Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting

YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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  • On Friday, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend The CEO Hour live, with co-hosts Bruce Peters and Diana Palotas.  The CEO Hour airs every Friday between 11am and 1pm on WCEOhq Radio.  The featured guest, February 1, was Laura Vanderkam, a nationally recognized writer, journalist and author.  Whether it is your morning, your weekend or your workday, Laura discussed strategies that help you make the best use of time – your most precious commodity.

    Each of us, periodically, wonders where our time went.  We did things we “had to do” but never seemed to get to the things we wanted to do.   In other cases we felt like puppets on a string with others controlling our time.

    Even though a week has 168 hours, time is a scarce resource and once it is gone, it is gone forever. Laura has written 3 e-books on the subject of time management and shared her insights and those of successful people she has interviewed. Here are my favorites:

    [1] Look backwards at your calendar.  During my career I have keep a time log, but the twist from Laura was to capture the data also by time slot.  That way, for example, you can discover that 2pm to 4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays are pretty open.  You can then choose to use that time slot in a constructive and purposeful way.

    [2] Have a plan for what you want to do.  Think about carpenters building a house.  They do not show up at a worksite and begin sawing and hammering.  First they look at the blueprints and understand the plan.  The same is true in life – do not just wake up and jump into the day without a plan.  Think about what you want more of and then build a plan around it. Doing nothing is impossible – you will do something.  If there are no plans it will not be as meaningful as you wish it to be.

    [3] Identify your time wasters.  Much of life is a choice.  Time wasters can be things that you think are important but not advancing you towards your goal.  Here are two some examples we discussed:

    1. Chores:  You can get sucked into the never-ending maw of work of be done around the house.  This is an area where you must really think about what you value.    When younger, I had a mental picture of a clean house.  A clean house was ‘spic and span’ and gleaming from top to bottom.  As time pressure started crushing me, I realized that I valued spending time with friends and the laughter of children.  I wanted my tombstone to say, “Marvelous Friend” not “House was Spic and Span”.  So, I adjusted my expectations and in this case it meant accepting a house with some clutter.
    2. Television:  There is most likely one TV program that each of us enjoys.  However,  we can also admit that once we sit down to watch our favorite show we get stuck in the chair and cannot get up for 3 or 4 hours.  So, one hour of enjoyment turns into 3 hours of guilt and self-flagellation.  We ask ourselves, “Why did I do that?”  The key is to watch the show we want and then quickly turn off the TV.

     

    [4] Plan things you really like to do into your free time.  Life cannot be all drudgery; build in some fun.  Studies have shown that anticipation is a significant part of mood boost and happiness.

    [5] Paying in.  To achieve your dreams you need a certain supply of career capital.  Ensure you are doing something every week that ‘pays in’ to your career capital account.  It can be networking, researching and learning new skills or getting out of your comfort zone.  Consider this your life-long garden. You must continually be planting seeds in order for the garden to grow. Keep in mind that some things that you plant may not bear fruit for many years.

    We each have time during our 168 hour week that can be repurposed to something we really want.  Think about who you are and who you want to be.   Think about the words of William H. Johnsen, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”  Make the commitment now to repurpose some of your time.

    Laura Vanderkam website

    http://lauravanderkam.com/category/weekends-2/

    WCEOhq Radio website

    http://www.wceohq-radio.org/#axzz2Jw15DMb9

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  • One Webster’s definition of aspiration is: a strong desire for high achievement.  We each have hopes, dreams and aspirations for ourselves.  We have set our sights on a goal that can take many years to achieve and the path is not always clear.  There are, however, some actions that can increase the likelihood of achieving your aspirations by allowing you to make significant contributions and thereby standing out from the rest of the crowd.

    On my personal journey, I have followed each of these tips.  I still remember, to this day, where I was when I clearly formulated my aspiration.  It took 15 years to gain the experience which resulted in the achievement of my dreams.   The 9 tips listed below are constant and perennial in a business world that is noted for change and following the latest fad.

    1. Get to know as many people as possible.  Early in my career, I made it a point to go to lunch with people in other organizations and in my department at least once a week.  It was easy to get to know them personally over lunch.  In addition, I learned more about the work they did.  Through the years I invariably needed help from people with other skills and knowledge.  Nurturing these relationships made it easy to call upon them when their help was needed.

