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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Your work habits are your real resume.

Almost everyone at some time has to document their work and educational history for prospective employers.  We do it in interviews and also on resumes.  But that guarded careful conversation called an interview or that carefully crafted document called a resume doesn't tell more about you than your work habits do--the habits that your references will know and report, or just people who know you will.

Your colleagues and fellow employees could write out a real resume for you by answering these questions about you.  Which ones apply to you?

Do you get to work on time?
Do you have a lot of explanations and excuses for being late or unprepared?
Do you return phone calls promptly?
Do you answer emails in complete sentences on point using language that is not abbreviated and makes sense?
Do you rely upon emojis and misspelled dialect words to hide your fear of being discovered as someone with inadequate communication skills?
Do you say "thank you" easily and often?
Do you place the words "I am" in front of the word "sorry" or is "Sorry" the most you can apologize?
Do you exaggerate the truth or spin the facts of the truth to benefit yourself?
Do you share credit at work when teamwork produced positive results?
Do you say yes to opportunities to get more training more at work, or do you answer:  "If it ain't broken I don't need to fix it."  (Translated:  If I don't know it, I don't need to know it.)
Do you add a disclaimer to messages like "Message dictated; expect mistakes" to make it the burden of your reader to figure out what you are trying to say?

If you are making it the burden of any of your colleagues to fill in the gaps for content you leave out, he or she will know and supply the kind of content you won't want from your references or on your resume.
Change the behaviors now, and the reports of your work habits will improve along with opportunities for advancement.  This is how your real-life resume grows along with you.

Daphne's newest book is Christmas in Fountain City

Monday, December 19, 2016

The chickens know how to lay the eggs.

Recently while researching the life of W. C. Handy, I read a story about a man who had a chicken farm but who was out selling insurance.  When asked why he was doing both, the insurance salesman replied:  "The chickens know how to lay the eggs."  His point?  The chickens could be doing their work while he did some other kind of work.

Today we casually and differently refer to doing more than one job as multi-tasking, but I think this chicken-farmer-turned-insurance-salesman's story tells the truth about how multi-tasking gets its value--from productivity, not simply by being busy performing tasks that can be done better sequentially than juggled simultaneously.

It is one kind of activity to start a load of laundry and then while it's washing sweep the kitchen.
It is another kind of activity to start a load of laundry and then go door to door selling encyclopedias.
The difference is profit.

There is a time in the working life of anyone where you start certain actions in motion and then you do not need to watch the chickens lay eggs or the washing machine wash. You are free to engage in other activities, but in business, those activities should ideally be profit oriented--the hope of making progress. That is the authenticity and purpose fulfilled of real multi-tasking.

We are often duped into thinking multi-tasking is something else, like checking email while talking on the phone.  That activity is splitting your attention, but it doesn't necessarily mean you do either or both tasks well.  There is a difference in a job done halfway and a job done very well.  There is an important difference in paying close attention to others in a focused way, too, so that people feel seen, heard, and understood rather than managed like an item on the to-do list that gets checked.

Multi-tasking dupes us in other ways, too.  It's sneaky.  Because we are busy being busy, we may discover that we are not doing the work we need to do--we are just doing something that makes us feel better about ourselves, but we are not accomplishing what needs to be done. In this way, sometimes multi-tasking is a form of procrastinating--doing stuff we want to do rather than the stuff we don't want to do. Because we are busy, we think we have the excuse of being busy. But that is not an excuse for avoiding work that needs to be done.

After reading that story about the chicken farmer selling insurance, I asked, 'How often do I walk away from a task to let it steep or lay its own eggs when it really needs me to be there and finish something I've begun?' For often multi-tasking is a form of procrastination when we put off finishing a task--we have started it but didn't stay around to finish it.

I look ahead to my work week and wonder when does the explanation multitasking fit and when is it an excuse to give less than my best effort, most focused concentration, my serious accountable-for- the-outcome results attention.  Certainly chickens don't need me to watch them to do their laying of eggs, but so many of the activities of work do need nurturing, watering, tending, and follow through. If you pride yourself on being a high-volume multi-tasker, can you truly say you are paying close attention to the work and relationships that require your best work and closest attention?

I can't. I am guilty of multi-tasking in ways to avoid my responsibilities and so that I have an excuse for failing at doing the work I should be doing.  But that chicken farmer turned insurance salesman got my attention.

From now on I shall pay attention to how I think about my work and how I use the excuse of multitasking to quit or procrastinate rather than the real and truthful explanation at times that while my particular brand of chickens don't need me to watch them lay eggs, there are times in the work day when it is my job to feed the chickens or gather the eggs.  I shall be careful to be attentive enough to the process involved in real-value productivity to finish my part of the work without excuses of any kind.

Daphne's latest book is not about making money; it is about giving, and it's called Christmas in Fountain City

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Are Christmas cards obsolete as a business tool?

Last Christmas my friends and I compared notes about how many Christmas cards we still send--or don't. Discussion ensued about the cost of the cards themselves, postage, and the easily accessible and so much faster electronic ways to send good will greetings, which are harder to send universally because of the variances in messages that are acceptable in terms of religious emphasis.

We concluded that we don't know how businesses can send out any kind of specific Christmas card anymore without possibly offending or alienating some of its clients or customers. And we don't think people need to prove their faith by sending overtly religious cards just to prove they're not afraid to do it.

