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Staying Focused and Saying Thanks

Two more questions answered from the 4/26/12 live webcast call – “Getting It Done While Getting Along…Overcoming Your Co-Workers Poor Habits” for the AMA(American Management Association) turned out to be a very popular topic and call. Hundreds tuned in to listen and we received dozens of questions from the listeners. In an effort to address as many of the questions as possible, I will be addressing and posting a couple of the questions to my blog each. As always feel free to comment, ask a question and/or share your idea or solution.

If you missed the call or would like to listen again, you can access the call recording by clicking here

Q. What is a good way to help maintain someone’s focus when they are looking for information but cannot remain focused on the answer?

Remaining focused on the task at hand is a common problem for many people. Our workplaces (and lives!) are packed with distractions. Most distractions can fall into one of two categories: those caused by physical clutter and those caused by “mental clutter.”

Here are a few simple solutions that may help someone that is easily distracted.
• Reduce physical distractions by clearing the clutter. Stacks and piles can be a major distraction for some people.

• Close/minimize open programs and pages on your computer that are not currently being used.

• Turn off email notification and check it intentionally, when you are ready and able to focus on email by manually hitting the send/receive tab.

• Improve your ability to stay focused by writing down the problem/question on which you are working – keeping it in view, and then writing down the answer once you find it. Just having something physical in your hand or view can help keep you reminded of
your task or goal.

• Imposing a deadline, for example 20 minutes, or by Friday at 9 a.m., might also be helpful. The “rush” against the clock can sometimes trigger a slight adrenaline dose that can help some stay focused.

• Finally, I encourage many of my clients and associates who struggle with constant switch-tasking or focus-issues to practice saying out loud and repeat as needed, “Right now I am…(fill in the blank).” This can help train the brain to stay focused on the task at hand and stay “in the moment”.

Q. Is it ok to thank a coworker for their help even if it is their job to help you?

You can’t go wrong by saying thank you. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and/or appreciated for their efforts or part and too often it doesn’t happen. Even if it is their job to do something, saying thank you is simply being polite and polite (when done sincerely) is always a good thing. If you are at a checkout and the cashier gives you your change, chances are you say thank you…even though it is indeed his/her job to do so.

Whenever you have the opportunity to be nice or give appreciation to someone, I say take it… I mean give it :).

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Getting It Done While Getting Along…Overcoming Your Co-Workers Poor Habits

The 4/26/12 live webcast call – “Getting It Done While Getting Along…Overcoming Your Co-Workers Poor Habits” for the AMA(American Management Association) turned out to be a very popular topic and call. Hundreds tuned in to listen and we received dozens of questions from the listeners. In an effort to address as many of the questions as possible, I will be addressing and posting a couple of the questions to my blog each. As always feel free to comment, ask a question and/or share your idea or solution.

If you missed the call or would like to listen again, you can access the call recording by clicking here

Q. I like the communication tips for addressing a group. How do you “measure” or keep the expectations met after we communicate them?

This is a great question. Know this: the compliance or effectiveness of any shared expectation will always come back to the quality of the workplace relationships. Cooperation requires trust and respect.

If there seems to be a long list of office misdemeanors that are being tolerated mostly because people are afraid or uncomfortable addressing them, this could be a red flag that there needs to be a plan for or emphasis on some team-building opportunities. When people like, trust and respect each other, 1) they tend to be more conscientious to “do their part” and 2) it makes it less threatening or uncomfortable to say something like, “So it’s you that keeps leaving the coffee pot empty. Let me tell the others that we have found the culprit!”

With that said when you address an offense in a group setting it is important to also make sure that the expectations are fully understood… “Does everyone know how to operate the coffee machine?” “…when to use/not use ‘Reply All’?” “…understand why it’s necessary for you to not use your speaker phone?” etc. In addition, you will want to ask for agreement. “So is everyone on board for doing their part in refilling the coffee pot?” “…willing to reconsider using the ‘Reply All’ function?” “…not using their speaker phone?” etc.

After you have addressed the offense in a group setting and all agree to the expectation, here are a few ideas you could consider for managing the follow-through. Use your discretion based upon the nature of the offense and your office relationships.

• In a friendly, joking manner you could use, “Let’s all keep an eye out for the culprit and if someone is caught, they have to put a dollar in the holiday party fund, agreed?”

• Make it a game or contest. “For the next 30 days, let’s all help each other stay accountable for using the new email rules. If someone inter-office isn’t following a rule, we remind them, agreed?”

If it is a bit more serious infraction, communicate what the consequences will be if they continue to do whatever it is that is inappropriate. If violated, this would be the manager/supervisor’s role to address one-on-one with the offender.

Let me say again that workplace camaraderie and cooperation requires trust and respect among co-workers. Consistently looking for opportunities to build these kinds of relationships among co-workers can make a big difference in the quality of work, customer service provided, the bottom-line and can even positively influence employees’ personal/family lives.

