can’t I maintain anything but the most superficial of friendships?

Although asking, “Why?” can be annoying, challenging,  and can sometimes lead us to answers we don’t want to hear (or admit to ourselves), being smart and brave enough to ask the question will provide critical insights into ourselves and others.