Mother Said There’d Be Days Like These:Dealing Professionally and Elegantly with        the Unforeseen at Work            ...
What is “Unforeseen” ?•   Work load fluctuations•   Change as a result of external events, budget    adjustments, new tech...
What We Will CoverContextPart 1: Planning Pays – Creating “Time Space”Part 2: Approach Counts – Creating “Mind Peace”Part ...
The Information and Knowledge Professional’sCareer Handbook: Define and create your success       Ulla de Stricker and Jil...
Basic Premise• We strive to flexible and nimble and prepared and then …  stuff happens!• We may be organized and have “pla...
Examples (1)• Many colleagues off sick: Can you pitch in on the front  desk today and for the week?• I’ll be delighted to ...
Examples (2)• The meeting is going off the rails. I am the chair.• The meeting is going off the rails. I am not the chair.
Examples (3)• The users are offering wonderful ideas about the new  website. But I’m swamped.• Another instance of systems...
Part 1: Planning Pays• Aunt Karen’s stress reducing tip: “Always make time for  a flu.” (She wraps Xmas gifts in September...
Tool: Log A Day in the Life•   Documenting the time consumption of all activities - and    ranking their importance - will...
Investing for the Future•   Because so many factors are beyond our control, there’s    much to gain by building a nest egg...
Multitasking is No Virtue•   Studies show it reduces productivity!•   If the culture permits rampant interruptions (immedi...
What is an Emergency? For Whom?•   Matrix of “unfortunate ---> life threatening” and    “urgent/now ---> critical/long ter...
Bottom Line (1)•   The more control we have over what can be    controlled, the better we’ll handle the unforeseen•   The ...
Bottom Line (2)•   The more conscious we are of ownership, the more    natural it will feel to say “I’ll lend a hand to he...
Part 2. Approach Counts• Ideally, our personalities fit the work culture … an order-  and-predictability craving person wi...
Emotional Work Engagement• My work is my life vs. my work is how I provide for it• I’m emotionally invested in the details...
My Approach is …• I have prepared and planned ahead in a professionally  responsible manner• It is not a reflection on me ...
My Position vis a vis Others is …• I look after my responsibilities with engagement• It is not a reflection on me if someo...
My Response to “Tantrums” is …• I listen dispassionately without getting pulled in• I owe others my attention, not my agre...
My Overall Mentality is …•   What needs to happen next?•   Is there a reasonable solution meeting most interests?•   In ot...
Disposition vs. Approach• Disposition: A feature of a person’s basic personality  and belief system expressing itself in i...
Example• You can sit in this traffic jam and fume, or you can enjoy  the company in your car!                        (Ulla...
Work Approach• The belief system we bring to work every day:• I am here to make a positive contribution and I give it  eve...
Work Approach• We have all met variations of work approach …• … and experienced the impact they have
Part 3. Solutions are Key• It’s demanding to be unemotional and analytical when “stuff  happens” or work load overwhelms -...
A Systematic Approach• Situation analysis (10 seconds or overnight or during a  week or month):• What are the options and ...
Examples (1)•   Many colleagues off sick: Can you pitch in on the front desk today and for the week?•   I’ll be delighted ...
Examples (2)•   The meeting is going off the rails. I am the chair.• I request we focus on agenda item 4. Would each of yo...
Examples (2)•   The meeting is going off the rails. I am not the chair.• Madam Chair, would it be helpful if we each now  ...
Examples (3)•   The users are offering wonderful ideas about the new website. But I’m swamped.•   Another instance of syst...
It May not Feel Natural• But such poise is a requirement!
Part 4. Lessons Matter• Once a crisis has been dealt with, it’s appropriate to ask:  What learning can we apply for the fu...
Post Mortem• How likely is it the event could recur (e.g. meeting going off  the rails)?• What contingency could I/we esta...
Post Mortem Thoughts• In any future situation where … I will …• I will make clear to my superior my understanding of prior...
Personal Poise, Corporate View• The more we care about the work, the more painful an  incident can be• But let’s melt down...
Part 5. Leadership is Personal• At work (as in life), it’s helpful to distinguish between  “what merits my attention” and ...