Q. I have a coworker that makes negative remarks almost non-stop throughout the day. What can I constructively say to her that might get her to discontinue this annoying habit? I want to be very careful not to hurt her feelings also.

First, you are kind and wise to want to approach it in a way that doesn’t hurt her feelings. It will be a bit tricky for me to know/suggest the best approach as I’m not privy to the kind of relationship you have…do you ever have lunch together, share in personal conversation, is she much older/younger than you, how long has she worked there/have you worked together, do you know of any personal hardships that she might be experiencing, etc.

With that being said, I’ll take a stab for a couple of ways you might consider approaching it depending on your current relationship.

• The next few times she makes a negative remark about something, try saying in a polite way…let’s look at the bright side/positive side, etc. and offer another perspective. Maybe something like, “You know, I see it like this…” and offer a more positive perspective to the situation.

• Perhaps you can bring up at an appropriate time that you recently read something interesting about “negative thoughts/thinking” and that you are going to try to do better/be more aware of how you choose to see things/talk about things, etc.

• If you have some kind of friend relationship, perhaps you could ask over lunch, break, etc. “I’ve notice that you have been a bit negative lately. Is there anything going on that you would like to talk about?”

Nobody “wants” to be a negative person…they usually end up that way when they haven’t experienced an environment or regular influence of gratitude or encouragement in their lives.

It may not be fair that you have to sit beside and put up with her negative attitude and I don’t blame you for not wanting to work alongside someone that is being so negative. Perhaps you are there to be an encouragement for her. This could be an opportunity to bring some “light” into an otherwise dim world for someone. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes…”Be the
light you wish to see in others.”

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Your Email Signature Could Be Costing You Business

Your email signature may not have been something you have thought about much; however, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It does matter. It can actually matter a lot.

I cringe every time I get an email from someone in business who has a bad email signature, and unfortunately, I see a lot of them. What constitutes a bad email signature? Listing too little or too much contact information at the end of your message.

Having too little information is when your email signature does not clearly indicate who you are, the company for whom you work, and your necessary contact information.

Not only are you missing the mark for branding and professionalism, but it’s also an unnecessary irritation and time-waster if the reader must hunt down your information to follow-up in some way. If you want to do business with someone, make it easy for them.

Having too much information is when you have gigantic pictures, logos and crazy-long personal messages, quotes, etc. All of this just becomes clutter.

Having “too much” in your email signature line can also make it hard for people to effectively read through a string of emails for the information they need, and/or it can cause a lot of wasted paper and ink if the email needs to be printed. A long-winded email signature can also appear to be a little egotistical to some as well.

So what should your email signature line look like? Actually, you should have at least two email signature messages: one for originating email messages and a different one for reply email messages.

A good original email message signature should include your name, company, title, phone number and active website link. (You can also include an active email link if you choose, however the reader should be able to quickly email you by just hitting “reply.”)

IF you have and wish to include additional key information and/or your company logo, that is fine, but keep it reasonable!

Reply signatures should be different. If you send someone an email and they respond, then you respond back, etc., it is not necessary to keep including all of your original signature information with each reply. Again, this can cause the important information to become lost in long strings of repetitive email signatures.

Instead, your standard reply email signature should simply be your name and your phone number. Let me say that again: Always include your phone number. A couple of other tips: use 11- or 12-point font and avoid fancy script fonts.

Your company should have a standard email signature policy for all email users. Doing so helps with company branding, presents a more professional image and improves the overall effectiveness of the email communication.

While we are on the subject of information to include/exclude, allow me to also suggest that there also be a standard and consistency in place for your actual email address. First name with last initial, first initial with last name, etc. are good examples.

An email address should be easy to read, recognize and remember. If you are an entrepreneur/self-employed make sure that your email address connects you with your business in some way using your company name and/or purpose.

Keep it professional, simple and easy to read. If your last first or last name is long, unusual, or difficult to spell, avoid using it. As a productivity expert, take my word on this. Sometimes it can be the little things that can affect your business in a big way.

Kimberly Medlock is a Productivity Expert who consults and works with organizations that want happier, healthier and more productive employees and workplaces. See why and how she does it at http://www.kimberlymedlock.com.

©Kimberly Medlock – January 2012 – kimberly@kimberlymedlock.com / 662-893-7933

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Want a Better Work-Life Balance in 2012?

(Feel free to post your comments.)

If you are among the half of Americans that make a New Year’s Resolution List, it is.  With complicated work, home and social expectations, information overload, kids on the go, and unhealthy lifestyles, etc., it is no wonder so many are feeling “out of balance.”

When I coach others who are looking for a better work-life balance, my first question is, “What does a work-life balance mean to you?” Oftentimes the answer is, “I just don’t want to keep feeling like I am working all of the time.  I need to spend time on other things in my life.”  When we dig a little deeper, we often discover that the real issue is not that you are simply working too much, but instead there is a lack of focus, direction or clear idea about where you want to go or what you want to achieve.