    2. Know peoples’ names.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say, “I am not good with names.”  That really means, “I do not want to take the time to learn the names.”   A key lesson from one of the 1st training classes I took, the Dale Carnegie Course – How to Win Friends and Influence People, was, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.

    3. Don’t talk; act.  Stop and consider for a moment how many people in meetings preface their comments with, “I think we should”, versus, “I will happily own that action item”.  By acting instead of talking you will stand out in the crowd.

    4. Do something unusual and lonely.  Getting out of your comfort zone teaches you that you have the personal fortitude to do difficult and daunting things by yourself. It is lonely at the top. You will get any number of opinions but you alone will have to make the decision.  Several years after starting my career in finance, I decided to run the Hamlin Beach Triathlon which consisted of a 13.1 mile run, 56 mile bike and 1.2 mile swim.  Although I enjoy sports, I had never endeavored to do such a thing at any time in my life.  The training was lonely and there was a lot of it; every day.  It was a test for me.  Did I have the tenacity to put in the sustained effort to reach my goal? On a Saturday in August, I started, finished and knew then that I could confidently face hard challenges head-on.

    5. Never criticize others.  Writing a nasty memo to someone saps everyone’s energy.  Focus on the positive.  The world is a small place and you never know when you will find yourself on a team or reporting to the person you criticized.  We are all human and have all made mistakes at one time or another.

    6. Know your customers.  No matter what position you hold you interact with customers.  In some cases, it will indeed be external paying customers.  However, if you work in HR, Finance or IT you have internal customers.  The same rules apply.  Get to know them.  Know what they want.  Know what problems they are facing.  Then work to ensure you solve their problems and provide your service on-time without errors.

    7. Put the dead fish on the table.  A friend, Lynn Dessert, writes a blog called, “Elephants at Work” and addresses similar topics. http://www.elephantsatwork.com/

    In any organization there are large smelly problems that everyone pretends do not exist.  Pretending does not help because eventually the problem becomes visible. These problems get in the way of finding real, meaningful solutions to operational issues.   You must have the personal strength to acknowledge the elephants and dead fish so that they can be diffused and resolved.

    8. No drama or panic allowed.

    Drama defined: A way of relating to the world in which a person consistently overreacts to or greatly exaggerates the importance of benign events. (Source: The Urban Dictionary)

    Panic defined: Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. (Source: Oxford Dictionaries)

    To solve problems in a crisis situation you must think clearly.  Drama and panic heightens emotions and makes it too easy to muddle your thinking.  The best action is to ban drama from the workplace.

    9. Execute flawlessly.  An average concept flawlessly executed will beat a perfect plan executed poorly every time.  Pay attention to the details, keep the plan on time and deliver as promised.

    In the final analysis, you and you alone own your career plan.  Know what you want and understand the technical and leadership skills required for success. Use the 9 tips above every day in your work to stand out from the crowd.  By doing so, you will achieve your dreams and aspirations.

    Call Judy for a complimentary consultation regarding the tough business challenges you are facing.  585.329.3754

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  • Before I became a supervisor, I watched and observed what supervisors did. Some things I liked and others not so much.  I vowed that when I became a supervisor, I would model the good actions I had seen in others.  One of the most important I felt was for supervisors to share, with their team, their personal operating principles.  By doing this at the first team meeting staff had the opportunity to learn more about you; it took the guess work out of getting to know you.

    Listed below are my operating principles which I have shared with multiple teams.  Even though I give the team the opportunity to suggest modifications, no team has ever done so.  I believe that is a reflection on the fact that these are universal operating principles.

    1. I will never ask anyone to do anything that I would not ask myself to do.  This means I am only asking for meaningful work to be done.
    2. If something does not make sense, ask a question.  Communication that is only one way is bound to end up causing confusion and wasted effort.
    3. When a piece of work has a due date, I expect it to be delivered.  I am not going to build in extra time into the due date.   I do not like to have to ask where things are.
    4. I like “net” communication.  Whether it is voicemail, e-mail or a face-to-face conversation, keep it short, sweet and to the point.  That means that you need to think a bit before communicating.  A stream of consciousness dialog is inefficient for both of us.
    5. I expect a high skill level in Excel, PowerPoint and Word.  As John Davidson said, “By not keeping PC skills current you are causing me to be more inefficient.”
    6. You need to demonstrate your understanding of and use lean/six sigma tools.  Defect recognition and correction are important.  If a defect happens in your process, I am looking for a corrective action plan.  A mistake is an opportunity to improve a process.  The same mistake happening over and over again is not OK.
    7. No whining: please bring solutions.  The complaint to idea ratio should be 1:10.  Everyone needs to vent now and again, but you earn the right to do so by bringing forward ideas and solutions.

