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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Patience & Tolerance. And Confidence

     For most of us, the towering challenge in career building is the fundamental contradiction imprinted on our workplace behavior by our beginner experience. Square One can be so difficult that some people never fully get through it. For those who do, applying its lessons can block further growth.

     This is how it works: We first must learn the skills and practices of personal productivity. That means we work on how to order our days through time and priority management while we learn how to do the job. Then we must learn when and how to suspend certain of the personal skills in order to rise to become responsible for the output and skills development of others. That requires concentrating our attention outwards, working to understand and influence others. For example, building effective working relationships is not at base a matter of efficiency. 

     The first step, personal productivity, is very difficult to even understand, then to learn. It requires a lot of practice, and trial and error. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

I Didn't Retire. I Just Quit.

     My Dad worked at his hometown newspaper for his entire career, from 1923 until his sudden death (by heart attack?) in 1956 at the age of 55. He was telegraph editor and news editor at The Elmira Star-Gazette for much of that time.
     He must have been good at it, because I understand he had a number of opportunities to transfer to other papers in the Gannett Company. He never left Elmira and The Star-Gazette because, I was told, he didn't want to disrupt the family. He was busy fathering 14 of us during those years. 
     I remember Dad talking about retirement in his early 50s. I have never thought of retirement for myself. I just up and quit working a couple of years ago (age 84).

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Listening, Seeing and Persuading

     Shut up and listen.
     Simple to say; not always easy to do, and quite a complex challenge when properly understood.   
     We need to remind ourselves that this process is about the other person as well as ourselves. Any time we're in a conversation, there's something we want from that process -- and we believe the other person has it. 
     At the very least we want to maintain a favorable impression. It's a form of sales, actually.
     The sales professional bases the pitch on research, observation and analysis, some of it done in advance, some in direct preparation and some while the process is under way.
     For starters, the homework. What evidence is there of the prospect’s history with the subject, and current interest in it? The pro also mines his/her own experience and enhances it with current observation.
     That basic information is used to shape our thinking about how to organize the presentation, however informal it is. Through the initial pleasantries, we don't want to forget our purpose, and the reasons why we think the other person should be interested in it
     Then, as the actual process unfolds, the pro examines and analyzes how the prospective buyer is reacting. On the fly, there are continuous adjustments.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Act Like a Manager

     It’s not public relations exactly, although it’s closely allied. It’s the manner and behavior we instantly associate with The Boss.

     The boss is the person whose directives are to be followed (and, sometimes, the one to be blamed for whatever is disagreeable in our workplace.) 

     “PR” has become something of a familiar cliché in modern America. We toss it out as a verbal sneer at anything we consider phony and hollow in the utterances of prominent people. Too bad, because real PR is an important and valuable element in our public discourse. It’s how we extend the value of good things by telling people about them.

     True, that telling can be exaggerated, distorted or false, but most of what we see and hear in such promotion is reasonably honest and true. Also, our critical thinking skills enable us to sort out the value from the trash – when we exercise our duty to do so.

     So, back to the workplace. You have an opinion of your boss as a manager, the person ultimately responsible for the results of your group's work.

     However, the manager is not solely responsible. In a healthy organization, each of us must carry a share of that responsibility. It is extremely important, vitally important, that the individual and the manager understand and practice their roles in this form of partnership.

     The manager must be personally clear on what the organization is to accomplish and how it is to function . . . and must share with each staff member an equally clear picture of how that person fits. And, of course, what that means for the actions and behavior of that person.

      Each of us staff people must also be clear -- within ourselves and with others -- on the actions and behavior that fulfill our obligations in the organization.

     “Being clear” is an abstract expression for a complex set of communication actions that involve talking, listening, watching and demonstrating for the purpose of equipping the staff member to do certain things, and convincing that staff member to do those things correctly and dependably. If I were to see a video clip of myself on the job, would I see myself doing those things?

     It is incumbent on both parties to set up and conduct the process with the minimally necessary amount of continuing contact between the two. Collaboration and communication are essential, but too much of either wastes the valuable resource of individual contribution.

     The manager sets the tone and carries the major weight. The manager walks and talks with confidence in the relationship of mutual respect and defined responsibility. Just look and listen, and you can tell.

     The manager acts like a manager.

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 SEE ALSO: Management Power, Management Behavior      http://jimmillikenproject.blogspot.com/2018/04/management-power-management-behavior.html

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Wisdom, If You're Smart. Or Mom

      "We grow too soon old and too late smart."

     My mother used to say that, in her version of a Pennsylvania Dutch accent. I have never heard an actual practitioner of that vernacular, but I suspect Mom's rendition of it was atrocious. Not that she would have been all that bothered. All she cared about was making the point. And make the point she did. 

     She was, in fact, the very exemplar of the wisdom/wise smarts illuminated by the quote. She knew an awful lot, having produced a lot of smart kids after marrying a wise man. Her own formal education had been stunted by the need to learn and carry adult responsibilities as the oldest child in a family that needed her to do that. But she became a human encyclopedia over decades of conversation as we kids came home from school brimming over with new knowledge.

     In the latter half of her adulthood, as a widow, she made it her business to repair some of the  shortfalls in her formal education. But for me, going back to my earliest memories and continuing through her long life, my mother was unfailingly smart and wise.

     The smart-wise combination is not all that common, you know. Smartness can grind on wisdom, and wisdom tends to suffocate smartness. But the two depend on each other, and in the long run you operate on a dynamic combination. Succeeding at it requires attention.

     As we navigate life, we need to keep learning fresh stuff to deal with new challenges and opportunities. But what to put in, what to leave out? And some of what we already know and do becomes obsolete, sometimes dangerous. What to weed out, what to keep? What to change and how?

     Familiar old skills and practices need tuning and refreshing, trimming and remodeling. Why, when and how to do that?

     The how-to is not particularly easy, and it most definitely is not quick. Earning and applying it calls for conscious. persistent effort. Judgment is the working engine of wise, smart change. Patience is its fuel and discipline is both the gas pedal and the brake. My lifetime is the trip. 

     Thanks, Mom for the roadmap. 

       

     

Friday, April 30, 2021

Language Abuse, Grammar Addiction

     "I'm silently correcting your grammar."

     That's what it says on my new coffee cup, and that’s what I do. Can’t help it. I'm commenting (to myself) about the stylistic quality of what I'm hearing in this conversation we're having. I'm commenting in detail, all in my head.
 

     An obsession with the rules of language arose in me early, and has sent down deep roots over the ensuing decades.

     I'm the son of an editor. I wrote well from an early age. I was successively an English major, a newspaper editor and a management/writing instructor. I designed and delivered a three-day course in Business Writing and a daylong training session for working professionals called “A Grammar Refresher.”

     You don’t easily get over such a history.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Holding My Chin and Shutting My Mouth

     Holding my chin while I’m trying to think deeply may not be necessary, but it seems to help. 

     When I’m trying to listen, on the other hand, shutting my mouth is more than helpful. It’s absolutely essential. So is clearing my mind, and so is focusing my attention – sort of like deep thinking. All that is a lot of work, so we don’t experience a great deal of it around us.

     Here is how it works: When I am in conversation and, shutting my mouth, put my hand to my chin, I am signaling my partner in that situation that I am thinking (maybe deeply) and focusing my attention.

     If, at the same time, I continue looking at the other person, they will tend to conclude that I am taking them seriously and paying attention to what they’re saying.