Archive for the 'Work' Category

Resistance Was Silly

I really, really hate being told “Do This”. Foolish reaction, I know, but the moment someone tells me that I must do something, I want to protest and resist – You’re not the boss of me!!!! There are many situations that bring on my ‘dragging feet’ reaction: visits to relatives with whom I’m not especially close, dealing with my taxes, filling out personal data forms for work, and many other “you must do this” requirements. I say it’s a foolish reaction because typically doing the action is NEVER as horrible as I anticipate. The visit with the relatives is fun, the taxes take less time and energy than expected and to date I have always survived the experience. So when my manager informed us (his team) that he urged us all very strongly to enroll in a certain program at work, I immediately went into “you can’t tell me what to do” mode.

The irony is that the program he was promoting was the kind of learning I usually take all on my own: learning how to coach people to solve work issues that they face. Over the years I have taken courses in Applied Creative Thinking, been trained as a meeting facilitator, served as a mentor, led training courses, and spent a lot of time in behavioral therapy myself and then trying to teach what I had learned to others. So you’d think that learning to be a more effective coach would be right up my alley. You’d think that, and I recognized that idea, but I was annoyed and resistant. I made sure to wait until beyond the last minute so that I was closed out of all the possible teams. But then to prove I was a “team player” I wrote to the program coordinator apologizing for being late and asking if there was a way to join a team or if I should (oh PLEASE say YES) wait until the next time the program was offered. She put me onto one of her teams. Sigh.

I was EXTREMELY busy at work after that (I believe I have mentioned that *grin*) and so I did none of the prep work. I went to the first session and sat there with my virtual arms crossed and a pout on my virtual face. On camera of course I smiled and put on a “very interested face”. I hope. 🙂 I hated the first session all the way up to the very last 10 minutes. We “wasted” 45 minutes or so for 50 people to introduce themselves and say why they were taking the course. I was the last but one to speak. (Feel the resistance?) Then the facilitator did something technically I’d never seen before – she broke us all into small sub-meetings. Wow – isn’t technology COOL????? I had not known that capability existed and thought it was a fantastic innovation for video conferencing. I was in a room with one other woman. We could see each other’s physical surroundings and we broke the ice talking about sports teams, then started on the assignment. We were summoned back (forcibly) before we had the chance to switch roles. I found that my whole attitude had undergone a change simply from interacting with a real person one on one in a non-threatening environment. I liked her (unlike my reaction to many of the other people introducing themselves – wow you can really tell a lot about a person from the words they use, how long they talk, and their focus *grin*).

I resolved to do more preparation before the next class. My big project had launched, I had more time to work on other matters. Part of my annoyance was the requirement to buy a book in which I had no interest, but I finally downloaded the book to my iPad. The part of the course that was still causing me major stress and concern was the requirement to coach 2 people. I couldn’t think who I might coach. I had an idea that it should be someone younger than I, someone still early in their career. I didn’t really want to reach out to people with whom I work because if I failed or was very bad at this coaching stuff, I didn’t want them to know it and have my good reputation ‘tarnished’. I didn’t know anyone else who’d fit the “young, early in career” stage because my office mates are mostly senior folks who are looking towards retirement, or they are transient employees in for the day to use office facilities. I also thought that it isn’t just the coachee/client who is vulnerable in a session – the coach is also vulnerable. At least I felt *I* would be vulnerable – what if I failed? Who to coach and how was I going to avoid/fulfill this requirement?

I had a meeting with a coworker who is also a friend. We were chatting about business matters and about work and I mentioned this course, and whined about not having anyone to coach and not knowing where to find someone. I was absolutely astounded when he said “You can coach me.” Full Stop. It never occurred to me to reach out to someone like this: senior, well-established, a friend. It took him a few minutes to convince me he was serious and me a few minutes to adjust to the idea of trying to coach a friend. We agreed to give it a try. He recommended a young person we both knew as my second ‘client’ but I was still a bit resistant to coaching someone on my team. But his willingness to be coached made me rethink the people I know at work. I actually know many, many people with whom I have a good relationship and who might agree to 3 one-hour sessions to let me practice coaching. I reached out to one of them, a woman with whom I used to work regularly before she moved to another role. She agreed!!! She was extremely interested and enthusiastic about the idea. I began to be very excited as well. We set our first session for later that week.