    I am certain that each of you have a similar set of operating principles.  This is your opportunity to write them down and share them with your team if you have not already done so.

    If you would like to discuss them in person, I would be happy to do so.  Please call me:  1.585.329.3754.

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  • “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”

    - Harvey S. Firestone

    In the day-to-day rush of meetings, e-mails and unexpected requests, it is easy to postpone coaching.  You promise yourself you will get to it tomorrow but it never happens.   I overcame the same problem by following the “keep it simple” principle.

    As leaders we are given multitudes of opportunities during the day to interact and observe staff.  It could be in group meetings, one-on-ones or through e-mail.  Each of us has thoughts during those times about something an individual could have improved upon.

    By following a simple approach to identifying and utilizing teachable moments, you greatly increase your ability to find the time to provide frequent coaching.

    STEP ONE:  Crystallize your thought into a positive one or two sentence observation.  Think about it in terms of what one thing could have made the work even better than it was.  Do not forget that this can also include how individuals interact with each other.

    STEP TWO:  Find a quick way to engage with the individual within twenty-four hours.  It can be a phone call, a brief discussion walking out of a meeting or an e-mail.

    Lastly, commit to providing one piece of simple feedback every day to one person.  By doing so, you will develop the habit.  Remember the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”   With practice you will get better.  Staff will appreciate the fact that you are giving them actionable feedback.  In the end, the best part is that your team will be absolutely fantastic.

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  • Through-out my career I have been a mentor, coach and supervisor to many people. The most common piece of advice people seek goes like this: “I am on the senior leadership team of my company, and I have really, really good ideas, but no one listens to me. Why are the other people on the team not smart enough to see the value of my ideas? It is my biggest frustration.”

    When you are young and in school, the main focus is on you the individual and how you specifically did on the project or test. In the working world the emphasis moves to the team. There are several fundamental points which can help individuals facing this dilemma. Here are the 5 main concepts discussed in my mentoring and coaching sessions:

    [1] See the issue from the other person’s point of view. The world of business is gray, not black and white. It is critical to ask others for their perspective. When following this guidance myself, I have always uncovered something I did not know, which allowed me to improve on the idea.
    [2] Understand the team will always outperform an individual when facing complex and interdependent issues. To develop a lasting solution, the knowledge of everyone on the team is essential. You must never believe you are smarter that everyone else. That will only set you up to be unhappy time and time again.
    [3] Be conscious and purposeful in choosing the actual words used to convey an idea. You must believe in your heart that everyone on the team adds value. When you share your idea, you cannot brag about yourself. The idea must be described in a way that shows how it addresses a problem facing the company or team.
    [4] Be able to clearly articulate the priorities for the team. Ask yourself how your idea fits in. Your idea may be great but if it is addressing priority 10 rather than 2 or 3, people are not going to pursue it. It is never possible to do everything on the priority list at the same time. The team has to pick and choose carefully.
    [5] Be humble and sincere. To be effective and get things done, people must want to work with you. People will pick up on the fact that you feel you are “smarter” than they are. In the end that destroys trust. Bring your idea to the team and ask them how it can be improved or if there are obstacles in the way of implementation. Only with that information will you be able to move forward.

    In summary, although you may have a really good idea, you need to involve others in helping you to create solutions. The focus must be on the critical issues facing the team, rather than who had the best idea. Remember the line in the poem, Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann, “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Each of us brings a unique talent to the table. Take time to discover everyone’s gift.

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  • “The only thing constant in life is change.” François de la Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)

    In reading the multitude of media sources, which bombard us daily, we know the rate of change is ever increasing. Even with this knowledge many people still are surprised and angered when they need to start over and re-invent themselves. It hits the over 40 crowd and the under 40 crowd, no one is immune. Any time you start to feel comfortable you are at risk. To me, being comfortable means you are on the flat part of the learning curve and no longer growing.

    When you are faced with the need to re-start your career or start-over what should you do?

