When it comes to Thanksgiving, I like to tackle my dinner preparation with the same planning and organization that I use in my everyday work life. Surviving this holiday is possible if it’s divided into manageable segments, just like any major work project!
On many occasions, guests have remarked on my relaxed demeanor and seemingly effortless style in the handling of the holiday and all the food. I smile, shrug and think … Oh, if you were only here for my first Thanksgiving as a hostess!
That happened during my third year of marriage. While I loved this holiday that my husband’s parents so wonderfully put together each year, I had serious doubts about my own ability of combining Italian and American Thanksgiving traditions in one meal.
Although my first Thanksgiving was a success, the process could have been improved.
I realized that putting together a holiday meal could be a lot easier if I used some of my on-the-job skills, including proper documentation, early preparation, planning and team work.
Over the years, I have developed and tweaked master plans for various holiday dinners.
After I consented to hosting my husband’s family for dinner (I was young and naïve), I started asking for recipes from family members that I could copy for myself. Unfortunately, THERE WERE NO RECIPES! It appeared the instructions on how to make these amazing dishes existed in someone else’s head. Like a tribal herd of nomads, the family passed down the lasagna recipe verbally for generations.
I never anticipated how challenging it would be to sit at a kitchen table and have someone explain a recipe. My mother-in-law would say one thing, then my father-in-law would jump in to contradict her. They were visual people – they knew a meal was good-to-go by the way it looked.
Back then, I made a note to self – the tradition of verbal recipes ends here. I now hold the distinct honor of being the first IBM (Italian by Marriage) in the family to put the gravy recipe to print. While it is three-pages long, it gives you every detail and EXACT measurements. Even my dear sister, who has trouble boiling water on high for pasta, can make her husband happy with this gravy recipe. I am happy to share it with anyone – in or out of the family.
I decided the Friday after my first Thanksgiving as hostess, I was going to create a master plan – one that could be handed down in writing for generations to come.
Early Preparation and Planning
No major work project is accomplished overnight. So why do we think a huge undertaking like Thanksgiving dinner can be thrown together at the last minute? It takes a certain amount of preparation to earn the title “hostess with the mostest.” After my first year as hostess, I realized that I could have started planning for the dinner on November 1st — so now, that’s exactly what I do. Here’s a rundown of my week-by-week planning leading up to the big day:
First week in November:
- I empty out my china closet and wash all of my crystal – including the chandelier over the dining room table. Never again would I be cleaning that chandelier at 11:00 pm the night before Thanksgiving!
- That weekend, I make a colossal pan of gravy – most of which is frozen and pulled out of the freezer the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving to make the lasagna.
- I make a collections of lists: items to be served, items to be bought ahead of time and items to be purchased the Monday night before Thanksgiving, Yes, I said “night.” Like most people, I hate to waste time. By accident, I discovered that if you go to the grocery store at 7:00 pm the Monday of Thanksgiving week, the crowd is lighter, employees are more focused and the truck has been unloaded.
Second weekend in November:
- I have two major goals: iron all the linens for Thanksgiving dinner and carefully store them, so that no one “accidentally” grabs a linen napkin as a towel – yes it has happened!
- My usual weekend trip to the grocery store now includes the purchase of what I call the “dry” items: spices, canned/jarred goods, lasagna noodles and nuts. Dismiss the thought that you may catch them cheaper if you wait another week for a sale. Create a special section in your pantry for Thanksgiving items and avoid the scavenger hunt scenario on Thanksgiving morning.
Weekend before Thanksgiving:
- My two goals for this weekend are: Clean out both refrigerators to create anticipated storage space and take a trip to the Italian bakery for cookies. With all kinds of room in the spare fridge, cookies can be stored there. They stay delicious and fresh as if I had bought them the day before and I avoid the hysteria of the bakery, not to mention the parking lot. The challenge is not breaking into that box before the special day!
During Thanksgiving week, I start organizing dinner. With some moderate planning and a little work after dinner on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, it pays huge dividends on Thanksgiving Day.