What is Personal Leadership?• A search on leadership related terms in popular  bookseller sites yields ~150,000 titles.• I...
Im Not a Psychologist …• But I have “seen it all“• Workplace dynamics and interpersonal communication  require careful and...
What is Culture?• Culture is an outcome of feedback, scope of permitted  innovation, tolerance for learning curves, and mo...
What Does Culture Do?• Culture may foster rich experimentation, out of the box  work, and general “why not“ creative appro...
So How to Contribute to a           Positive Culture?• Careful and abiding attention to people, their interactions,  and t...
AKA Bringing Our Humanity              to Work• Allowing for everyone’s humanity can be a powerful  support to morale• Our...
AKA Bringing “Flowers“ to Work• Catch someone doing something right or being helpful -  and point it out with thanks• I re...
AKA Bringing “Dr. Phil“ to Work• Cluing someone in can be a helpful gesture - grousing  privately only causes more stress!...
Thoughts to Pack for Work• Frame of mind frames the workday• Since it’s so easy to “lose it“ when things get harried …  he...
Nuggets• A positive approach is freely available and costs nothing  to share with others• There is usually an explanation,...
Nuggets• I won’t take anything personally … I’ll get my ego out of  any fray and focus on what needs to be accomplished• D...
Final Nugget• It is not selfish to look after my own sanity and balance!• Being a whole and serene person enables me to su...
Thank You!Access to other seminars, articles, and KM blog at         www.destricker.com
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)
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Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)

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Every work day offers challenges we are well positioned to handle … and some for which we could never have prepared. Ulla de Stricker offers an overview of common “interesting” work scenarios and suggests approaches to preserve professional dignity – not to mention sanity: While there is no one recipe for handling everything our careers will throw at us, some basic attitudes go a long way toward managing whatever may arise.

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Mother Said There'd Be Days Like These (May 31, 2012)

  1. 1. Mother Said There’d Be Days Like These:Dealing Professionally and Elegantly with the Unforeseen at Work Ulla de Stricker www.destricker.com
  2. 2. What is “Unforeseen” ?• Work load fluctuations• Change as a result of external events, budget adjustments, new technology• The behavior of others!• … in other words, everything we could never prepare for in school! (Hence my “culture” lectures.)
  3. 3. What We Will CoverContextPart 1: Planning Pays – Creating “Time Space”Part 2: Approach Counts – Creating “Mind Peace”Part 3: Solutions are Key – Being ConstructivePart 4: Lessons Matter – Deriving ValuePart 5: Leadership is Personal – Workplace Culture
  4. 4. The Information and Knowledge Professional’sCareer Handbook: Define and create your success Ulla de Stricker and Jill Hurst-Wahl
  5. 5. Basic Premise• We strive to flexible and nimble and prepared and then … stuff happens!• We may be organized and have “plans B” …• But there will always be surprises: – Sudden changes in the external environment – Internal shifts (staffing, budgets) – People acting oddly (for whatever reason)• The smart money is on sound coping skills and an attitude of “what did we learn?”
  6. 6. Examples (1)• Many colleagues off sick: Can you pitch in on the front desk today and for the week?• I’ll be delighted to represent our organization at the conference by filling in for Joan. Next week ?!!• Hey, what do you know about the implications of content delivery to mobile devices? Can you come to our project meeting on Friday and bring some background information?
  7. 7. Examples (2)• The meeting is going off the rails. I am the chair.• The meeting is going off the rails. I am not the chair.
  8. 8. Examples (3)• The users are offering wonderful ideas about the new website. But I’m swamped.• Another instance of systems bottlenecks holding us up. But I don’t have time to document the dates/times/durations.• We’ll get back to these
  9. 9. Part 1: Planning Pays• Aunt Karen’s stress reducing tip: “Always make time for a flu.” (She wraps Xmas gifts in September.)• Thomas Jefferson’s principle: “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” (aka done is done)• Time management and priority setting skills are paramount• How is my work time allocated to key responsibilities? In that case, how many days will I need to build the presentation I volunteered to do?
