Monthly Archives: April 2015

Your Weekly Noodle: April 29, 2015

Noodle* on this…Happy worker
If you think someone or something other than yourself is responsible for your happiness or success, I’d guess you’re not that happy or successful. ~ Rob Liano

You are the author of your own life story. This is a cliché but clichés carry an element of truth in them. In fact, clichés were, at some point in the deep dark past, considered shockingly profound. That is why the endure.

Regardless of your work situation, you are the only person responsible for your well-being. Laws, regulations, company policies and procedures give us basic safety protections; managers give direction and co-workers can give us support and friendship. But we are responsible for how we do our job and how we feel and think about out work experience.

Identify one job task that is annoying or frustrating you.  What will you do to address the situation, focusing on things you can control. How will it affect your well-being or happiness at work Share your plan 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 Gallery Hip

Accountability at Work

Woman holding an accountability signIn the workplace, your responsibilities are listed in your job description – the tasks, functions, and deliverables you are paid to do. Accountability is the quality with which you chose to complete those tasks, functions, and deliverables. Accountability means owning the results of your work, your behavior and the choices you make on the job, regardless of the outcome. It is about rising above your circumstances, living your values and doing what is necessary to complete the responsibilities of your job to support effective, reliable services and products based on the goals and values of the team and the organization.

When you are accountable. you ask questions like, “What can I do to solve the problem,” and not statements like “It’s not my problem, I did what I was told.” When you avoid or refuse to be accountable, you blame others, make excuses or wait and hope that the problem goes away.

The nice thing about accountability is that you get to tell the truth. You don’t have to remember who you blamed or what excuse you used. It is much less stressful, saves time and is easier to tell the truth, to say “I made a mistake,” “I screwed up,” “mea culpa,”  ”my bad,” or even “oops!” You don’t have to worry about hiding the truth because it always comes out in the end.

Being accountable leads to healthier relationships with your co-workers, managers, subordinates, clients and friends. People know they can trust you, that you keep you word and will not “throw them under the bus” when things go wrong.

Being Accountable
Being accountable is an easy process that requires courage.  Here are the steps:

  1. Make sure you know the tasks for which you are responsible. Read your job description. If you don’t have a written description or it is not current, ask your manager to clarify your responsibilities.
  2. “Performs other duties as apparent or assigned.” Some companies include this blanket statement at the end of every job description. This means you are expected to take the initiative to do things related to your assigned tasks but are not spelled out. Again, check with your manager to clarify what is expected of you. Ask for examples, if necessary. These types of tasks seem to flourish in the white spaces of the organizational chart – those areas between internal departments where responsibilities may overlap or processes require input from several departments or teams to complete them.  According to Hal Amens ( 2009) the white space in any organization is filled with tasks or issues where misunderstanding occur, communications break down or roles change.
  3. When working on a task or project with others, clarify expectations – both their’s and your’s. Ask questions to make sure you understand the situation. Agree on deadlines and deliverables , then send an e-mail to those involved documenting the agreed upon details.
  4. Stay in the present. Do not dwell on past problems or situations. This is where you can show compassion by working cooperatively with those you disagree with or with whom you do not get along. Deal with “what is” and not what should, would or could have been.
  5. When a problem occurs, use “I” rather than “they, we or you,” as in “I made a mistake.”
  6. Don’t wait for others to point out your mistakes. Speak up now instead of waiting.
  7. Maintain your perspective. First, acknowledge your emotions about the situation. Then, stick to the facts. Go into Dragnet mode – “Just the facts, ma’am.” What happened? Collect and analyze the information. Ask yourself some questions:
    • What am I doing or not doing that may be contributing to the problem?
    • What can I do to correct the situation?
    • Do I need to ask for help? If yes, who can help me?
    • Who needs to know about the problem?

Consider this…
Roger Connors, one of the authors of The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability (2004) summarizes accountability on the job:

When you take personal accountability, you own it. You tell yourself, “this is mine: I’ve got the ball.” You ask yourself, “What else can I do to make progress, overcome obstacles, and achieve the result?” You don’t waste time blaming others or waiting for someone else to solve your problems; you actively engage and deeply pursue solutions.

Read more about responsibility and accountability.

 

Your Weekly Noodle: April 22, 2015

Tree in four seasons

We cannot change the weather. We can change ourselves and how respond in a difficult situation.

Noodle* on this…
You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of
.

