Monthly Archives: January 2015

Your Weekly Noodle: January 28, 2015

Person waling along a path by a frozen lake representing sticking tot he path of spirituality

What is your path?

Noodle* on this… 

To me, spirituality means “no matter what.” One stays on the path, one commits to love, one does one’s work; one follows one’s dream; one shares, tries not to judge, no matter what.

~ Yehuda Berg

Each of us defines spirituality in our own way. For some, it is part of their religion. For others it is a connection to a Higher Power and with those around them. Still others find spirituality in mediation, nature, art, music, or volunteer work. Regardless of its definition, spirituality gives purpose to our lives and our work.

For me, spirituality in my work mean means helping others. That is why I write this blog. It also means living with integrity, kindness and a connection with others. It is a process and not a goal.  According to Mahatma Ghandi, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) is a blueprint for a spiritual life.**

How do you define spirituality and how do you include it in you work?  Share your definition with us in the Comments section below.

Read more about Spirituality in the Workplace.

 * To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.
** E. Stanley Jones, (1948) Mahatma Gandhi An Interpretation, Nashville, TN Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.
Image Courtesy of Live Your Legend

Answer These Four Questions Before You Begin Writing

Image of two forms of technology used in communication and electronic table and visualpreentation

Before you begin writing any form of communication, even an e-mail, answer these four questions:

1. What is the context of the communication (your purpose and audience)?

  • Clarify the purpose of your document.
  • Identify the audience.

2. What will the content be (your message)?

  • Collect and analyze information.
  • Create an outline.

3. How will you structure your communications (your document organization)

  • Choose a suitable design and stick to it.
  • Write sentences of 15 – 20 words.
  • Write paragraphs of 5 – 8 lines of text.
  • Use graphics, as appropriate (e.g. tables, charts, etc.).

4. What will be the style of the communication (grammar and words you use)?

  • Formal or informal voice.
  • Use the active voice.
  • Put statements in positive form.
  • Use definite, specific, concrete language.
  • Omit needless words.
  • Use parallel construction for related ideas.
  • Keep related words together.
  • Place important words at the end of a sentence.
  • Avoid jargon, clichés and fancy words.

I’ll cover each of these in the coming weeks.

 

Your Spirituality at Work

Looking at a treee through eye glasses representing looking at life through spiritualityWhy write about spirituality in a blog about the workplace? Because you bring your entire self to work.  Management and mentors may tell you to leave your personal life at home or at least your personal problems and while that is understandable, it is almost impossible. Who you are at work is part of the total you and that includes intangibles like spiritual belief and practices.

Spirituality is not only about religion. For many people, spirituality is a key part of religion; but, it also stands alone and it takes many forms, such as meditation, philosophy, art, music, environmental conservation and the way we interact with others – compassion, kindness, fairness and tolerance.  Turner (1999) defined spirituality as that which comes from within, beyond the survival instincts of the mind.(1) It is our core, our wisdom or gut instinct. Spirituality is a driver of meaning and motivation at work and creates inner peace and stability. It also helps us manage our emotions.

Many workers live in fear that they will lose their jobs, or that their hours, pay or benefits may be cut. Management phrases like “do it right the first time, do more with less, work smarter not harder “provoke fear. Having a spiritual center helps us overcome that fear because we see the meaning in our work; our values guide us; and we are confident in our skills and abilities.

Spirituality is more about process – how we do things, rather than reaching goals. It is about living and working mindfully; deliberately and thoughtfully making choices. It is about looking at the bigger picture and considering those around us – our co-workers, manager, subordinates and customers, as well as the economic and business realities of a situation. As we develop our spiritual side, we notice what is working well and build on it.  We acknowledge others and express our gratitude. We pause from time to time and take a few deep breaths to manage our stress. Spirituality is not necessarily about meditation, yoga, prayer or religious practice, although these are important tools for many people.

If this sounds familiar and maybe even redundant that is not surprising because spirituality is an essential part of well-being and it is about honoring and accepting who and what we are and making the most of it. In other words, being all that we can be (self-realization).