  10. 10. Tool: Log A Day in the Life• Documenting the time consumption of all activities - and ranking their importance - will identify the candidates for elimination or change, and provide measures for scheduling:• What would happen if X activity did not occur?• Could some tasks be done less frequently?• Are there alternatives to the usual routines?• Etc … the aim is to create “room” for the “expected unforeseens” – so that true surprises/opportunities are manageable
  11. 11. Investing for the Future• Because so many factors are beyond our control, there’s much to gain by building a nest egg of time savers (templates, boilerplate text for frequent emails, documents prepared way ahead, etc)• Could time spent doing lengthy tasks be reduced through learning more about the tools? (2 days of intensive study to stop wasting time every day)• Could slogging through a weekend of filing/organizing cut down on months of “where did I put …?”
  12. 12. Multitasking is No Virtue• Studies show it reduces productivity!• If the culture permits rampant interruptions (immediate boss is of course allowed) … are there options to “wean” or set up “best time to get my full attention is …”?• Could we “close the door”?• We are, of course, considerate of others’ time!• In some cases, it is the job to be immediately responsive
  13. 13. What is an Emergency? For Whom?• Matrix of “unfortunate ---> life threatening” and “urgent/now ---> critical/long term”• Admirable to save the day now and then … but not to train others they don’t need to plan• “Glad to have helped - what can we put in place to avoid such a panic in future?”• Defensive strategies e.g. “all those files are in the X folder – feel free to have a look”?• Price of saying no (potential ill will) vs. benefit of saying yes (a thanks and that’s it)
  14. 14. Bottom Line (1)• The more control we have over what can be controlled, the better we’ll handle the unforeseen• The more we know about the organization’s goals and priorities, the better we’ll make split second decisions - or suggest solutions - we can defend later• Speaking Managementese is essential: Resources, true costs of activities/processes, return on investment … (know the annual report / strategic plan by heart)
  15. 15. Bottom Line (2)• The more conscious we are of ownership, the more natural it will feel to say “I’ll lend a hand to help with your challenge” (i.e. you own it, I can still choose to help) – aka “who is accountable?”• The more we own our successes and slipups, the more respect we’re in a position to earn for taking responsibility
  16. 16. Part 2. Approach Counts• Ideally, our personalities fit the work culture … an order- and-predictability craving person will be stressed in a hectic environment• But it always helps to work on one’s approach• What is my approach to my work?
  17. 17. Emotional Work Engagement• My work is my life vs. my work is how I provide for it• I’m emotionally invested in the details of the job vs. I distinguish between professional dedication and personal feelings• At this stage of my career (in the job) I’m willing to go the extra mile because …
  18. 18. My Approach is …• I have prepared and planned ahead in a professionally responsible manner• It is not a reflection on me if something weird happens out of the blue• Keeping calm is paramount - in fact it helps others• I may need to get involved - but is the situation “worth” getting worked up over?• Such self respecting views go a long way toward keeping stress in check
  19. 19. My Position vis a vis Others is …• I look after my responsibilities with engagement• It is not a reflection on me if someone else acts oddly• It’s unlikely another’s goal is to annoy me - but if an untoward interaction occurs, I address it with poise• I cannot control what others do - only how I react• Such self respecting stances go a long way toward keeping on an even keel
  20. 20. My Response to “Tantrums” is …• I listen dispassionately without getting pulled in• I owe others my attention, not my agreement (acknowledgement is not the same as validation)• If suitable, I suggest we discuss the matter later• For example: “Could we address your concern in 30 minutes when I’ll have dealt with X and so can give my full attention?” (Acknowledges the concern without committing to any opinion about the specifics.)• Such dignified poise may defuse tension, allow time to weigh options
  21. 21. My Overall Mentality is …• What needs to happen next?• Is there a reasonable solution meeting most interests?• In other words, I focus on solutions• After all, we’ll be back here tomorrow• Such constructive poise may help others be similarly constructive
  22. 22. Disposition vs. Approach• Disposition: A feature of a person’s basic personality and belief system expressing itself in interaction with others• Approach: How a person chooses to react to his or her surroundings and to events
  23. 23. Example• You can sit in this traffic jam and fume, or you can enjoy the company in your car! (Ulla, 1975, to friend who later gave her the car)• The meeting was challenging and did not produce the results I was after - but instead of fretting and getting resentful, I will proceed to the next necessary step
  24. 24. Work Approach• The belief system we bring to work every day:• I am here to make a positive contribution and I give it everything I have, looking for ways I can help the department over and above my official job• I am delighted and grateful to have the opportunity to learn and grow as I tackle the job each day• I put in my time, but I look forward to weekends
  25. 25. Work Approach• We have all met variations of work approach …• … and experienced the impact they have
  26. 26. Part 3. Solutions are Key• It’s demanding to be unemotional and analytical when “stuff happens” or work load overwhelms - but it usually pays off• The impersonal business approach is a good bet: “I advocate for X because Y is a priority per the Z Report”• Watch and document: Has there been a pattern of “stuff happening” indicating a need for a holistic look once the latest crisis is over?