~ Jim Rohm

If you have worked for more than a few minutes in any business or organization, even volunteer organizations, you have heard phrases like these:

  • It was Department A’s responsibility, they didn’t do it right.
  • It’s not my fault.
  • There wasn’t enough time.
  • My manager interferes too much.
  • It is not my job.

Recall a situation in your work when a mistake was made, a deadline missed, a customer was unhappy or some similar problem occurred.  Given the circumstance:

  • What was your role in the situation?
  • What aspects of the situation did you have the power to change?
  • What could you have done to correct the situation or at least lessen the impact of the mistake?

Share a responsible experience with us in the Comments section below.

Read more about responsibility.

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

Image courtesy of George Hoden.

 

Responsibility and Accountability

sign posts placing blame

The Difference Between Responsibility and Accountability
The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch.

Responsibility and accountability are often used interchangeably. However, they don’t mean exactly the same thing. The example above from Michael Armstrong, a former CEO of companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Hughes Electronics illustrates the difference. The engineer was given the responsibility of building an arch. He assumed accountability for the quality of his work by literally putting his life on the line.

Today, life is corporate American is tough. Fortunately, it is not that tough. You don’t have to risk your life for a report, a customer service transaction, or a block of computer code – the tasks in your job description for which you have been given responsibility. Nonetheless, the question remains: Are you willing to “stand by your work” to say “yes I did this?”  Most people are willing to stand by their work when it is excellent. In fact, they are eager to take credit. There is nothing wrong with that. But are you willing to say, “yes I made a mistake?”  What does lack of accountability look or sound like?  Here are some examples. Do any of them sound familiar?

  • Ignore/deny: Failing to see that a problems exists. Example: “I don’t see a problem.” “We can’t do anything about it.”
  • It’s not my job: Narrowly defining a job as a specific and sometime ambiguous task and not as achieving a desired result. Examples: “It’s not my job.” “Someone ought to tell him/her.”
  • Finger pointing: Blaming others, as well as things, for failures to produce the desired results. Examples: “We were given bad information.” “He/she obviously didn’t listen.”
  • Confusion and tell me what to do: Claiming confusion or lack of direction in the face of unclear priorities, changing goals, and competing requirements. Examples: “We can’t do both. So what is you priority?” “Do you actually expect me to meet that deadline?”
  • Cover your tail: Establishing innocence by documenting potential excuses for missed results. Examples: “This is what the consultant recommended.” “I sent you an e-mail informing you about this last week.”
  • Wait and see: Putting off action and relying on wishful thinking and the passage to time. Examples: “All we can do is wait and see.” “We’re in transition, things will get better over time.”

Think about a time you failed to take accountability for your actions or work outcomes. We’ve all done it. I was project team leader and one team member did not do her assigned special project. It wasn’t a huge task or vitally important. It was one of those things that needed doing, but was not a priority, until it because a priority. By that time, she had left the organization. When my manager asked me about it. I said something like “I told Hermoine to do it before she left, but she didn’t.” My manager, a very wise woman, peered over the top of her glasses at me and sighed. She didn’t say a word and I felt about three inches tall. I should have said, “It didn’t get done. I dropped the ball. I’m sorry and I will take care of it right away.”

How did you feel when you “dropped the ball?” I felt humiliated, annoyed with Hermoine and angry with myself that I did not follow-up with her to check on her progress with the project. In hindsight, it was a tedious, uninteresting assignment and if I had been Hermoine, I probably would have put off doing it too.

Consider this…
Personal responsibility is not only recognizing the errors of our ways. Personal responsibility lies in our willingness and ability to correct those errors individually and collectively.  ~ Yehuda Berg

Think about a mistake you made.  Were you accountable for that error? How did it feel to be accountable or shift blame to someone or something else?

Image courtesy of The Vortex Me.

Your Weekly Noodle: April 15, 2015

One hand gently resting on another to illustrate compassion which is essential for well=beingNoodle* in this…

Reach out and touch somebody’s hand.
Make this world a better place, if you can.

 ~ Diana Ross

Diana Ross had a good idea in the 1970 lyrics Reach Out and Touch Sombody’s Hand. She suggested that we:

  • Take a little time out of your busy day to give encouragement to someone who’s lost the way.
  • Try a little kindness – you’ll see, it’s something that comes very naturally.

She is right – kindness comes naturally because we are hard-wired for compassion. Our brains and body automatically respond to those in need. But, we still must choose to act. Kindness doesn’t cost anything and it benefits you as much as the person you help. Also, it builds strong relationships at work, at home and in the community.

