Archive for the ‘coaching’ Category

With Labor Day coming to us in the U.S. this Monday as the unofficial end of summer and the first holiday of the fall, now is a good time to review your personal ‘time-off’ policy. And even if you’re a workaholic with to many open projects (like myself), you still need to find some time to get away from the work that you do, and more importantly, all the work going on around you, to keep yourself sane (or relatively sane, as in my case).

Try working this three pronged approach of scheduling time off:

Schedule Some Time Off To Take Care Of ‘Overflow’: You can get away from normal business and the chaos of those working around you so that you can take care of a few things, work related or personal, uninterrupted. It’s not really a vacation, but it gets you away to accomplish some important things that can relieve some of your personal stress. Just make sure you eliminate as many personal distractions as possible and get the work you’re getting away to get done done.

Schedule Some Time Off To Take Time Off…And Then Take That Time Off: This is your set up for a real vacation, away from any serious work. Don’t try to force yourself into having a good time by getting stuck to an itinerary, and don’t feel guilty if while inside some relaxation time your mind comes up with a clever idea to fix that nagging problem you left at the office. Jot it down quickly, then set it aside to deal with when you get back to the office.

Schedule Some Time Off To Review Where You Are: This one is pretty simple, and doesn’t need HR involvement. Set aside a regularly scheduled time and location where you can do a quick overview of tasks, goals, and maybe even life. It can be as simple as getting up 15 minutes earlier in the morning, having lunch with just your notebook on a Thursday, or a full weekly review on Saturday morning.


I have seen first hand the magic that come from propping up a person for job duties that are well beyond their capabilities, and they surprise themselves and succeed. I have also seen first hand the horrors that come from propping up a person for job duties that are well beyond their capabilities, and they prove everyone right and fail miserably.

There is a lot more of the latter happening in corporate America these days, which would be fortunate if it meant companies were becoming more confident in ‘fail-to-learn’ philosophies.

It happens to fall toward the unfortunate, as it really means too many companies have come up short on manpower after too many successes at cutting payroll. Still, companies are desperate to get the same level of work done despite the obvious lack of numbers to support the workload. Line managers hope for the best by giving addition duties to their workers for various reasons, and then give them hell when they can’t really handle it, even though they suspected it wasn’t going to work out from the beginning.

The real solution would be to hire back the lost employees and work at the regular levels again. That’s probably not happening any time soon. In the meantime, managers need to be extremely careful when putting the necks of the inexperienced on the line, for both of their sakes.

Online Training Online Training For Everyone

Today, I will give you a five step plan on how to solve just about any problem. I’m calling this plan, for obvious reasons, “The Overly Simplified Way To Solve Your Problems In Just Five Steps”

Step 1: See that you have a problem.

Step 2: Say, “I have a problem.”

Step 3: Do something about the problem.

Step 4: If problem persists, do something different about the problem.

Step 5: If problem persists, repeat step 4 until you have solved the problem

Overly simplified, but simple enough that you get the point.

Tom’s Shoes: Buy A Pair, Give A Pair

When you are bitten by a bug, there is a certain amount of time that you just have to live through before the itching and swelling of that bite goes away. Rubbing and scratching the bite will only prolong the experience, the discomfort that comes with it and the time needed to heal. But eventually, the swelling will subside, the rash will fade, and the itching stops.

The same general thing happens when you are bitten by an ‘idea bug.’ Once a new idea come to mind, you’ve got a limited amount of time before you lose the adrenaline rush to put the idea in motion, and possibly lose the idea itself to the million of other thoughts that get processed through your mind on a daily basis.

And just like there are steps to take to help alleviate the suffering from an actual bug bite (don’t touch it, apply some medicated cream, take a pill, etc.), there are steps you can take to prolong the jolt of inspiration of your ‘idea bug’ bite:

1: Write It Down IMMEDIEATELY! – Never let an idea just dissipate from your memory. Just because the ideas are flowing now, doesn’t mean you’ll never go through an idea dry spell and need to look back on a few filed away ideas for inspiration. Write the details of your idea as simply or as detailed as they came to you, and place it somewhere you can routinely review it, lest you waist the effort of preserving it in the first place. Create an idea bank for storing randomly created ideas in a file folder, shoe box, computer file–whatever will work best for you. You can even carry a portable notebook to jot down ideas as they come if you are prone to attract idea bugs.