  27. 27. A Systematic Approach• Situation analysis (10 seconds or overnight or during a week or month):• What are the options and ramifications?• What are the pros and cons of each?• With the resources I have, what do I choose to do?• Let’s look at the examples mentioned earlier:• Time (allocation, waste)• Opportunity (business approach)
  28. 28. Examples (1)• Many colleagues off sick: Can you pitch in on the front desk today and for the week?• I’ll be delighted to represent our organization at the conference by filling in for Joan. Next week ?!!• Hey, what do you know about the implications of content delivery to mobile devices? Can you come to our project meeting on Friday and bring some background information?• I’d love to help. My time today is spoken for. Would it work for you if I did X by Friday?• I’d love to take care of it. Could I get back to you with some options in terms of rearranging my schedule?• Which among my other tasks would you prefer to postpone?
  29. 29. Examples (2)• The meeting is going off the rails. I am the chair.• I request we focus on agenda item 4. Would each of you now summarize your view in one sentence?• If Michael could speak to the matter now, everyone will have had an opportunity and we can proceed to … (next item, voting, …).• It appears we might need additional information or preparation in order to reach a conclusion. I call the meeting to an end and will advise everyone of the next steps.
  30. 30. Examples (2)• The meeting is going off the rails. I am not the chair.• Madam Chair, would it be helpful if we each now summarize our view in one sentence?• Madam Chair, if Michael could speak to the matter now, we will all have had an opportunity. Only X minutes remain of the allotted meeting time and items 5-8 are unaddressed.• Madam Chair, it appears we might need additional information or preparation in order to reach a conclusion. I‘ll be happy to put together a one pager for a future meeting.
  31. 31. Examples (3)• The users are offering wonderful ideas about the new website. But I’m swamped.• Another instance of systems bottlenecks holding us up. But I don’t have time to document the dates/times/durations.• Memo: It would be unfortunate for [organization] to miss the opportunity to benefit from … In the brief outline below, I propose how to turn user feedback into quickly realized designs. Investing ~hrs now will pay off significantly by averting costly rework in future.• Memo: A quick calculation based on observation indicates the systems bottlenecks are consuming ~hrs/week of staff time that could have been devoted to priority projects A and B. I offer to document the time waste - for use in remedial planning by IT - if X project can gain another day.
  32. 32. It May not Feel Natural• But such poise is a requirement!