No man (or woman) is an island. This statement applies to the workplace, but it also rings true when it comes to serving Thanksgiving dinner.
My own reference for Thanksgiving dinner came from years of going to my Aunt Peggy’s for the typical Irish-style celebration: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas and carrots, cranberry sauce, squash, ambrosia salad, bread stuffing, and pumpkin and minced pies. Every family brought a dish that they excelled at making. You always knew what your dish was going to be: once you did ambrosia salad well, that was your contribution for life.
In contrast, my husband’s family viewed Thanksgiving dinner as a culinary marathon that you ran solo. Of course, there was always a designated pastry and wine person, but that was it – you owned the rest of the whole, big, long meal from shopping to serving.
I eventually realized that, with a bit of teamwork, the holiday can run much more efficiently. Next time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, I encouraged my other family members to bring something significant – like the lasagna or the antipasto OR BOTH!
If I were given the choice of going back in time to what amounted to certifiably unorganized chaos or dealing with this holiday in manageable segments, I will opt for the segments every time. Make no mistake — this type of organization is the gift that keeps giving both at home and the office.
“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” (Ronald Reagan).
Is management really that simple? For anyone who has been in management, you know that is an over-simplification. Good management is hard on the best of days; excellent management is tantamount to the pursuit of perfect children. As a manager, it is not only incumbent upon you to have all the answers; you must also have a bottomless bag of skills – otherwise known as “techniques”.
In thinking about my current role as a manager, I often reflect upon my prior management roles and the management mentors who inspired me to develop and implement techniques that have proven continuously successful and beneficial.
Everyone remembers what it is like to be in a job where one person is the favorite associate and shining star of the team. Favoritism not only fosters an environment rife with dysfunction, it inhibits motivation, stifles productivity and closes the door completely on the drive for excellence. Associates need to know that opportunities for their professional growth and career enhancement are alive and well on a level playing field. Managers are the gatekeepers for those playing fields. They demonstrate their awareness and commitment to their individual team members by conducting regular one on one meetings, checking in throughout the year to ensure associates are within striking distance of their annual goals, and providing solid feedback for a myriad of performance activity. Something as simple as giving every associate a fair chance to book their highly-coveted, but elusive, floating holidays can send a positive message to one’s team. In the world of management, fairness often means a call to action. When negative situations occur, the team looks to management for a reaction that is fair and expedient. If management fails to act, the disappointment experienced by associates quickly manifests into negativity, distrust, and decreased motivation.
Best practices are successful because they are rooted in defined consistency. Associates need to know that actions have consequences. As managers, it is all too easy to overlook the small transgressions of the over-achievers on our teams – after all, they stay late all the time – so what is the big deal if they are 10 minutes late three days per week? This management style sends two very dangerous messages. First, the over-achiever in time will feel empowered and be viewed as the recipient of favoritism. Secondly, the other team members will eventually assume, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.” Legitimately, they ask themselves, “what’s the big deal when other people are late more than me?” The fairness principle cures many ills when utilized consistently across the entire team. A good example of this comes into play when dealing with associate appointments. You cannot approve an early departure dentist appointment for one associate and later deny a late arrival for a teacher conference. While associates have lives, we at the same time are charged with running our business unit in the most productive and efficient way possible. When associates ask for the time, I grant the request but conditionally – how do you want to make up the time – by vacation time or early arrival/late departure later in the week? Remarkably, few associates take advantage and I have never had to call an associate to task for neglecting to make up the time.
Open To New Ideas
Whenever I am given a new team to manage, I arrange for a team meeting to give my associates the opportunity to learn about me and my expectations. A recurring theme has always been that I am only interested in hearing complaints if they are immediately followed by a new and better suggestion that has the possibility of implementation. It is amazing how creative and resourceful associates can be when confronted with an archaic process or difficult colleague. This technique is so contagious that it actually inspires people to step up and face many chronic challenges head on. It is also a great framework for fostering empowerment as the team melds over time. A great example of this occurred recently when one of my associates identified a glitch with one of our clients. I told her what the new procedure should be going forward and checked it off my list. The next day, the same tenured associate approached me with what she thought was a more comprehensive solution. It kept the pieces that were working in tact while providing a remedy for the broken arm of the process. She was 100% spot on and I told her so, thanking her for stepping up with an enhanced idea that would be a win/win for all. We cannot ask our associates to change if we ourselves are resistant to change or cling to ideas because at their core, they are not only flawed, but just so happen to be our propositions.