Like the discussion of the Confederate flag and whether it represents racism or history, the sending of Christmas cards gets tangled up in discussions of faith and free speech.   For inside the Christian faith, like all faiths really, there is this persevering dogged determination to finish the race that has begun without losing faith, and saying "Merry Christmas" is as much about declaring that perseverance and intention to continue to persevere as it is any other message.  For this reason, some people find strength in saying "Merry Christmas".  To them, it is drawing breath from the moment when they first believed that sin is real, Jesus paid a price for it, and they will live their lives honoring the gift of Christ to the world celebrated in the Bethlehem story where this gift of grace is announced. Still, other people say "Merry Christmas" without thinking too much about saying anything else, and some people are surprised that it is Christmas again.  Already?  Didn't we just have that?

These are not the people who send Christmas cards, but they most likely will begin receiving them soon while some of us consider whether this habit of sending old-fashioned paper greeting cards through the expensive snail mail needs to continue.

There is no universal right or wrong response.

Today I received two personal Christmas cards from a niece and a nephew with photos of their children taken throughout the year.  I didn't notice what kind of greeting there was. I was just very glad to see the pictures.

Later in the day while at the drugstore I considered buying some Christmas cards but didn't find any I liked.  I will eventually, or I won't.  Maybe I'll find the right card after Christmas and buy some for next year.  I've done this a few times.  For I still send some to people I think about more than they know I think about them, and I like to send them a card not so much because they need to hear from me but because my affection for them is so ongoing and sincere that I need to express it. That may be as much because I am a writer as it is because I am their friend.

Do I fret very much about the political or religious correctness of the message and image I choose to send ultimately.  Sort of. I don't like to send overtly Christian sentiments to my Jewish friends or friends of other faiths because that feels bullying and disrespectful.  I don't feel that I am betraying my faith by thinking like that.  Rather, I hope that my friends know that my faith in the saving gift of Christ to the world means that I get to love everybody and I love everybody but I love them especially. That's pretty much what I mean when I send a Christmas card with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy holidays" on it.

It also doesn't mean that I don't love you especially if I don't send a card. If you are a friend of mine and don't receive a card it most likely means that I ran out of the small number of cards I bought and your name ends far enough down on the alphabet that I didn't make it to you, or I started at the bottom of the alphabet list this year and didn't make it to the top. It could also mean that I ran out of stamps and didn't want to go to the post office during this busy time of year when lots of people still stand in line to send packages and buy stamps for their cards.

This year I am still one of those people who continues  to send Christmas cards and is always glad to receive them, too, except from businesses whose message in the card has nothing to do with religion  They are more often about trying to sell me something in the new year. I don't like those cards and throw them away because they don't keep faith with the way that I keep faith at Christmas.  For me, sending Christmas cards is about love being expressed anyway you want to share it with the people you really love.  I love so many people that the Christmas season is too short for me, which is why I intermittently send all kinds of cards all year long.

Daphne's most recent book is:  Christmas in Fountain City

Audience analysis? Asked differently, "Who are other people?"

This question gets answered in all kinds of ways in the workplace, and experts who counsel others in marketing have all kinds of theories about how to assess who other people are.  They do this often in terms of categories like age, gender, level of education, and status.
Self-evident clues like factual tidbits tell others something about readers and customers and workplace colleagues, but they can’t solve the ultimate mystery of who other people are for their needs and personalities and drives and mysterious responses are as fluid as your own.  You can have a good day. You can have a bad day. Someone can be nice to you. Someone can be rude to you. It could be your birthday or an anniversary—either of which you would like to remember or forget.  The circumstances surrounding other people and the moments when they intersect with the words you have written are as fluid as the stimuli—both inner and outer—that affect the way you think and how you respond.
Does that mean you can’t figure out your reader?  Not necessarily and it also means that you don’t have to figure out your reader altogether. Writing with mindfulness about who is reading your work begins with what all people share everyone and that is a need for respect.
Respect the job the workplace document needs to perform and fulfill that basic goal.
Respect the reader's time by providing that content efficiently and in a style that does not impede understanding what is meant.
Respect the reader by choosing words that fulfill the task of providing unbiased content.
Respect sounds like courtesy.
Courtesy builds relationships out of discipline and takes the guess work out of doing it right or wrong.
To prove this consider the format of a business letter.  Here are its inherent structural parts which exist for logic’s sake but serve the nature of consideration called courtesy.
The return address:  Tells the reader right away who you are and how to get in touch with you.
The inside address:  Acknowledges the reader and allows him/her to see that you know his/her title.
The salutation:  Achieve instantaneous connection with the reader just by using his or her name respectfully (Rule of thumb:  Use the last name with the title until you have been invited to use the first name.)
First paragraph:  Makes a connection by announcing the purpose of the letter or connect the content of the letter to a question that has been asked so that no one has to read your mind about the intention of the letter.
Body of letter:  Provides the information that is required for documentation purposes or solving of a problem.
Complimentary close:  Supply a gracious good-bye--the kind you make in a doorway before you leave. (Tip:  Use a comma after the complimentary close, such as: Sincerely yours, )
Your signature:  Make it plain who you are again and for business purposes build your name recognition.  (Be reminded that in social settings when someone is introduced names are repeated back and forth in order for people to hear the name again in case he/she misses it the first time.  It might sound like this:  Jim Davis meet Lynn Smith.  Lynn meet Jim.) See how your return address and the signature at the bottom repeat this act of courtesy?
Asking the question about who other people are in order to write more mindfully is a process that never ends. You begin it and continue to do it, and people around you who are aware of how important it is to signal respect and build relationships in the workplace in order to create trust and increase productivity make a habit of relying upon the discipline of courtesy to keep the friendly exchange of information flowing with respectful good will. When that happens you don’t have to solve all the mysteries of who everyone is; you simply need to prove day after day that you are on top of your workload and handling your responsibilities in a timely and respectful way.
The natural trust that results from that discipline of professionalism will do the rest.

 Daphne's most recent book is about the tension between giving at Christmas and the kind of fundraising that goes on year round in churches:  Christmas in Fountain City