A work-life balance isn’t simply measured by balancing the actual number of hours you spend at work and/or at “life.” After all, just because you force yourself to leave the office at a certain time doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a “balance.”  In my opinion, having balance means having the ability to be “fully present where you are”. In other words, when you are working, you are not worrying or distracted about the things (or relationships) that aren’t being properly taken care of in your personal life; and when you are away from work, you are not worrying or distracted about the things that aren’t being done at work.    The only way to do this is to get clear about your roles, goals and objectives and then to   get better at taking care of or focusing on the more important things you need to do, pushing back on less important things.  To do this will probably require you to take some time to clearly define what your true goals and objectives are.  Most people skip or ignore this essential part of the process and they end up, well, like where you are now.

Defining your goals and then using your time to work with the purpose of achieving them isn’t always so easy, but it also doesn’t have to be so hard.  In addition, there isn’t just one way to do it.  Some can make great strides defining and creating a better plan on their own and/or in a short amount of time.  Others will find it best to talk it out with someone else and/or spend a few days creating their better plan.  In any case, here are some steps and key questions that can help you discover, and then move toward a more fulfilling job and life: a better work-life balance.  • What do you know you need to do/have more of in your life that makes you feel good, happy, at peace, satisfied, proud, etc.?  What has that little voice inside your head been telling you that you have been putting off?  Is it quality time with your spouse, kids or other family member?  Is it growing your spiritual life?  Is it exercising?  Is it a hobby that you are passionate about?  Is it being outdoors?  Once you have answered this, (and perhaps it is two or three things), then get a clearer idea on what successfully adding this would look like.  When you think about it, what mental pictures come to mind?  Does it mean protecting Friday night with your spouse as date night no matter what?  Does it mean that you read to your kids before bedtime every night or plan to have breakfast with them at least 3 days a week?  Does it mean joining a class or group that supports your interest so you can connect with other like-minded people for camaraderie?  Does it mean 30 minutes of exercise 4-5 days a week?  Once you decide what this is, put it in your calendar as a non-negotiable time commitment.

 

• Then, ask yourself what is the purpose of your work/job and does it align well with “who you are” and how you are wired?  Does it/can it meet your needs?  Do you genuinely like what you do, even though you may not really like the way you are doing it?

 

• What would be considered a job well done?  How would this be measured and/or know if you are meeting these goals successfully?  Can you attach a number to it?  Do you believe you are capable of achieving this?

 

• Do the math.  Run the numbers.  Decide what needs to be done and the kind of time and resources it will take, and then set up your calendar, planning your time accordingly.

 

Warning:  There will be many, many distractions, temptations, offers, requests, ideas and “shiny things” that will come at you on a regular basis. Try to remember that this is what most likely got you out of balance to begin with – giving it to distractions! When this happens, ask yourself “Is doing this unplanned thing more important than my planned thing?”  Choose wisely.

Please feel free to use or share this post content with others, however you are asked to follow these two requests:  1) Please include full credit to Kimberly Medlock and link/reference to www.kimberlymedlock and 2) Please send a quick email to kimberly@kimberlymedlock.com letting us know when, how or where it was shared.  Live well!

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“There’s not enough time.”

“There’s just not enough time.”  I hear that a lot and the fact is, there isn’t enough time to do everything you wish, think, could or feel you should do.  We live in a world of endless possibilities, opportunities, expectations, desires and temptations.  Throw in a little people-pleasing or perfectionist tendancies and yeap, sure enough you’ll never get it all done.  Moreover, when you live with the defeated belief that “you don’t have enough time” you will find yourself enslaved to constant busy, an endless to-do list and frequently wrestle with the balance and satisfaction of your work/life.

When I am working with others on the subject, my first question is, “What is it that you don’t have enough time for?”.  Surprisingly, some don’t have an answer and they realize they have been sucked into the “never enough” way of life.  (This usually warrants another kind of conversation.)  The ones that do have an answer are then asked how important is “that task” to them and how much time would it take.   Then, if it really is a priority, make the time to put “it” on your calendar.  You don’t “find” the time to do things that you want/know you need to do…it’s up to you to make the time for them.

We only have so much time in our day and so many days in our life.  Slow down long enough to know and declare what your priorities are and then make the time to follow-through.   Remember, if everything is a priority, nothing really is.

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What one thing that if done, do you know would greatly improve the quality or satisfaction of your job?
  2. What one thing if done, do you know would greatly improve the quality and satisfaction of your health/well-being?
  3. What one thing if done, do you know would greatly improve the quality and satisfaction of a key relationship?

Like I tell my kids, “Successful people are just those who were willing to do what the unsuccessful people were not.”

I would love to hear from you.

Have a productivity question?  Ask Kimberly – coachkim@kimberlymedlock.com

The bad news is, time flies!  The good news is, you are the pilot. :)

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