Your team can only move forward and be successful if they feel empowered! Empowerment cannot be taught – it is cultivated and nurtured. From its early germination, the ideal environment is rooted in trust, frequent feedback, an environment of acceptance and mutual respect. All these characteristics serve to create a “safe” environment. If associates fear rejection, not only will they forever be siloed into mediocrity, they will eventually take hostages to the land of limited thinking and moderate success. I have always conveyed to my teams that there would be no tolerance for “in-fighting.” As a member of the team, they are not competing with each other; rather they are competing with themselves. They have the power to identify and strive toward the next level of professional growth. I am frequently impressed and delighted as I watch the associates on my team share information, offer assistance when someone appears to be struggling and ultimately take charge. No where is that more evident than in our weekly team meeting. We take turns – all of us! I create a schedule and each week a different team member solicits agenda items, creates the agenda, hosts the meeting and prepares the minutes. The team meeting is what you make it! By providing a regular forum, my associates are comfortable speaking in front of a group, eager to voice their opinions, accepting of sometimes lively debate, and ready, willing and able to take on additional responsibility each week.
Sometimes the method of message delivery is just as important as the content itself. The phrase, “know your audience” certainly applies in the workplace and on one’s team. All too often, we forget that even adults have learning challenges, processing issues and over-loaded circuits. For those times when a team is challenged by poor performance by an associate, the delivery and documentation of information is crucial. Certain messages are worthy of repetition – especially in situations where a team is confronted with a “negative Nellie.” Typically, I use our team meeting to convey information. The minutes from the meeting serve as another form of documentation. Both these venues set the stage for further discussion during monthly (or more often in certain cases) one on ones. Email is also a great tool because it creates history. Whatever the format, it is so important to “check in” with associates and provide ample opportunity for questions and clarification. As a manager, I strive to be regarded as approachable – it is the framework for productive communication.
It’s like that song “Awake” by Katy Perry, where she sings, “I wish I knew then. What I know now. Wouldn’t dive in. Wouldn’t bow down…” If you could, what would you really say? Would you tell yourself not to drink too much, don’t smoke, don’t date him, or choose this job over that job? Probably.
I started to think about what I would want to go back and tell my younger self. And, I would of course, tell the younger me to “buy stock in Apple” or “the winning lottery numbers”.
But in reality, if I could, I would tell my younger self 4 things that I know now:
- Never be afraid of yourself. Embrace your personality and act like yourself. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that if I ever try to be someone I’m not, it always comes back to haunt me. Believe me, there is no truth in the saying, “fake it till you make it”. You don’t have to be an expert in everything to truly own one thing.
- Take the time to learn your strengths and weaknesses. If you know what you can do or need improvement on, then there is no reason not to embrace yourself. And, being yourself proves to be the fastest road to success. Go ahead and be quirky!
- Never be afraid of owning a mistake. Making mistakes is a learning process. If you don’t own and learn from your mistakes you will not be successful in life or your career. Embrace a mistake as a learning experience and use it as a stepping stone to better yourself. Someone once told me that the key to owning a mistake is to “fail well”. You are probably wondering what this oxymoron really means. When you learn to own a mistake, you communicate well by speaking up and responding immediately–truly owning the mistake by not beating around the bush or sugar coating the issue, and sharing your failure with others as a learning experience. You also have to be ready for some feedback that may or may not be what you want to hear. Finally, you have to move forward and not dwell on it. You’re going to make mistakes…we all do.