In her book Radical Acceptance, psychologist Tara Brach, PhD, writes about the power of compassion:

Just as a bright sun causes ice cubes to melt, in the moments that we feel connected and kind, we  create a warm environment that encourages others around us to relax and open up. Each time we widen the circle of caring – with a smile, a hug, a listening presence, a prayer – that ripples flow out endlessly. When we offer comfort to the person sitting by our side, our kindness spreads throughout the world.

What kind, compassionate actions will you take this week? How will you widen your circle of caring? Share your ideas with us in the Comments section below.

Read more about power of compassion and kindness.

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

Image courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Practical Compassion

Two women conforting and upset male co-work an act of compassion

This is the second article on compassion at work.

Compassion benefits both the receiver and giver. This concept is what makes compassion practical. It benefits all involved. In the last 30 years, extensive research has been conducted on compassion. Psychologists such as Martin Seligman and Ed Diener found that those who show compassion to other have better physical and mental health and. Other research shows that compassionate people have lower levels of anxiety and depression. (1) It serves as a buffer again stress, which supports longevity.

Compassion makes us more attractive. In a dating preferences study both male and females participants reported that kindness was an important factor in choosing a date. It also build connections between co-workers and promotes teamwork.

In addition, compassion is contagious. When we see others being compassionate, we are more likely to be compassionate. In 2014, Paulina Firoizi, at The Tampa Bay Times reported that in one day, 378 people using the drive thru at a local Starbuck’s “paid it forward,” by paying for the coffee to be purchased by the person in the car behind them. That one day, at that one Starbuck’s, compassion was contagious

Strengthening Your Compassion Muscles at Work
The first step to compassion on the job is to define the concept of compassion for yourself. Every person has a unique view of the world based on their life experiences, knowledge and background. My definition of compassion and kindness may differ from you definition. You need to know exactly what these words mean to you. Take a few moments to develop your personal definition for compassion (kindness).

Your Compassion Definition
Answer the following questions

  1. When you read or hear the words kindness or compassion, what pops into your mind? It can be words, memories or images.
  2. How have others shown compassion to you?
  3. How do you show compassion to others?
  4. What behavior or characteristics do you have that show compassion or kindness

Using the answers to these questions, write your personal definition or description of compassion (kindness).

For me, compassion is recognizing and respecting the pain or suffering of another without judgment or pity, then offering help and support, based on the person’s desires. For compassion or kindness to be authentic, it must be what the person wants so that (s)he goes away from the encounter with the perception of being helped or supported.

Being Compassionate at Work
Take a moment and think about what happened at work today. Ask yourself:

  1. Did I see someone in pain? It could have been physical or emotional pain – even anger and frustration are forms of pain.
  2. How could I show compassion for this person in a respectful, supportive way?

In answering the second question, remember that the basic rule for being compassionate is commonly known as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do until you.” (Matthew 7:12). Here are some simple ideas for being compassionate at work:

  • If a co-worker appears frustrated, upset or stressed out, invite the person to take a break with you. Buy him a cup of coffee or a soft drink and ask what is going on. Listen carefully, without offering advice.
  • Invite a new employee or someone you do not know well to take a break or have lunch with you. Get to know the person.
  • When a co-worker is struggling to complete a task, offer to help and be ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Do what you co-worker asks you do, not what you think they need. Remember, no means no. Don’t force help on the person.

Quick Tips for Kindness at Work 

  • Keep your word – when you say you will do something, do it.
  • Refrain from gossiping.
  • Say please and thank you.
  • Refrain from judging – give others the benefit of the doubt.
  • Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers.
  • Listen more than you speak.

Remember, no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. – Aesop

References

  1.  Seppalla, E., (2013). “HealthBody, Healthy Mind, The Greater Good Sciene Center, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/compassionate_mind_healthy_body

Your Weekly Noodle: April 8, 2015

Compassion and kindness bring joy to both the giver and the receiver.

Compassion and kindness bring joy to both the giver and the receiver.

Noodle* on this…
We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that. ~ Ellen DeGeneres

Kindness and compassion lead to joy and laughter. Doing simple acts of kindness for others gives both the giver and the receiver joy.

My friend Suzanne carries a case of bottled water in her car. Whenever she sees homeless people, she gives them a bottle of water. Here in San Diego, water is a precious commodity. She told me that the thanks and the looks of joy on the faces of people who receive her small offering are worth the cost of the water many times over.