2: Order Your Steps – Make a quick determination on just how complicated your idea is and just how much work will be involved in your attempt to actually make it happen. Come up with a quick, easy to follow outline of all the steps involved that you can think of, and determine how long you think it will take to get the project started and completed.

3: Gauge Your Timing – Determine if this is the actual right time or place to attempt to work out the kinks in your idea. Let’s use the example of your idea being a ski stunt you would like to attempt and master. If you are nowhere near water or snow, chances are you won’t be working on the stunt by mid-morning. And if you have to lose ten pounds and get in shape before you can even attempt your stunt, that’s just more prep time needed before the attempt. If now is not the right time or you’re not in the right place, schedule a time in the future when you can assure all the conditions are acceptable to make an attempt at your idea. If your idea is not that involved or complicated, and you believe you can work on it now with minimum interruptions, and you are ready for the challenge, then jump on in.

4: Start At Your Earliest Convenience – The average person has about 48 hours or so from the initial formation of a new idea before they lose interest in it completely. And if they don’t take the time to write it down, they could lose the entire idea minutes after they came up with it. It is important to put your plan in motion for you idea as soon as possible, or schedule a time in the near future to get started, with plenty of incentive to get back to it.


Does your career follow a warped version of the story of the Little Dutch Boy?

The Cliff Notes Version of the Little Dutch Boy has a hole in a dike that was threatening to burst, and little boy walks up an sticks his finger in the hole and shores up the dike with the simple act…a decision that is a little tough because it makes him late for school, which will get him in trouble. Eventually, some passerby sees the boy, and brings back help to fix the dike. The story is told to teach quick action and self-sacrifice, because if the boy leaves, the dike is back in the same peril that it was in before, and he has no guarantee that help is on the way.

Switch the story to an analogy of your career. Were you on your way to something bigger and brighter, came across a problem that you could offer up a quick fix, and then got stuck supporting your quick fix forever? In real world work, sometimes the people whose job it is to actually fix things will do everything in their power to go nowhere near the problem, sticking you with your quick fix approaches, and bogging you down with unresolved issues that keep you from accomplishing bigger goals and moving forward.

I believe you have three ways to approach this problem:

1: JUST DON’T STICK YOUR FINGER IN THE DIKE: If it’s not your problem, its not your problem, and don’t lift a finger (pun intended) to fix it.

2: PUT YOUR FINGER IN THE DIKE FOR A WHILE, THEN TAKE IT OUT AND DEMAND ACTION: Save the company for just a little while, figure out what the real problem is, then kill your quick fix and get in the faces of those who have the responsibility to fix it, and make sure they fix it.

3: PUT YOUR FINGER IN THE DIKE, AND PRAY THAT THE RIGHT PEOPLE WILL DO THE RIGHT THING ON THERE OWN: …which probably won’t happen…but a little faith might help…

When I came across the idea for this post, I knew I was going to be short on answers, but I hope that just putting the thought out there will help those stuck ‘with their finger in the dike’ to get a better picture of their current situation, and find a way out of it.

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The most effective development tool you’ll ever use is a simple one: a list.

Part one of this post gave you a basic strategy for multiple list building designed to help you get out of the ineffective list building habit. In this second part, I will show you the lists that I personally keep everyday. My lists four main lists keep me on track for my progress, and give me clues to when I’m not progressing like I should so, so that I can fix my focus. I have owned a PDA or smart phone since college, so I have become accustomed to keeping my lists with me for instant review or editing for almost 20 years.