I began to catch up on all the assignments. I began reading the book (I was correct – I don’t like it, it doesn’t speak to me, but there are one or two points that I found worth noting). I started watching the videos, which infuriated me no end. They were recorded several years ago. This means there has been PLENTY of time for someone to go in and edit those videos and crop out the leading 10 minutes of people chatting about so and so retiring and “can you hear me now?” and “please put your phones on mute”, and “please call back on another line”. Seriously – I feel that not cropping that kind of nonsense out of the videos but making the videos required viewing is disrespectful to course participants. I really hate the videos until they reach the point where the practice coaching begins. I admire the people who have volunteered to be the coach and the coachee. I’ll tell you right now – it’s SCARY to try to coach when you have NEVER done it before and don’t know what questions to ask or what works. The fact that one woman volunteered to do that and to do it IN FRONT OF OTHERS was impressive. She wasn’t very good at it but she was game and she kept going. The other videos I’ve watched (really listened – there is no video recording during the coaching) were much the same – a lot of stuff that should have been cropped, repetition from prior videos, new material and then a practice coaching session, then someone’s observations and feedback from both coach and coachee. The coaching sessions are incredibly interesting and valuable. I have been taking copious notes.

I did my first coaching session yesterday. I did a LOT of preparation. I printed out course materials, wrote notes on them, highlighted things I wanted to remember, spread them out about my laptop where I could see them without needing to look away from the client. I worried about how we’d switch from friend mode to coach/client mode, and reviewed what I’d heard in the practice sessions. I was as ready as I thought I could be. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to maintain a coach role. I have a strong tendency to jump in when someone is explaining a work situation and share my similar experience, or to offer an opinion in support, or to propose solutions to the problems. None of that is suitable for a coach. I was aware through the entire hour of keeping my eyes focused on the client’s face (I moved my screen shot so that her face was right above my camera so as I looked at her face, I was staring right into the camera), to not interrupting (keep your mouth shut and LISTEN), to hear what words she used and where she took the conversation. I was writing notes out of view of the camera (they are probably illegible since my writing is horrible to start and I wasn’t LOOKING as I wrote) but I didn’t really need them. I relied on the course notes, and what I’d heard other coaches say/do and tried to follow those examples. It was GREAT. I loved it.

At the end of the hour, I felt we had done very well. To be fair, I suspect one of the reasons it went so well was because I had a great client. She wanted to be there, she could articulate her issues, she had ideas and she responded well to the open-ended questions. The client had actions she planned to implement, we talked about a time frame, we agreed to meet again to discuss the other issues she’d mentioned. When she said to me “you’re a great listener” I felt extremely rewarded. I learned a lot about myself, and about helping others. This IS the kind of work I like to do. Not only did I enjoy this experience but I’m now wondering if this is something I can do as a next role. Helping people resolve their road blocks might be every bit as rewarding as playing with kittens all day. *smile*

Resistance was silly.

Encroachment

Originally she had her paw across the entire keyboard but when I complained, she agreed to share.
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Workplace Hazards

And I wonder why my back/neck/shoulder hurt after I’ve been working at the computer for awhile. I feel this post is ESPECIALLY relevant because I see that my friend Honour has posted today about harsh working conditions. As I pointed out to her on her post, she doesn’t KNOW from hardship… *grin*

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MY arm

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You MOVED

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Bliss

Mind Your Manners

Something happened yesterday that I don’t think has ever happened to me before in my working career. Or if it HAS, it was so long ago I don’t remember it.

One of the many tasks I do for my team is to handle quarterly emails to executives about upcoming meetings. Yeah, that sounds amazingly simple and straightforward but there’s a reason why I do it and not the administrative assistant. There are a myriad of decisions that need to be made about these particular meetings: if the meeting is happening, who MUST be there, who is invited, who are other interested parties that must be informed and so on. These particular meetings can be very stressful for the participants as they are reporting back on their success/failure.

I inherited a standard email for these meetings and over the years I’ve modified it, and the process for sending them and acting upon responses. Timing is important because the administrative assistant needs the information to schedule these meetings. I start MY bit long before the meetings actually begin. I don’t make the decisions about who has to have a meeting – that information is conveyed to me by my team.

I have a moderate “success” rate over the years for getting responses from the executives. *grin* If I get 50% of them responding to me with changes or to say no changes, I consider that a smashing success. 🙂 Anything between 33%-50% is a good response. In other words, many of the people simply ignore the email. Even when the execs DO respond, we receive emails all the way up to and after the meeting with people asking to be invited or telling us they are no longer interested/needed on the call. It’s all fine – people are people and we can add and delete invitations.

I sent out my emails about a week ago. I asked the recipients to respond to me by the end of that week, giving them 4 days to review the proposed list of invitees. If this was a group that had already been in this process, it’s fairly simple to scan the list, and see who is no longer needed or who might be missing. This week I was told to add a few more executives to the meetings. Accordingly I tailored up my form letter and sent it to each of them, asking them to respond at the end of 2 days. These were all teams that had been through this process several times before.

Well. Last night (a little over 24 hours after I sent the email), I received a reply from one of the executives.

