How’s the book writing going?

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post and thought I would provide an update on my writing journey. The book writing is going EXTREMELY well! Thanks to Kat Hoyer, and through my reading of Patrick Lencioni’s books, I developed a change in format from my initial book draft and the writing is flowing at a much better pace now. Friday is my next big writing day — a full day off work to focus on more progress on the book!

The book is focused on the stories of the personal and professional experiences of downsizing managers, including tips and best practices, and reflection opportunities. There are currently eight chapters in progress, and I expect there will be at least 2-3 more chapters once these eight are more solid. The current chapters cover eight themes related to downsizing managers’ experiences. Seven of these themes are from the literature related to downsizing, and the eighth theme is one that I uncovered through my dissertation research.

Here is a small sneak from one of the chapters of my book – initial, raw writing at this point. It is not the complete story, just the first paragraph — why would I share an entire story? You’ll have to buy the book when it’s ready. Teaser time!

Wayne’s Story

It was 3:00am and Wayne was wide awake again thinking about ways in which the organization he worked for could further reduce expenses. Wayne was a VP at Damon Manufacturing responsible for the production floor, which included several specialized machinists. The company’s second highest contract was expiring at the end of the year and had recently decided not to renew, as Damon Manufacturing was unable to provide the lowest bid. Competition in the industry was getting cut throat and it was not hard to believe another much larger manufacturing company could come in at a lower price. Damon was now in trouble, and there were only 10 months left to figure out what was next.
I am interested to hear your thoughts and if it peaks your interest to read more…

4 Things I Wish I Knew Earlier as a College Student

#1: Network. Network. Network. 

Spend time getting to know your professors, mentors, classmates, authors of journal articles (yes, you can reach out and communicate with them!), blog authors, books, etc. I missed too many opportunities earlier on because I was so shy, and afraid to meet people, or felt like I would say something goofy. It is amazing the willingness people have to talk with you, let you know about their research, writing, or area of passion. Any chance you have to interact with others, take advantage! It could possibly save you time later in your education, but it will absolutely keep your mind open and the gears grinding.

One thing I let people know later in my PhD work was how passionate I was about the area I was researching (personal and professional experiences of downsizing managers). When I let that secret out, people began asking me how the process was going and what I was learning. This got me out of several slumps, as I was so excited to talk with others about my research.

Another way to build relationships and meet others in through social media. I have met so many awesome people via Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn and numerous other social media platforms. Those have become great friendships and support systems for me. Use hashtags (#) alongside terms that you are interested, and find groups, pages, and connections that you can begin networking. I did this with the terms #leadership, #phd, #graduate #management when I first took to social media after graduating (yet, had I realized the benefit, I would have done this search years earlier).

#2: Manage your time.

Take advantage of any waiting I used to take a book or article with me almost everywhere when I was in school. If I had to wait at an appointment, or when picking someone up to go out, or even waiting for a meeting to begin, I would pull that out and use the time to my advantage.

Another great way to manage your time is through time blocking. This provides an opportunity to determine the time that should be focused on your studies, family commitments, friends time, working out, relaxing, and so on. If you have difficult spending too much given time focused on something (say a two-hour study block), then use the Pomodoro technique where you set a timer for 15-20 minutes and focus on the task at hand during that time. When the timer goes off, you take 5-10 minutes to get up and walk away, taking a break from that. Repeat the Pomodoro technique during your time block and you will have results and not be exhausted.

Securing an accountability partner is another great way to manage your time. You can run things by that person, and they can help you to stay aligned with your goals, and provide feedback or criticism to help you get back on track when you start to fall.

#3: Dig a little deeper.

One thing I did during my earlier PhD days was to take two elective writing classes that built upon each other. I knew that would help prepare me for my upcoming coursework, as well as the amount of writing I would be tasked to complete during my dissertation milestone. I encourage you to consider signing up for an additional course, workshop, webinar, seminar, etc. that will help you build the skill set(s) you need to be successful in your studies and beyond.