- Never be afraid of using your voice. Know when to speak up and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your plate is too full, ask for help. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. If you have ideas for your company, speak up. You never know how far your voice can get you in your career. Oftentimes the lack of doing this is what can draw attention to you–and oftentimes the wrong attention. Your point of view could be the one the company is waiting for. I vividly recall a meeting early in my career where I felt I had a great concept for the company, but was afraid to speak up in a meeting– intimidated by management. I left that meeting kicking myself only to watch the company launch a similar idea six months later. I was never associated with the solution and I regret it. Don’t live in regrets, as often times a second chance won’t come around.
I would have told my younger self many more things as well, about how to be open-minded, be fair and ethical, and not to buy the Brooklyn Bridge when it comes up for sale. But, I had to remind myself that this blog is about the four things I wish I knew then that I know now. So, the rest for another rainy day…
Sometimes, the best and worst advice can be “follow your dreams.” But, there is nothing more fulfilling than building up the courage to follow your career aspirations. With proper planning and time, you can be the success story behind this simple piece of advice.
When you find yourself unhappy at your current position, longing to “do what you love” seems more rampant than ever. But, before taking the pathway to bliss (as opposed to a road to ruin), there is a lot that needs to be sorted out, say experts.
Knowing when to follow your heart or when to continue on your current career path that covers you financially and provides stability in your life is an extremely difficult decision. Take the following considerations into account when deciding when and how to follow your career aspirations:
Transition your idealism into realism by conversing with yourself.
Take the time to get to know even more about yourself and your career aspirations. Before taking any action, speak to the most important driver behind this idea: you. Ask yourself some of the following important questions and think of them as your prerequisites:
- Is this a one-time daydream or a burning, recurring desire?
- What are the best and worse case scenarios of pursing your dreams at this moment in time?
- Can you bounce back from the worst-case scenario?
- Are you following a dream or running away from a nightmare?
- What are you fearful of? Can you face these fears and find viable solutions to them?
Sit down with your finances.
Never let yourself believe that being able to follow your dreams is only for the wealthy. Even if you cannot afford to give up all of your commitments, you still have options. Maybe keeping your day job is in your best interest at the moment as you pursue the ins and outs of your new venture after hours.
Begin thinking of ways that you can save more money. There are many habitual, daily expenses that you may want, but do not need.
Reach out to others.
Seeking advice from professionals outside of your area of expertise will provide you with great insight as to whether your dream job makes business sense or not. Talk to people who have done it before for guidance and find a trusted mentor. Sometimes we can get caught up in our own visions, but outside opinions help us to see a more realistic picture.
Invest in yourself and your education.
You are the most important asset in the decision of following your dreams. Continuing your education is invaluable. Take the time to learn about the nitty-gritty details of what it takes to succeed in your dream endeavor and become knowledgeable in more than one area of this venture. There are endless workshops, certification programs, and conferences to help guide you along the way.
The above guidelines are merely just suggestions to help you sort through your decision-making process. When it comes to following your dreams, everyone has their own story. Only you can determine whether your time is now or later down the road.
Are you caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to pursuing your career aspirations? What is stopping you from following your dream?
Do we, as professional women, have the unalienable right to share unsolicited advice? Some may think we wake up every morning determined to spread the daily gospel with our unsuspecting, and sometimes skeptical, audience.
Wait! Is that what we’re doing? Or are we just trying to share what we consider to be sage wisdom, accumulated through years of our very personal blood, sweat and tears?
If one has the compulsion to share advice, and often it is our responsibility as leaders to do just that, here are some suggestions from a compulsive advice giver:
- Observe how people respond to your advice: Do eyes glaze? The polite nod? If you notice that the message is not being received, the delivery may need help.
- The power of “how” questions: I was recently advised to use “how” in a question vs. “why”. It is much less accusatory, less harsh. It gives people the opportunity to speak openly without feeling the need to be defensive. It also enables your advice to be delivered in a non-threatening, less judgmental environment.
- Listen: The power of “how” questions only work if we listen. It gives us an opportunity to really walk in someone else’s shoes. Then, we can tailor the message to maximize the value for each individual.