Ahuva, “to be honest – anything that is given only 2 days notice can’t be too important – so I won’t attempt to work through this.. ”

Well take my breath away. Isn’t it nice to be a VP and be snarky to someone you’ve never met on a topic about which you know very little? What if I were the CEO writing to him asking for a response within 2 days (or less)? Would he REALLY tell the CEO that anything that has only 2 days notice can’t be important? In his defense I will say that he is semi-new to the role, in that this is his first time receiving the email, but he HAS been an attendee at prior calls. So the concept of the meeting and the fact that there are a LOT of people on these calls, and the fact that they happen – none of that should be a surprise.

What a total ‘supply the derogatory term of your choice’.

I wrote a polite letter back within the hour (yes, doing all this after 9pm my time) finishing with take all the time you like to review. We’re going to schedule the meeting and we’ll update after the fact. I hope that he could read between the lines and hear things like “aren’t you a rude brat” and “we’re going to invite whoever and you can live with it” and “maybe as a newbie you should learn a little more about your responsibilities before you try to kick someone you think it’s safe to kick”. My coworker, who has to work with this character directly, seemed to think my response was very good.

I’m reminded of all those sayings along the lines of “be careful who you kick on the way up”. If this is how he treated me, imagine what he does to people with whom he’s really annoyed? If he was unhappy, hey, his peers simply ignore the email. That would have been a more mature response, odd as that sounds.

As a footnote, my administrative assistant gets this kind of nonsense every single quarter as she tries to schedule these meetings. Other admins give her grief because THEIR execs are soooooo important. People refuse to give time slots. They accept a time, the meeting is set, they come back and say no, that won’t work.

It’s not the need for changes. It’s the whole “I am so important and entitled.” It is so simple to be polite. Aim to be gracious, calm. Understand that there are live human beings with their own issues. Don’t pull the wings off of flies.

Tomato, Tomahto

tissuesI do like going into the office. It’s good to see people, chat, find out what’s happening in other departments. I really enjoy the drive to the office these days. After decades of commutes on rush-hour packed roads, I now have a commute of 6.7 miles (yes, I measured). It goes through the outskirts of an ecological preserve, past a farm where there are horses grazing in the field, past a lovely little lake and even has the convenience of my bank and favorite grocery store before I reach the office. On the way home I have a great view of the river as well (only in the winter – in other seasons the trees in the park along the river block that view).

I also love having the flexibility to work from home. That’s so helpful if there are contractors coming, or if I need to run errands that are closer to home than the office, or if the weather is terrible and I don’t feel like driving even that short distance.

That flexibility combined with the short commute also means that should I start sneezing and blowing my nose non-stop, I can pack up my stuff and leave the office and head back home. That was Monday. I was all set to enjoy the last week at the office for this year. I bought coffee supplies and donuts for the coffee room. I made myself my coffee sat down at my desk and….. the sneezing started. teapotAnd never stopped. I used up all my tissues. Note to self: remember to bring in new box. After 45 minutes of this I decided that NO one needed or wanted me to stay in the office. We even get lovely emails from HR reminding us to keep away if we are ill. I shut down the machines, packed up and went home (12 minutes door to door. yes, I’m gloating). I drank copious amounts of hot tea, had tissues right to hand, even made the training session I had to lead without sneezing into the microphone. Tomato.

fireplaceTuesday I woke up and felt better, but not well. Obvious decision – work from home again. The sneezing and nose-blowing was over, but the headache and general meh feeling was there. Again, more cups of tea. Another reason to work from home that – I prefer the rest rooms at my house. 🙂

It’s Wednesday and I’m still home, because I thought oh why bother packing up and going in, so many people were planning to take off this week anyway. There weren’t many folk in the office on Monday and I’m sure there will be fewer today.

I’m still home. doorOMG, I’m still HOME. I am going stir-crazy. I know that there are people who like to ‘nest’, burrow in as it were and do…. heck, I don’t know what they do. It’s been over 50 hours straight and I am soooooo tired of this view!!!! I neeeeeeed to get out. The sun is shining. I’m not sick. The cats are terrible conversationalists. Every where I look I see ‘things that need doing’. I want my office. I want OUT. Tomahto.

Anyone interested in meeting for a cup of coffee??????

OOTD20150529

I take a lot of pride in my work. I know when I’ve done something that is really top quality and well done. If someone compliments me effusively on work that I think is “meh”, the compliment leaves me indifferent for the most part. I don’t NEED someone to tell me when I’ve done superior work – I know it and it makes me feel satisfied and proud. But…. When I HAVE done something that I know took a lot of work, a lot of thought, a lot of crafting, then when the person for whom it was done takes the time to recognize that, praise it, and thank me – that takes the good feeling to an even higher level. You need to work for yourself and recognize your own worth, but it’s very very nice to be appreciated by people whom you respect. 🙂

Reprise

Nickelback: “You know it’s never too late to shoot for the stars, regardless of who you are”
(If Today Was Your Last Day)

I’m shooting for the stars. It’s a whole new adventure. I’m on my way. Thanks for listening. 🙂


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