My first list is what I call my Daily Journal. This list is literally a place to jot down everything that I do throughout my day from the moment I wake up to the time I turn out the lights to go to sleep. My Daily Journal allows me to figure out exactly what I have accomplished on days when I know I have worked hard, but end up tired and frustrated because there were no obvious returns from my efforts. It also helps me keep up with the progress of my personal and my professional goals, along with keeping a eye on my health with notes for checking my blood sugar, the meals and snacks I eat, and whatever exercise I can squeeze in. I even use my Daily Journal to help compile a weekly review document of myself I call my Weekly Wrap-Up Log (which is why I have found the electronic method of keeping a journal much easier that carrying and recording in a paper bound journal, despite my love for Moleskine notebooks).

My second list is a basic listing I create every night of things I need to work on the next day, which I call my Daily Dozens. I came up with the name as I was working on creating a product on making lists, and thought it sounded catchy, and that ten spots were never really enough on my personal list. In fact, twelve spots is often not enough, as I’ll find I have accomplished additional things that happened to spring up on me throughout the course of a work day that turn out to be fairly important. Because of this, I have the right to add to this list as many more tasks completed throughout the day as I choose (normally no more that 16). Throughout the day, I mark off the tasks I have worked on with significant progress (but not necessarily completed). This list shows me my task priorities as I say they are, and ultimately what I actually focused on completing.

My third list is my 30 Minutes A Day Log. I created a document that covers the Four P’s of Life Management, with the key to devote at least 30 minutes a day to each P:
TO PAUSE. It is with this log that I keep track of how well I am accomplishing my progress in life management, where some days are much better than others.

My forth list is what I call my Running Notepad, and it doesn’t fall in line with the normal concepts of lists. My Running Notepad is just a file that I use to put down any random idea that pops into my head that I think I will be able to do something with later. I have been carrying little notebooks for ideas since middle school, and the process just got a little more organized (and easier to transcribe) when I started doing more note taking in my PDAs and smart phones. I also use a service called Jott that allows me to leave a verbal note that gets transcribed for me to move into my Running Notepad file if my hands are not available. I am also trying to get the hang of the new Google Voice for recording and transcribing important phone interviews.

The most effective development tool you’ll ever use is a simple one: a list.

While the concept and the proper use of a list are for most people fairly basic, there are some who have taken the art of list building and have turned themselves in the Mozarts and Picassos of productivity and effectiveness. But the majority of us just scribble down a bunch of things and then easily forgets the reason for the list, or the list completely.

In part one of this post, I will show you a basic strategy for multiple list building that should help you get out of the ineffective list building habit. Part two will go in depth into the personal lists that I keep everyday that help me monitor my progress, or can at least alert me when progress is not being made.

Step one is to have a place of prominence to place your list once you’ve created it. Your desk is a fine spot for putting your list…if you don’t allow stuff to pile up on your desk and cover your list. Your list needs to live in a place where you will constantly have access to it. If your kitchen is a high traffic area for you, place it on the refrigerator. If your bedroom is your personal haven, put up a cork board or dry erase board so that you can put your list there. If you carry a smart phone, you can have your list always at your fingertips by keeping up with it in note form on your phone.

Step two is to name your list. Title your list so that it has a purpose (grocery list, tasks for work, Christmas gifts, steps for global domination, etc.) and only put items on the list that fit into that category. If you have a need or a task that doesn’t fit on the list you are currently building, figure out what purpose that need or task has, and make a new list with a new title that fits that purpose.

Step three is to limit your list. While the things you need to do may seem limitless, your capacity to get them done is limited by time, energy, and whatever resources you actually have available to you. Force a number on yourself to stop listing, and if you have more items then slots, eliminate the least important items. When you clear off enough items to make space on a particular list, add the missing items to the list.

Send Flowers at 1-800-FLORALS

Send Flowers at 1-800-FLORALS
Over a year ago, I came across an article by Joan Lloyd on preparing for the New Year with a full evaluation of your job. With half of 2009 in the books, and the economic climate making many wonder if there futures really do lie with their current employer, now might be a great time to get a jump on your personal career analysis, assuming you have actually taken the time to truly evaluate your worth to your employer, and vice versa. And not to steal from Lloyd’s thunder, you can read her article and see the full listing of evaluation questions here.