    To embrace change you have to let go of the old comfortable patterns. To do that you must grieve before you can move on. Change involves loss at some level. During my college years I had to read the book “On Death and Dying”, by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Initially this was focused on the medical community and the death of a loved one. She later expanded this concept to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss or tragic news. The loss of a job is tragic news for the person impacted. As an individual you need to “grieve” for your job and the circumstances you find yourself in. Although it is important to recognize the emotions you are experiencing you cannot wallow in self-pity. The process may not be linear, but you need to go through all the steps.

    To adapt to change you need to understand the 5 phases of grief, acknowledge your own personal emotions and then move on. I clearly remember the time when I realized that my dream job was not going to last forever. The Fortune 500 company I worked for would stop growing and employment levels would decline. Since 1980, the decline has been drastic; 120,000 to 17,000, an 85% reduction. However, I knew that if I did not take charge of my emotions and career, no one else would. It was important to see change as an opportunity not a set-back. I personally allowed myself 24 hours to grieve. That is a bit short, but again, you cannot dwell on the negative. It does not move you forward.

    Listed below are the 5 stages of grief, developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

    1. Denial: “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
    2. Anger: “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”
    3. Bargaining: “I’ll do anything, can’t you stretch it out a year?”
    4. Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”
    5. Acceptance: “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

    Additional background can be found on this site, as well as many other websites.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model

    How can you use this information to help with the initial question?
    As an individual, recognize that change is part of life. Take charge of managing your career. Pay attention to what is going on in the economy overall. Learn how to grieve, let go and move on.
    If you are a supervisor understand that employees need to take time to internalize change. Acknowledge and accept that they will experience a variety of emotions. Help them with their journey.
    The future will come, whether we plan for it or not.

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  • During the middle of my career, I had the good fortune to work with Harry Kavetas, a capable and insightful CFO. One of our conversations focused on career planning. The insights I gained are timeless. So, I would like to share with you in the hope these insights might be beneficial to you and your team.

    (1) Have FUN. Fun is fundamental, universal and necessary. If your job is not fun, it is probably time for a move.
    (2) The distinction between your professional and personal life is not always clear. Know the tradeoffs that accompany your aspirations. Write them down on a piece of paper. (Unless you can clearly articulate them in prose, you probably have not thought them out thoroughly.) Share them with the significant others in your life. The career choices you make will impact people near and dear to you.
    (3) A core set of required capabilities are table-stakes for every job. However, two intangible criteria, reputation and credibility, are critical. Your personal credibility is built over time by doing what you say what you are going to do. To obtain jobs of increasing responsibility, you must have the confidence of the people in power. No matter how good you are, if they do not have this confidence in you, you will not be put into positions of increasing responsibility.
    (4) Never let your manager be surprised.
    (5) Dive into problems. Wade into the middle of thorny issues. Your job is to search for opportunities, economic value and “the truth”. Never pull back from an issue because it is difficult. You must share the “brutal, crystal clear truth” at all times. Remember, this is never anything personal…. just the truth and only the truth. Also, sometimes the truth is not self-evident. You will hear two sides to each story, and the answer is usually somewhere in the middle. Always listen to both sides.
    (6) Know if you are in the game or out of the game. Know if you have made it into the qualifying round. Know the competition – both internal and external. Be brutally honest with yourself about your shortcomings. Know how you can improve and work on it.
    (7) Get meetings with key clients. Ask them how they think you are doing. Know that every time you have a meeting with a senior person, not only are they listening to the specific job content, but they are also forming judgments about your broader capabilities. (Everything is a test.) Take every opportunity you can to seek performance feedback, especially when something does not go well. Always do a post-mortem. Ask what could you, personally, have done differently to change the outcome. Always have one idea and assimilate it into your future behavior.
    (8) No one will tell you, “You won’t get the job”. Ask. Know that as the number of jobs gets smaller, the odds of getting a particular job also get smaller. (Example: there is only one CFO position at a company.)
    (9) The most important criteria for determing your ability to assume and achieve greater responsibility are past outcomes. What tangible things have you accomplished?
    (10) Keep your options open. At some point, decisions become mutually exclusive. At that point, to take one path means that others close behind you. Once you are on a new path, other options open up that you may not have known ever existed.
    (11) What do you have a burning desire to do? You must have a passion about what you want to accomplish. It shows if you don’t.

    In the final analysis, your hopes, dreams and aspirations are personal. They are different for each of us; hence, there is no right answer. Follow the saying, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” — Shakespeare. Know what you want, let your supervisor know, and work together to achieve it.

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