Consider this…

Like well-being and self-realization, spirituality is intensely personal and private. It is not something that we need to preach in the workplace or anyplace else, for that matter.  According to author and Methodist minister E. Stanley Jones:

Gandhi constantly said to the Indian Christians and missionaries: “Don’t talk about it. The rose doesn’t have to propagate its perfume. It just gives it forth and people are drawn to it. Don’t talk about it. Live it. And people will come to see the source of your power. (2).

Think of someone you consider a spiritual person. It may be someone you know or a historical figure such as Gandhi, Mother Theresa, the Dali Lama or Martin Luther King. Make a list of the special qualities or the things the person does (did) that make them spiritual, such as patience, kindness, integrity, tolerance, etc. Now, make a list of the qualities you have or the actions you routinely take that are spiritual. Notice what traits or actions you have in common with that person; then name one quality that person has that you would like to develop in yourself.  What will you do to live that quality?

Share your thoughts with us in the Comments section below.

Next:  Belonging and Connectedness at Work  Coming February 1, 2015

References

  1. Turner, J. (1999), “Spirituality in the workplace,” CA Magazine, 132 (10) ,41-42.
  2. E. Stanley Jones, (1948) Mahatma Gandhi An Interpretation, Nashville, TN Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.

Your Weekly Noodle: January 21, 2015

Noodle* on this…

What path will you chose to follow?

What direction will you choose to go?

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go…” Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)

This is self-efficacy and internal locus of control, also known as ability, motivation and a positive attitude. You get to choose , to a certain extent, how you will do your job – the quality and quantity of your work, the nature of your relationships with you co-workers, manager and customers.

What direction will you choose? How will you demonstrate your ability, motivation and attitude?. Share your thoughts with us in the Comments section below.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of www.humanlikeyou.org

Rules of Writing

Two sea lions close up repreent arguing over grammar

Arguing image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger, www.freedigitalphotos.net

Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over IBM versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi and boxers versus briefs. ~ Jack Lynch

Writing is hard work. There are innumerable rules and exceptions to almost every one or so it seems. Throughout your school years you constantly heard “i before e except after c.” The definitive writer’s guide, The Chicago Manual of Style, is 859 pages of very small type.

How can you be expected to remember all the rules of writing? You can’t.

Writing consultant Stephen Wilbers offers some suggestions in RULES, Rules, and rules: How to tell them apart. (Minneapolis Star Tribune on June 19, 1992)

In short, Wilbers suggests the following:

  • Some rules must always be obeyed (avoid double negatives);
  • Some rules require a judgment call depending on the situation (it is okay to start a sentence with and or because); and,
  • Some rules should be ignored (you can end a sentence with a preposition).

I would add a fourth suggestion:

  • Common sense is the ultimate rule of good writing.

I never made a mistake in grammar but one
in my life  and as soon as I don it I see it.
~ Carl Sandberg

 

Ability, Motivation and Attitude

Person dancing in the sunling resprese ability, motivation and attitude“You have strong self-efficacy and an internal locus of control.” This is a good thing and it is psychological jargon. Self-efficacy means that you believe that you have the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to do your assigned tasks at work (ability). Internal locus of control means that you see yourself as having control over your actions and not fate, luck or external forces (motivation and attitude). In other words, you know you can do your job and you are a self-starter. You don’t wait to be told what to do and are not afraid to ask questions if you are uncertain about something. Both of these traits are elements of well-being and develop as a result of your continuous learning in the context of your values and the meaning you give to your work.

Basically, these terms mean that you are capable, self-motivating and have a positive attitude about your work. If you are reading this blog regularly and doing the exercises, you are working on you ability, motivation and attitude.

Self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is more than confidence; it is based on your performance history and is tied to the tasks in your job description. You strengthen your self-efficacy through learning, practice, modeling desired behaviors demonstrated by others and “verbal persuasion,” more commonly known as encouragement from others. Henry Ford gave us a very simple definition of self-efficacy when he said. Whether you think you can or you can’t. You are probably right.

Interestingly, failure along with persistence and patience is important in developing strong self-efficacy. Author J.K. Rawling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was rejected by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury, a small publishing house in London agreed to publish it. Even then, the publisher encouraged her to “get a day job.” Decca Records refused to offer the Beatles a recording contract because they “didn’t like the sound” and Michael Jordon was cut from his high school basketball team in his sophomore year.