UPDATE: I didn’t think about anyone asking me the status of my mid-year evaluation when I posted this. Since I have been asked by several people where my head and heart are in my job, I can tell you that despite the frustrations of the current economy, I like myself exactly where I am at the ‘day job,’ with hopes that sooner rather than later there will be some movement that will allow me and a few others the chance to grow and branch out. I would however seriously consider any offer that would be accompanied by a large sack of cash.

Monster Learning
Last week, I wrote a post titled Garage Band To Play Madison Square Garden? Building Your Stage To Success. The next day, I get a message from my friend and blog ombudsman Makeda Boswell that adds this insight to the original that was to good not to share with the rest of the class, unedited:

You know I have a lot of musician friends (meaning I’ve sat thur a lot of sound checks) Anyway, I’ve notice that as they are warming up for a show, they always tell the sound person what they need (ie more vocals,can’t hear the bass player, there’s to much sound or not enough sound) Eventually, everything is just right and my friends start to play.

The same thing can apply to whatever goal or task you’re trying to accomplish. You work at something and tweek it (which comes from feedback) and tweek it some more till it’s just the way you want it

Samsung: Let’s Talk
I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends who are stagehands lately, and as the summer concerts are beginning to be planed, and my mind got caught up in thinking about goals and planning.

When a band sets up a stage for a performance, they have to scout out the venue, determine their basic wants and needs for a show, figure out if the venue can actually allow them to do some cool extra things (more lights, split level stages, pyro, whatever), and then determine what the end result should be. If the band is comfortable with themselves and who they will be performing with, they know how well they move together on stage, and can easily set up a performance and tear down for a quick getaway once they know how much room you have to work with.

Take this to your work team or even personal goal planning. Think about yourself and the teams you work with, and take a closer look at the current level of talent in contrast to the limitations that have placed on you (budgets, time, authority, priority). Your limits make up the size of your venue, and whether it is the equivalent of a small club or outdoor stadium. That sets you up to gage the size of stage you can manage in the space, how much equipment and what type of equipment you can allow on stage, and the size of a crowd you have to pull into the venue to make your performance pay off. Your bosses may see a lot of potential for crowded theater shows, or they might not think your ready to come out of the garage. You’ve got to figure out what venue they’re trying to book you in before you try to negotiate a bigger room and more of the door money.

And you have to be especially honest about the level of talent you are currently working with. You can argue about the Beatles being the greatest band of all time, but they didn’t begin the British Invasion a few months after they formed. They spent years learning themselves and their audiences, and they started with humble beginning of playing in some of the smaller and more seamier dives all over Europe. They had designs on sellout arena crowds early in their career…but they to build themselves up to reaching their superstar status. And they had to build smaller steps and occupy smaller stages along the way until they could demand the biggest and the best. Don’t get fooled by your potential. Let your potential be your booking agent to bigger gigs in a timely manner.

Your first challenge is to see the venue for what it is, and plan the biggest possible stage and grandest show setup you can imagine for it. That becomes your target goal, and their is nothing wrong with taking that goal to an insane extreme. You might not sell out Madison Square Garden, but you’ll never come close if you don’t keep a few open dates in case the opportunity just happens to pop up.

Your second challenge, and what is the real hard part, is to be consistent in building the steps to that bigger stage, and not hope that talent or luck will allow you to leap from a smaller stage without the proper support. Having a team that is willing to do what it takes to sell out the Garden is great. Having a team that has the talent to pull off the show is wonderful. Having the team that has worked its way up, step by step, to grow its talent and fan base to sell out the show is what you really want. That is something special.

I’ve worked with people who have looked at the big stage and shied away from it, despite great talent, and chosen to stay in the smaller venues or even get out of the business altogether because of the time and expectations of people who perform on the grand level. More frustrating are the people I’ve worked with who you have looked at the stage we are working on and the steps we had built so far, take a chainsaw to them, set them on fire, and then drive over the whole thing with a steamroller. Then, they would stand on top on the ashes and complain that were not building an even bigger stage than the one we had previously destroyed. I have worked with far too many of the latter types of people than I care to think about, because it drains my personal energy when I have to think about the time and energy wasted in the build up. But each experience is a learning experience that you have to take something good away from.