  33. 33. Part 4. Lessons Matter• Once a crisis has been dealt with, it’s appropriate to ask: What learning can we apply for the future?• Reality: Others may not be as keen on post mortem analysis!• Document our conclusions/actions:• As a result of … we have … and in future will …• The aim is to save the cost of … and improve …
  34. 34. Post Mortem• How likely is it the event could recur (e.g. meeting going off the rails)?• What contingency could I/we establish to make a recurrence less likely or at least less stressful?• In order to minimize … we will in future …• Such contingencies will allow …
  35. 35. Post Mortem Thoughts• In any future situation where … I will …• I will make clear to my superior my understanding of priority responsibilities … so adjustments can be made if possible• I will request a private meeting so as to …• The event taught me …
  36. 36. Personal Poise, Corporate View• The more we care about the work, the more painful an incident can be• But let’s melt down in private (“why me”) and then go back and be professional …• … which does not prevent us from saying e.g. “I will reflect on the situation overnight and address it in an email tomorrow” – signals the event will not just be forgotten• The extra time allows my response to show I am reasonable and balanced – with a focus on the overall goals & objectives no one can deny
  37. 37. Part 5. Leadership is Personal• At work (as in life), it’s helpful to distinguish between “what merits my attention” and “what can be ignored”• General theme: “Where will I devote my mental and emotional energy?”• Context: The most challenging aspects of our professional careers are related to … interpersonal dynamics!• Mastering the skill of interacting appropriately - achieving personal leadership - will free up a great deal of energy for positive career growth
  38. 38. What is Personal Leadership?• A search on leadership related terms in popular bookseller sites yields ~150,000 titles.• I say: Leadership for others cannot occur until we each have established ourselves as leaders of ourselves within the workplace culture• Examples: – I am in charge of my desk’s appearance – I am responsible for my mental state – others aren’t – It is up to me to choose how to respond to events – I am confident in my professional value – no matter what anyone else says! – Managing my professional reputation involves managing my power (giving it to others vs. using it for a worthy purpose)
  39. 39. Im Not a Psychologist …• But I have “seen it all“• Workplace dynamics and interpersonal communication require careful and constant attention
  40. 40. What is Culture?• Culture is an outcome of feedback, scope of permitted innovation, tolerance for learning curves, and more• What got rewarded gets repeated - though it may be an undesirable approach in view of organizational goals• What went unrewarded will diminish - though it was intrinsically correct and desirable for the organization (a good tip for those in managerial positions)
  41. 41. What Does Culture Do?• Culture may foster rich experimentation, out of the box work, and general “why not“ creative approach• Or may stifle new thinking via risk aversion or “we always did it this way“• Bottom line: Intrinsic merits often cannot overcome culture - and we must function within it
  42. 42. So How to Contribute to a Positive Culture?• Careful and abiding attention to people, their interactions, and the experience they have at work• Awareness that seemingly innocent or insignificant comments or actions may be symptoms of matters under the surface• Active support and reward for healthy behaviors - and immediate reaction to the opposite • People are more disappointed in someone who overlooks untoward behavior than they are in the “offender“
  43. 43. AKA Bringing Our Humanity to Work• Allowing for everyone’s humanity can be a powerful support to morale• Our personal life challenges cannot be checked at the door• Not to say the workplace is a therapy group - but a little compassion goes a long way when “stuff comes up”
  44. 44. AKA Bringing “Flowers“ to Work• Catch someone doing something right or being helpful - and point it out with thanks• I really appreciated how you …• That was so helpful, thanks so much …• Where did you learn … I’d like to get better at …• You should know it is not lost on us how you …
  45. 45. AKA Bringing “Dr. Phil“ to Work• Cluing someone in can be a helpful gesture - grousing privately only causes more stress!• Did you know that sometimes, your extreme energy and enthusiasm may come across a bit pushy to some people? (Personal example!)• Had you considered that for the new staff members, procedural complexity is daunting and they need more time to learn?
  46. 46. Thoughts to Pack for Work• Frame of mind frames the workday• Since it’s so easy to “lose it“ when things get harried … here are a few nuggets to keep in mind as we go through the door, not knowing what might arise today• Being polished is key!
  47. 47. Nuggets• A positive approach is freely available and costs nothing to share with others• There is usually an explanation, even for the strangest developments … reserve judgment• What could it look like from the point of view of other members of the team?• What we feed, grows
  48. 48. Nuggets• I won’t take anything personally … I’ll get my ego out of any fray and focus on what needs to be accomplished• Divergence of opinion is not negative – if the outcome is a creative solution• What happens, happens … but I want to be able to look back at my response with pride• If in doubt, consider what option is most likely to foster sound sleep …
  49. 49. Final Nugget• It is not selfish to look after my own sanity and balance!• Being a whole and serene person enables me to support my employer and my co-workers with excellence
  50. 50. Thank You!Access to other seminars, articles, and KM blog at www.destricker.com

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