According to Albert Bandura, a pioneer in the field of self-efficacy, “People need to learn how to manage failure so it’s informational and not demoralizing.”[1] We develop self-efficacy, in part, by learning from our mistakes.

Internal Locus of Control
Self-efficacy drives motivation, which in turn, affects locus of control. Do you feel like a victim at work or do you feel that you have some control over your work? People who feel like victims have an external locus of control while those who feel they have some control over their situation have an internal locus of control.

In some ways, people with an external locus of control may have a fairly tame, easy work situation. They wait for others to tell them what to do and when something goes wrong, it is someone else’s fault. Basically, they go with the flow and in some situations that is perfectly acceptable. During my summer break from college, I worked on an assembly line in a toy factory and it was a classic case of external locus of control. The shift supervisor told me where to work, what to do and went to take a break. I didn’t have to decide anything. I just showed up and did the work. But, it was boring and tedious and by the end of summer, I was highly motivated to return to college.

An internal locus of control means that you have the opportunity to control or manage, to some extent, the work you do. You decide the order in which your work will be done; the resources you need to do the work; the time frame; and the amount of work you will do.  You also accept responsibility for the quality of your work, the nature of your relationships with your co-workers and managers; and the satisfaction of your customers.

Although having an internal locus of control seems harder than an external locus, it has its advantages. When it is combined with self-efficacy, integrity and a sense of meaning, it leads to improved well-being, increased job satisfaction and better paying jobs.[2]

Ponder this…
Twenty years from no you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Developing self-efficacy and internal locus of control or ability, motivation and a positive attitude  helps prevent future disappointments. Think of a time you learned something important or when you took the initiative on a task or a project. How did that make you feel? Now imagine how you would feel if you hadn’t learned or taken the initiative? Would you regret it?

[1] Bandura, A (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. Freeman: New York (212-258).

[2] Dormann, C.; Fay, D.; Zapf, D.; Frese, M. (2006). “A state-trait analysis of job satisfaction: On the effect of core self-evaluations”. Applied Psychology: an International Review 55 (1): 27–51

Coping with Writing Anxiety

Image of the complete Oxford English Dictionary all 20 volumes

Whenever we put a pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, we immediately start to worry and our minds go blank. “What if it’s not good enough, what if I make a fool of myself?” Even the best writers face these problems at times. They have trouble getting started, they can’t find exactly the right way to express an idea and they always worry about what their readers will think of their work. Consider yourself in good company. Mark Twain, Stephen King, J. K Rawling and you share the same feelings of inadequacy when it comes to writing.

So, here are some suggestions on ways to deal with writing anxiety:

  • Complete the sentence “I can only write when …” This will tell you what works best for you.
  • Motivate yourself with non-writing activities. For example, take a walk or read an example of what you want to write.
  • Listen to your sensory signals. For example, you get a tingling” feeling when you get a sentence just right or you see a sentence in your mind.
  • Pretend you’re writing a letter to your mother or a close friend. Write about the topic in question. Chances are you will have a first draft when you finish the letter.
  • Change your normal routine. If you usually use the computer, try writing longhand. Or, try starting at the end and working backwards.
  • Discuss your topic with someone. Discussion can generate new ideas.
  • Try the unusual. Thomas Jefferson wrote standing up, try it. The German poet Friedrich Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk. According to his friend Goethe, the smell was beneficial to Schiller and he could not work without it
  • Just start. Write anything. Stream of consciousness writing often leads to something useful.
  • Relax. Your writing isn’t carved in stone. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.

What suggestions do you have for overcoming writing anxiety. I take a bike ride or play with my dog.  Share our suggestions in the Comments field below.

On Writer’s Block…
“There may be times when you will be sitting in front of your computer, eyes glazed, fingers frozen, ears ringing, the tip of your nose numb, unable to write. Do not lose confidence or construe this as a reflection on your essential intelligence or creativity. You are probably having a stroke.”  Scott Rice, Bride of Dark and Stormy

Writing is hard work. It takes so many words.
 ~ Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
(Cassandra Peterson)

Your Weekly Noodle: January 14, 2015

Noodle* on this…

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Ego = 1/Knowledge

 “More the knowledge lesser the ego, lesser the knowledge more the ego. ~ Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein’s first job was at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property (the patent office) in Bern, Switzerland where he was an assistant examiner. He was passed over for promotion because he had not “fully mastered machine technology.”(1)

But, he didn’t let his ego get in the way. It was during this time that he published his first paper in the prestigious Annals of Physics (1900), “Conclusions from the Capillarity Phenomena” and it wasn’t until 1908 that he was appointed a lecturer in physics at the University of Bern.

