Monday, January 28, 2013

Vacations

I know, you don't have time to take a vacation, you can't be away from the office, people who take vacations are looked down upon by senior management, etc.  Throw your excuses away!  I just came back from a ten day trip with my 14-month old Thomas-the-Train addicted toddler.  We took a 26-hour Amtrak trip each way and spent eight days with my parents.  Before I left I mentioned my hesitancy to a friend, "I will miss the office because I sincerely love my job" and received the best advice ever.  He told me he and his wife had a deal that he was more fun on vacation if he was plugged in.  He would spend a small amount of time each day tending to business and then focus entirely on family the rest of the day.  So I tried that.  It was hard the first couple of days to turn my brain off in between, I will admit it.  But I got to the point where I could leave my blackberry and only check it twice a day, respond to e-mails and ask if I could respond when I returned from vacation where appropriate.  This made a huge difference in both my family's enjoyment of my time with them, and my renewal.  If I had it to do all over again, I would (the train trip, too by the way).

How do you "power down" when you're not in the office?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thomas the Train on Employee Engagement

I will admit that as a mother of a 14 month old son, I have been indoctrinated into the world of Thomas the Train. Given my other interest of leadership development, however, I think I view it from a unique perspective. For those unfamiliar with the little blue train, his ultimate goal at work is to be "really useful."  Do any of us really want anything different. Accomplishment makes us proud of what we've done and energized to do more. It makes us engaged. So is keeping employees engaged as simple as making them feel, acknowledging that they are, and constantly challenging them to be "really useful?"  What are your thoughts?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What will you teach me?

In so many of the development programs I work with, people come in with an attitude of what will you teach me?  Or worse yet, what is the minimum I have to do to get credit?  If there isn't a change after the program, the assumption is that the program failed the person.

If you're trying to learn how to work a computer program, like Microsoft Excel, then yes, if you can't work Excel after the program, the program failed you.

If you're trying to develop yourself as a leader, however, you have to commit to the homework and reflection.  If there isn't a change after the program, I suggest you failed the program.

Keeping that in mind, here are my recommendations for anyone considering entering a professional development program (works for a coaching relationship, too).

1.  Be willing to commit to honest self-reflection.

2.  Know how you will define success after the end of the program or relationship.

3.  Do the homework!  (If you don't, the only person you cheat is yourself.)

4.  Spend time after each assignment, program, etc. reflecting on what you personally got out of it, how it relates to your work, and if/how you can use it back at the office.

5.  Don't be afraid to try new things.  Step out of your comfort zone and look for developmental projects.

6.  Know what strengths you bring to the table and seek alliances with others with differing strengths.

7.  Focus on one or two things at a time.  If it all sounds good, keep notes prioritizing what you will work on next but maintain your focus until you feel like you've really incorporated a concept into your work.

8.  Discuss what you're learning and working on with your co-workers.  Give them the freedom to "call  you out" when you slip into an old habit you're trying to kick.

9.  Use your assessments.  I like MBTI, FIRO-B, Gallup Strengths Finder, Discovery Insights, Birkman, DISC, Campbell Leadership Descriptor, and 360 Assessments.  Be completely honest about yourself and not what you think "fits" best with your corporate culture.

10.  Make connections between the material.  If you view an extended program as individual pieces you will often miss some great insights.  Is it possible that using that trust building seminar may actually decrease conflict in your office?

When it comes to professional development, you get out of a program what you put into it.  If you make it a priority you will see real and continued progress.

What do you find as the hardest part about professional development in the workplace?  What do you wish you had more of?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

2012 was a great year in some ways and the hardest year of my life in others.  What I've found is while I don't dwell on the bad things and am happy where I am now, it is hard to remember the good things.  The worst part about that...it was my son's first year of life.  No baby book notes, no journal, nothing.  Luckily, I avidly post about him for my friends and family so when I go back to do a scrapbook for him (on my list of things to do in 2013) I will be able to use that to capture those good memories.  Going forward, I want to do better, but I know my time commitments and journaling for him or scrapbooking for him regularly will not get done.  Then I saw this post that had been shared and re-shared on Facebook...Start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen during the year.  On New Year's Eve, empty it and remember the good times.  BINGO!  That I can do.  So I have started two jars today, one for each of us.  I cannot wait to fill them up!

Share what shortcuts can you find to fill in those "need/want to-do's" on your New Year's Resolution List so that you can actually keep to them?