- Remember the never out of fashion concept of WIFM (what’s in it for me?): Focus advice on how it may help that person achieve their goals and objectives. Sage, and proven to be successful advice, will inspire, while “told you so” advice, usually will not.
- Announce it is coming: There is nothing wrong with saying, “ok, here comes some unsolicited advice. Sorry, I just can’t help myself…But after hearing…it may be helpful….”
- Feel, felt, found method: In terms of the actual delivery, this shows an understanding of the recipients’ situation. The first step is “feel” (also known as empathy), which creates a neutral zone. “Felt” creates a community of people who have experienced the same challenge, and “found” allows you to deliver your sage and awesome advice.
- Always opt out: Remember, if it does not add value, file it for a later day!
Stay tuned for my next post: How to handle the serial, unrepentant advice giver.
How do we do it? How do we all keep up with the crazy pace in which we live our daily lives? Life seems busier and more jammed packed with more to-do’s than ever before. I find myself juggling work, family, friends, health, exercise, finances, kids’ activities, as well as the overload of digital media news that seems rather difficult to keep up with. Balancing and keeping all these plates spinning and rotating can be a challenge, to say the least. I tell my friends that I keep my life together with rubber bands and duct tape! (Not really, but it certainly can feel like it at times.) I have learned that I can’t do or be everything to everyone and I certainly have gotten better over the years with organization and priorities, but it still takes work to find some sort of balance in the fast-paced and demanding world we live in.
As a manager and leader, I try my best to offer my staff some sort of balance in juggling their work and personal lives. I often tell them to make sure they use their vacation time so they can enjoy a little downtime and relaxation. I believe it is important to have a break, get away from all the work stress, try to leave it back at the office and refresh your soul and mind. I also think it is so important to make sure your vacations are something fun and memorable that you love to do. So whether it is a beach, hiking, skiing, camping, sight-seeing, or safari, most importantly—it needs to be something that you are passionate about and will recharge those depleted batteries. A mentor of mine once told me that as a working mother you should always take two vacations a year with your kids. She advised me to make them a special, fun time and to take the opportunity to connect as a family. She also told me that to start planning your next one as a family at the end of your vacation. I have taken her advice and I highly recommend it to others! Unfortunately, I have fallen a little short this summer! Recently, I took out the calendar to plan my annual summer vacation, but ran into a bit of a challenge. The summer schedule is already so busy, plus I am a little late to the party and most of the good houses I normally rent are already booked.
This time of year is especially busy with the school year coming to an end, graduation ceremonies, end of year celebrations, start of summer, and then there’s vacations….Oh yes, vacations! So here it is, June, and I still haven’t planned my annual summer trip. For the last five years I have booked a house on Fire Island and invited family and a few friends to join me and my two children, Chase and Ashley. It is hands down my favorite week of the year. It is laid back, relaxing and there is no schedule other than to wake up and head to the beach for the day. The biggest decisions of the day are what kind of sandwich you want for lunch and if we eating in or out for dinner. If only life could be this simple all the time. Granted, I sometimes fall slave to a conference call or two, but I don’t even mind it that much because I am vacationing on one of my favorite places on earth. When I was a little girl, my parents would pack up my three sisters and I for a week or a few days where we would head to Fire Island on my grandfather’s old Chris Craft cabin cruiser. We didn’t take many vacations when I was younger, but these trips were definitely some of the highlights of my childhood. I have fabulous memories as a child of enjoying the beautiful beaches, swimming in the ocean with my dad and sisters, diving through the waves, building sand castles with moats, avoiding the occasional jelly fish or nasty green flies, and having ice cream every day. I guess as I became older, I wanted to share these incredible and precious memories with my own children. Life seemed so simple back then, which is probably why I feel Fire Island is a safe haven for me and my kids today. It gets me away from the stressful travel, job demands, demanding schedules and the constant overload of email, texting, phone and digital media that I feel obsessed to keep up with!
