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The 10 Commandments of a Happy Work Life

Posted by on Jun 4, 2015 in Career, Management, Self-Improvement

1. Thou shalt honor thyself
Your brain can process 100 trillion instructions per second while using the equivalent of just 12 watts of power. Your heart beats 100,000 times per day, carrying your blood some 12,000 miles. You’re able to imagine, create, communicate, and love. Take time to be in awe of yourself.

2. Thou shalt be true to thyself
Only one person has your portfolio of experience, know-how, skills, and style. You’re in charge of putting it to work without compromise. If you need inspiration, consider Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thomas Edison. These greats (and many others) enriched the world by making the most of their differences.

3. Thou shalt speak up
When you have a good idea, share it. When you have a question, ask it. When your help is needed, offer it. When you envision a better approach, put it in spoken word. Your voice needs to be heard.

4. Thou shalt strive to simplify
Take a fresh look at your schedule, and eliminate activities that seems important but aren’t. An action is either mission-driven or mere motion. Keep the former, ditch the latter.

5. Thou shalt assume the best
Few people wake up and declare: “I’m going to make this a horrible day for myself and my co-workers.” Most people want good days in which they use their know-how, exercise their creativity, and make a positive contribution. Assume and expect the best, and you’ll see more of it all around you.

6. Thou shalt fix processes, not people
It’s tempting to blame that missed deadline or fouled-up project on a nearby colleague. But the fact is, problems almost always occur because of process issues, not people. So cut your co-workers some slack — and enlist their help in analyzing and improving how things get done in your workplace.

7. Thou shalt serve a greater purpose
Henry David Thoreau put it well: “It is not enough to be busy — so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” What is the mission that gives meaning to all of your work-related busyness?

8. Thou shalt be interested
Want to be interesting? Then be interested — in people, processes, clients, customers, competitors, and more. Open your eyes wider. Be more curious. Seek new challenges. Start more conversations. Make a point of asking questions rather than making statements. Turn your work world, and the larger world, into your own lifelong school.

9. Thou shalt honor time away from work
You’re a human being, not a human doing. Treat yourself accordingly by rounding out how you spend your time. Balance your time at work with time at home, outdoors, in the community, and elsewhere. You’ll recharge your battery while gaining new insights and perspectives that inform your work.

10. Thou shalt be thine own best manager
The sooner you take responsibility for your own happiness and fulfillment, the sooner you’ll achieve it.

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By Tom Terez • Contact

When no action is the best action

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Emotional Intelligence, Performance, Self-Improvement

The next time a situation gets in your face and you feel like reacting right away, don’t.

Press an internal pause button. Take time to reflect, decide what to do, and then take action.

Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond. Why not take some extra time so your responses help and don’t hurt?

Of course, if someone yells “fire,” you won’t sit back in deep thought.

But most situations are not that sudden. They allow at least a little time for useful thinking before you take action.

So the next time a co-worker takes a dig at your work, take a deep breath, ask them to explain further, thank them for their input, and tell them you’ll think about it. No need to get defensive or take a crack at their work.

The next time you get tongue-tied in a presentation or meeting, or you get your facts wrong, cut yourself some slack. If you have to circle back and correct things, do so with your head held high. There will be many more presentations and meetings where you can get everything right.

If someone cuts you off on the drive to work, no big deal, give them room and let it go. This is a little thing, but when you make a habit of staying calm with the little things, it’s easier to do so in the bigger situations.

Remember, it’s not how we act that makes us great. It’s how we react.

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By Tom Terez • Contact

Flashlight wisdom: Get it done one step at a time

Posted by on Apr 19, 2015 in Management, Performance

When is it easy to run uphill? When you can’t see the hill.

I learned this lesson as a runner — but I’ve used it the most in my work life, whenever I take on big projects. Perhaps you can put it to work too.

Several years ago, I started running with a few other early risers. We’d hit the wooded trail before sunup, using flashlights and headlamps to show the way.

We did our running in the aptly named Highbanks Metropark, where the glacier-shaped terrain goes up and down.