With knowledge, comes the strength, skills, and abilities to do your best work without worrying about who gets the credit or being right. Like Einstein, continuous learning will help us rise above our circumstances. Albert also knew how to persist with patience.

Reference
1. Peter Galison, “Einstein’s Clocks: The Question of Time,” Critical Inquiry, 26:2, Winter 2000, 355 – 389.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of the Leo Baeck Institute.

Self-directed Learning Steps

Business woman look through binoculars representing search for job related learning

In the last post, I wrote about developing your personal learning plan.

Once you identify what you want to learn and why it is important, you will find the learning resources that you can use on your own. For example, if you want to learn about process improvement, there are training and information sites on the Internet, many of which include tools and templates for implementation. Many large organizations have communities of interest or practice where people meet regularly to share the learning, ask questions and solve problems.

Many employers offer in-house training or may have training budgets that would allow you to take a course outside of work. Use the information you collected in developing your personal learning plan  to explain to your manager why you should attend a sponsored learning event. Tell you manage what you expect to learn and how it will help you in your work. Also, offer to give a presentation on what you learned at the next staff meeting and offer to teach your new skills to others.

Check out these sponsored learning resources; but, do not rely on them to the exclusion of other options, such as:

  • Ask a more experienced co-worker to teach you a desired skill.
  • Search the Internet for articles on your topic and read them, look specifically for ideas on implementing the knowledge in your work.
  • Look for and join a professional organization or networked related to your work and take course through the organization.
  • Look for on-line learning. But make sure it is directly applicable to your work.
  • Use on-line personal learning networks that use social media like blogs, Facebook, Meetup groups and Linked In.

Document It and Do It!

Finally set up a learning schedule, what will you do each day or week to reach your learning goal. Write it down both the plan and track your progress on a calendar. Don’t leave your learning for when you have “a few minutes.” Put it on your schedule, even if it means doing it on your own time. Remember, you are learning for work and to support your well-being. Most importantly, stay focused on your learning goals. The world is filled with interesting, exciting new things to learn and it is easy to get distracted, especially if you love learning like I do.

Consider this
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.  ~ Albert Einstein

What is the most important thing you need to learn for your job? Name one thing you will do this week to start the learning process for that topic? Share your learning plan with us I the Comments field below.

 

The Nature of Writing at Work

 

work burie under a pile of crumpled papers

The goal of writing in the workplace is to get the job done, not to write a great American novel. So, why a writing blog? After all, didn’t we all learn to write in school? Didn’t we spend endless hours learning about nouns, verbs, adverbs, etc., and diagramming sentences? Yes, we did. But that is not what this blog is about. It is not so much about the mechanics of our writing as it is about the message — writing in a clear, concise, organized way that keeps the reader’s interest.

Let’s face it. If the people we work with weren’t paid to read our memos, reports, or project proposals, they wouldn’t. When was the last time you spent a quiet evening curled up with a really good memo just for fun? That being the case, it is our responsibility, as writers, to present information and ideas in a simple, well-organized way that makes the most of the reader’s time and attention. When we write for work, we write to persuade, communicate, influence, etc. And, if we are to be successful in our work, we must be effective communicators, including writers.

Today, writing is more complicated than it was a few years ago. Our language is a dynamic, constantly changing thing. Ten years ago what was considered correct writing may now seem stuffy and outdated. A recent issue of Business Communications declared, “Don’t use the word shall. It makes you sound pompous.”  Today, the way we write and the media we use to write are changing constantly thanks to tools like Twitter, e-mails, blogs, and text messaging. And, because English changes, our writing must change as well.

Easy reading is damn hard writing.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Click on the following links for more musing on the nature of writing at work.

Observations on Workplace Writing

Persist with Patience

Rules of Writing

Coping with Writing Anxiety 

Image courtesy of B2B Insights.

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