I actually thought that we might have to skip our annual trip, but then I started to think about missing my favorite week of the year. How could I deprive my kids and myself from enjoying what I work so hard to enjoy all year? Am I crazy? (Well, I am sure many people think I might be a little crazy, but I certainly don’t think so!) I am not going to let the summer of 2012 go by without doing what we love most. So, I am booking my week, inviting friends and family, and this year I am hoping for no distractions. I may even leave the laptop, ipad, iphone and all the work at the office. Heck…it is only a week and we all deserve some rest and relaxation. My friends and colleagues in Europe say they don’t understand how Americans don’t take their vacation or only take one week at a time. In Europe, they take 2–3 weeks at a time to rest and recharge themselves and connect with their families. Of course, we have a different culture in the U.S., but I think they are onto something! I guarantee we can clear our minds, recharge our batteries, and come back motivated to pick up where we left off. Sometimes we need to slow down or take a break from this fast pace we all run in and take some time to stop and smell the roses. I hope you and your families take some time to connect with one another, enjoy some downtime, play board games, talk and have the best summer possible! Remember, it is up to YOU to make it happen!
If “boss” isn’t in your desired career path, don’t fret — a boss’ life is not always an easy one. Here are some downsides to being “the boss”:
You may need to be the bad guy
Making unpopular decisions, giving critical feedback, telling people no, and even firing people is all part of the job when you’re the boss. This “boss” role requires a certain personality type, one that allows you to make and enforce tough decisions and deal with negative repercussions.
You may get the blame
When something — anything — goes wrong, whether it’s your fault or not, you will get the blame as a boss. Launching a bum product, making a poor decision, hiring the wrong person, etc. Even if a majority of the work or ideas came from employees, at the end of the day, only the boss is accountable for actions made on behalf of the company.
You’re always in the spotlight
Whether you like it or not, as a boss, you are a quasi-celebrity in the workplace. You may be a subject of gossip or ridicule, especially during times when you need to play the “bad guy,” as mentioned above. Even when feelings are positive in the workplace, the limelight is not for everyone — it can be distracting and quite frankly, it can get old.
This is not to say that being an executive doesn’t have it’s perks or that it’s a horrible place to be in your career, but simply pointing out that the role of “boss” is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Find out what is your cup of tea when it comes to your career, and go for it! Your career path is unique to you, and only you can pursue it — whether or not it ends in an executive corner office.
What do you want to be instead of the boss? What’s your ultimate career goal?
Whenever you get a group of people together there’s going to be chemistry, or lack thereof. Dynamics between individuals are made up of one’s personality, culture, upbringing – everything that makes you, you. The workplace is no exception. People have their own ideas, their own way of doing things, and in order to make it the best work environment it can be, learning to navigate the politics of the office is not only a lifelong skill that’s fundamental to a long-term career, it’s necessary for your own sanity.
Let alone being good at what your job actually is, you also need to master the office, its people, and their personalities. Getting bogged down in office drama, politics, and clicks can make or break a position. On May 17th, the Wall Street Journal put out a great article that took office personalities and placed them in a “meeting” situation to illustrate just how detrimental a disagreeable employee can be to a group’s goals, agendas, and participants. It is a great read and I encourage you to read the full WSJ write-up (we’re giving you the benefit of the doubt that you’re not one of those disagreeable employees who interrupt with jokes, or the naysayer who rejects every idea that someone comes up with).
Inspired by that article, here are a few pointers that I’ve picked up along the way when trying to avoid office politics:
- Don’t be a ‘Negative Nancy’
As the WSJ article points to, there’s a naysayer in nearly every dynamic – the person who, despite efforts made by others, appreciates nothing and disagrees with everything. They aren’t open to new ideas, they shoot down initiatives, and more likely than not, they don’t offer up solutions. They literally function to say “no.”Point Taken: Be open-minded to others’ points of view, and if you don’t agree with an idea, offer up an alternative.