I had run these trails many times before, but in daylight. They always wore me out.

Darkness changed all that. The hills seemed flatter. I felt stronger. And I’d finish my runs with more energy and a greater sense of accomplishment.

What was happening? With the flashlight beam reaching just 10 feet ahead, I couldn’t see those upcoming inclines. So I wasn’t experiencing the hill-induced anxiety that can wear on mind and body. Everything seemed easier.

It can happen at work as well – wherever there are big projects or looming deadlines or anything that involves a steep climb.

If you stare too far ahead, fixating on the full challenge in all its enormity, it can seem overwhelming. Intimidating. Exhausting.

So try some self-imposed darkness. Focus solely on the next few steps. Get those done. Look to what’s next. Take more steps. Repeat.

You’ll need a project plan of some sort. Think of the on-paper plan as your trail map, and the steps themselves as your trail.

Then get going and keep going, one step after another.

The actual flashlight is optional.

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By Tom Terez • Contact

Sherlock knows: Communication isn’t the problem

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in Communication, Teamwork

Ask people in any workplace where there’s big room for improvement, and nearly all of them will point to problematic communication.

  • We don’t communicate well.
  • Leadership nevers tells us anything.
  • If people would communicate, we’d be a better team.

The fact is, communication breakdowns (real or perceived) aren’t problems in themselves — they’re symptoms of problems. It’s an important distinction. If you’re going to effect real improvement, you need to get to the root of what’s really going on.

So the next time you hear that “there’s not enough communication around here,” put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and begin to ask questions. “When you say communication, what exactly do you mean?” “In what way is communication breaking down?” “Why is this happening?”

Just be ready for the answers, because you might hear some heavy stuff.

  • When I ask the same question to two managers, I get two conflicting answers.
  • Our workplace is divided by status, and I feel like a second-class citizen.
  • My job is seen by management as being unimportant.
  • People don’t value my opinion.
  • Management is trying to hide something.
  • There’s a serious lack of trust in our workplace.

It’s not easy being a Sherlock Holmes type who tries to decode what’s being said when people talk on the surface about “communication problems.” But meaningful improvement depends on it.

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By Tom Terez • Contact

Want more trust at work? Then make it visible

Posted by on Apr 2, 2015 in Management, Teamwork

Trust can’t be seen, heard, or touched. It can’t be booted up or turned on. It can’t be crisply measured or defined.

Yet trust is the foundation of good dialogue, great teamwork, and true community in the workplace. It’s that important.

So how do you turn this elusive intangible into an everyday reality? By making it visible. Here are four practical actions:

Talk about it
Words have their own creative power — to such a degree that what we talk about is often what we become. So start a conversation about trust with your colleagues. Try to make this an ongoing dialogue that keeps trust on everyone’s radar. You might have to wait for the right opening to get people talking. For instance, the start of a new team project can be the perfect springboard for dialogue. Have team members describe what strong trust would look like, then brainstorm specific ways to make it happen.

Go for it
Back up your words with action. Take a leap of faith and show greater trust in more people, even if you have to grit your teeth while doing it. Delegate that task you’ve been holding onto for years. Ask for help from that co-worker you’ve been keeping at arm’s length. Hand out that data you’ve been keeping so close to the vest. Push for a wider sharing of decision-making responsibility. Encourage people to pursue and develop their own ideas. As you show greater trust, you’ll get more in return while inspiring others to follow your lead.

Assess it
Make a point of evaluating the extent of trust in your workplace. Do this with colleagues on a regular basis. If you have a monthly meeting, for example, make it a 10-minute item on the agenda. One approach is to have people share recent examples of trust in action. Simple storytelling is a great way to make trust visible while figuring out what works when it come to building trust in the workplace.

Reinforce it
Underscore the importance of trust and trust-building by writing it into job descriptions, performance evaluations, team evaluations, values statements, and elsewhere. Include it in criteria for making hiring and promotion decisions. Make it the focus of specific questions in employee surveys. Added up, all these references remind people that trust is integral to their success as individuals and to the overall success of the organization.