When I asked her why she does this, she said, “There but by the grace of God and some caring people, go I…”

Compassion doesn’t need to cost anything. It can be a kind act, a thank you, a helping hand or a smile for a stranger. What you give in compassion and kindness is far exceeded by what you get. Think of it as karma – what goes around comes around. What will you do this week to share kindness and compassion? Share your ideas 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 Team Builder Plus.

 

Compassion at Work

Compassion at work showing a man comforting a distrees man compassion is part of well-being Many people are confused by or uncomfortable with the concept of compassion in the workplace. With the growing emphasis on metrics, efficiency and productivity, work is becoming more impersonal. Employees think they must leave their emotions and personal problems at home. Even if you successfully “leave your personal problems at the door,” the emotions related to those problems will affect your work. In addition, problems at work occur on an almost daily basis and those problems generate emotions. So, when you are in emotional or physical pain, co-workers may be uncertain about how to respond. Do they ignore the pain or do they show compassion and if so how much and what should they do?

Defining Compassion
Compassion on the job is both proper and powerful. In a series of studies, Professor Jane Dutton and her associates at the University of Michigan found that compassion has a positive impact in the workplace. It affects attitudes, work meaning and behavior. According to Dutton, when people experience compassion at work – whether they show compassion, receive it from a co-worker or simply see it – these compassionate acts increase job satisfaction, reduce stress, and increase employees’ sense of well-being.(1)  If you are still not comfortable with the idea of compassion in the workplace, think of it as kindness or caring, which are synonyms for compassion.Compassion and kindness are part of the upward positive cycle of well-being. Compassion leads to more compassion.

Compassion means different things to different people. For our purpose, we will use the definition in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Unlike empathy, which is the ability to understand another person’s experience or emotions, compassion is broader and more proactive. An act of compassion may be as simple as listening to a co-worker without giving advice, taking a break together or sending an email to cheer up a co-worker. Or, compassion may mean helping a team-mate solve a problem or complete a task. It means giving another person the help they want and are willing to accept. Part of compassion is being will to accept “no” to your offer of help.

We are Hardwired for Compassion
Right, now you are thinking, “People may see me as weak if I show compassion.”  We have centuries of philosophical writings that support this notion. Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) wrote, “Sympathy as a good-natured emotion is always blind and weak.” Later, Ayn Rand wrote “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”  We grew up hearing these and similar messages.

Contrary to these ideas, science has proven that we are hardwired for compassion. Recent research in psychology and physiology has discovered that our brains and bodies respond automatically to people in need. But, like other body systems, we must exercise to fully develop our capacity. When we see or feel physical or emotional pain the anterior cingulate cortex in the front areas of your brain is activated along with the amygdala deep inside the brain, which is the fight or flight area of the brain. In addition, the nurturing area of the brain – the periaqueductal gray area in the center of the brain is also triggered. When our brain realized that the body is not threatened, the nurturing area takes over.

The vagus nerve, which is part of the body’s autonomic nervous system, responds to seeing or feeling pain. Showing compassion stimulates this nerve, reducing heart rate, improving digestion, and strengthening the immune system. (2) Finally, the pituitary gland releases oxytocin.  More commonly known as the “love drug” it produces oxytocin, which strengthens social recognition, connectedness and helping behavior. Like other body systems, these compassion components must be trained and exercised regularly if they are to work properly and support our well-being.

Consider this…
In ancient China, Confucius (551 – 479 BC) wrote, Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men. These three are your greatest treasures. Approximately 100 years later and half a world away, the Greek philosopher Plato (427 – 347 BC) said, Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. These two wise men speaking to us from the ancient past summarize the reason and requirements for compassion in the workplace.

Everyone at work is “fighting a hard battle” to do their jobs while maintaining their well-being. You need wisdom, compassion and courage to do this. Identify a co-worker who seems to be “fighting a bard battle” at this time. What can you do to show compassion for that person? Next: Practical Compassion

References

  1. Dutton, J.E., & Workman, K.M. (2012). “Compassion as a Generative Force” Journal of Management Inquiry, 20, 401-406. http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/janedut/Compassion/Journal%20of%20Management%20Inquiry-2011-Dutton-1056492611421077.pdf
  2. Keltner, Dachter, “The Compassionate Species,” The Greater Good Science Center,University of California Berkley, July 31, 2012, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_compassionate_species