- Rise Above
Nitpicking, overthinking, and stooping into the office muck will keep you just there – in the muck. Be the team member who doesn’t gossip about the company, management, or one another. This type of behavior will lead you nowhere. I promise. A great manager of mine once said, “there is always a place for a positive person in an organization”. Others gravitate towards that person and they make a workplace better. Be that person. Not only does it give you more job security, but you and everyone else around you will be happier for it.Point Taken: No drama-mamas get promoted.
- Lead by Fact, Not by Emotion
Be able to differentiate when you’re reacting with emotion, and when you need to take a step back, calm down, and then allow yourself to re-engage and address an issue. This critical step will save you from compulsive, irrational decisions. Leaders and those around you will appreciate level-headedness and the ability to act rationally. It is easy to get caught up in the emotions of people around you in a heated or controversial situation. The better person will be able to maintain composure as the heat is turned up.Point Taken: “Don’t make a permanent decision based on temporary feelings.”
- Empower people in making decisions
The WSJ also called attention to the “dominator.” This type of personality – not to be confused with a strong personality, which can be good when appropriately leveraged – causes belittling and bullying, and can be harmful not only to the organization at large, but also to those who they’re actually dominating. Listen openly and sanction second thoughts and new ideas – you’ll find that perhaps you don’t know it all and when others contribute it makes them feel empowered and tied into the goals and objectives of the organization.Point Taken: “Be wary of leaders who keep their followers in a state of continual dependence.” Be not a dictator, but someone who is empowering, endorsing, and helpful.
- Build Relationships
There are many types of personalities within a company – titled leadership, informal leaders, cheerleaders, detractors, etc. – learn to coordinate with all of them. The people who have been the most successful within an organization are those who learned, and at an early point, to be open-minded and approachable by everyone.Point Taken: The more universal you are, the more people will respect you, appreciate you, and want to promote you.
We don’t like to think it is, but the workplace is a lot like high school, or the sandbox in middle school, there’s a promoter, a go-getter, a bully, a prankster – and then there’s YOU. Be everyone’s friend and nobody’s best friend. Stay out of the drama because trust me; these types of politics are nothing you want to build a career around.
Working from home is now a reality for more than 26 million people (source: http://www.teleworkresearchnetwork.com/7016/7016). It can be part-time or full-time, for an employer or as an entrepreneur. Generally, working from home is seen as one of the choice benefits that companies can bestow on employees, or as one of the perks of being self-employed.
How do you envision the typical day of working from home? Freed from a daily commute, do you perceive it as a leisurely day, complete with jammies and bunny slippers? Or maybe you think it entails flexibility to set whatever hours you want to in order to accommodate your loved ones’ schedules and your own preferences? Are those of us who work in home offices blessed with a better work/life balance because of this set-up?
Consider the downsides:
- The constant interruptions from family members, pets, neighbors who drop in without notice.
- The expectation that you will be able to promptly complete a variety of household chores (laundry, dishes, cooking, etc.) during the day because you are home.
- The belief that you are more available to be a chaperone for your child’s field trip than someone else who has an outside office to go to.
- The fact that work is always there!
- (You can insert your own sticky points here.)
Recently, I participated in a discussion on an elist of career professionals about one other challenge to working at home – BOUNDARIES! Some of my colleagues had great suggestions on working around this particular issue with loved ones.
The signs are clear
Pat Schuler, the creator of KickButt Sales Training, had one suggestion for a client involving red, yellow, and green cardstock. “The color posted on the door of her office carried a clear message,” Schuler explained, “Red – no interruptions unless there was fire or bleeding involved. Yellow – knock first and don’t enter until you have permission. Don’t keep knocking, and don’t yell through the door. Green – okay to open the door and walk in.”
Another suggestion Schuler gave was the use of a clock sign that would indicate when the work-at-home person would be available. She advised, “If you expect you’ll be done at 8:00, you may want to put one of those clocks on your door so you won’t hear plaintive cries every 15 minutes.”
Lisa Parker, CPRW, retold her situation: “Closing the hallway door did not help, closing my office door did not help (barge in), and locking the office door resulted in the ‘door handle wiggling’ approach. The constant interruptions were making me crazy!”
Relief for Parker came in the form of a motion-activated wireless alarm. “My husband hooked it up in the hallway that leads to my office,” she explained. “If the hallway door opens, I hear a low key ding behind my desk and know someone is coming. If my office door is open, the person can come in but give me a moment to complete the task at hand. If the door is closed, I am off limits. Still, the ding lets me know something is needed, so I can pop out a few minutes later to resolve the problem.”
Working around everyone else
Lisa Rangel of Chameleon Résumés chooses to conform to others in her life. “I aim to write when everyone else is sleeping,” Rangel said. “If I need to work outside of the school schedule, I get up at 4:00 or 5:00 am some mornings or just work once everyone goes to bed. I don’t do this every night/day, but often enough to have uninterrupted time.”
Becky Felix of Felix Résumé Group agreed. “I have two little ones at home and a teenager. I work a little bit during the day, but the bulk of my work is completed between 3:00 pm and 1:00 am. This is the time that my teenager comes home to help with the kids for an hour before my husband is home. I catch up on my oldest daughter’s day, chat with my husband, and off to work I go!”
Rangel has also modified her working style to reflect her environment appropriately. “If I go into a document thinking, ‘I am getting this whole document done’ or ‘I am finishing this first page before I get up,’ I am essentially setting myself up to fail, because I will be interrupted,” she pointed out. “I write in 10-20 minute snippets, setting mini goals like, ‘I am just going to write this summary’ or ‘I just want to get these two bullets down.’ If I am interrupted after those are done, I still feel like I accomplished my goal.”
Having realistic expectations is something I work toward, as well. Given the schedules in the Cooley household, my husband is the one to pick up our daughter from school. When they both hit the door, they want to talk. Making them wait until I’m done working has failed terribly, so I’ve built it in to my schedule to give them each 15 minutes to talk about the most important parts of their day. That seems to give them enough “face time” so that I can continue my day and finish catching up with them at dinner time.
Hitting the coffee shop
Sometimes, the best solution to getting work done is to remove yourself from the situation. Rangel explained, “If everyone is home and I just need to work, I leave. I don’t tempt them to interrupt me by being in the house…Starbucks, here I come!”
What other methods do you use to handle the boundary issue?
Are you an introvert or an extrovert (hint: if you’re not sure, take this quiz)? Introverts are perceived to be quiet, introspective, and less sociable, while an extrovert may be assertive, outgoing and concerned with external stimuli. While these personality types are vastly different — in fact, they’re polar opposites — each has its own place in an office.
The fact is, when it comes to working with others or managing a team, there is no one-size-fits-all communication style. Introverts and extroverts both require different approaches and contribute different skills.
What they prefer: An introvert may prefer to spend time reflecting on decisions or judgments; may like to think a bit before responding with thoughts or ideas; prefers a quiet workplace; and may prefer more direct, “to the point” communication rather than chatter.
How to communicate: An introvert will appreciate communication in writing, giving them more time to think about information and reflect. Give an introvert more time to examine and information-gather rather than pushing them to “catch up” with the extroverts. Allow an introvert opportunities to work by themselves on projects, if possible.
What they contribute: An introvert will be great at paying attention to details and really thinking about a problem. They will think through and reflect on any assignment or project they are given to come up with the best possible solution.
What they prefer: An extrovert is much more verbal with their emotions and ideas and are the first to volunteer them; enjoy group office gatherings and social workspaces; welcome more roundabout communication; and prefers to brainstorm in a group rather than make decisions introspectively.
How to communicate: Give an extrovert opportunities to volunteer their ideas and opinions. Encourage an extrovert’s “go go go” mentality and allow them to move with ideas as they develop. Allow extroverts to work in teams and brainstorm.
What they contribute: An extrovert has undeniable energy and enthusiasm that is motivating to others in the workplace. Their sociable, fast-paced work style will encourage creativity and keep people ahead of schedule.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What are some other skills of these personality types?