Another way to dig deeper is to really take the knowledge and feedback of your professors and mentors and look at ways to integrate and improve your work. Don’t get offended when they slaughter your paper. Instead, take it as a learning opportunity and find ways to improve.

Use the mindmapping technique to expand upon your ideas. This is a great tool, especially for individuals that are visual. I learned this when I was in middle school from Sandy, a schoolteacher friend of my mom. It has served me well, as I have continued to use the technique to this day, even beyond the college classroom and into the workplace.

#4: Don’t be so hard on yourself.

I can’t stress this enough. You can be emotional – college is a giant growing pain for many. The key is to make sure you don’t stay in that emotional purgatory for too long. Reach out to your support, or (back to Tip #1), network and find support along your journey. Sometimes the most understanding of your situation are those that are in it like you. I could get support and feedback from my fellow classmates and other college students. My connections in social media that had similar experiences as mine have also been extremely supportive in helping me to get back on my feet after the emotional whirlwind that hit.

Pat yourself on the back – this is HARD stuff! Not everyone goes to college and you should realize why – it’s not easy. Give yourself a little break every occasionally.

Lastly, some people start college and shit happens. Maybe it is a personal or family event, or maybe college isn’t right for you, whether that means right now or permanently. It’s not for everyone and there are other opportunities outside of college that can be taken. Don’t stress over it or worry about whatever judgment people might pass on you if your decision is to move forward without college. Don’t live your life to please others. Do what is right for you.

 

5 Tips for Increasing Your Confidence

Confidence is defined as, “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance in one’s circumstances” and “the faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way.”1 In preparing for a small women’s gathering a year or so ago, I developed this listing of tips on how to increase our confidence.

Tip #1: Pay attention to your nonverbal language.

Stop and think about how you communicate without saying a word. Do you talk with your hands a lot, use gestures, or smile? How do you position your arms and legs? Where are your eyes focused? You will appear confident when your nonverbal language connects to you and your message. The tone of your voice should align with the tone of what you are saying to your audience. Your eyes should maintain focus with your audience. If you are speaking on the phone, don’t let your eyes wander and try to begin multi-tasking. It is easy to hear in someone’s voice if they are not paying attention. A great resource on nonverbal communication is Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk.2

Tip #2: Give and receive compliments.

It is important to give compliments to others. Think about the influence or impact others have on you and ensure you are providing them appreciation. It doesn’t have to be anything of monetary value – a simply stated thank you, handwritten or e-mailed note, goes a long way.

Here are a few examples:

“Nice shirt.”

“Love your hair.”

“Great presentation, I like your point about ____ and ____.”

“Thank you for letting me borrow that ____. Everyone loved it!”

It is also important to accept compliments you receive from others. This shows a level of confidence too. Don’t shake something off by saying, “Oh, this old thing?” or “No problem.” Rather, give a genuine smile and say “thank you.”

Tip #3: Make smart choices.

The choices you make, whether it is how you dress, your hair style, who you hang around with, when and what you say, when you say it, all of it represents you. Don’t depend on a magic eight ball to decide your fate. Think about the consequences of the actions you take, and if those choices are reflecting a positive and confident you.

Tip #4: Provide and accept support.

Offering and accepting support shows confidence. Support comes in many shapes and forms, such as a simple compliment to donating your time, money, knowledge, or resources. Knowing when someone needs your support and providing it reflects confidence in others and your own decisions. You may not think of confidence showing when you accept support from others, but I believe it shows your vulnerability and willingness to let others in, which in turn can build the confidence others have in you.

Tip #5: Seek meaningful connections.

Building meaningful relationships with others is instrumental in living a confident life. Connecting with others, reaching out to learn and meet new people shows a confidence self. Connection you make can turn into some of your biggest cheerleaders. It doesn’t matter the quantity of friends, connections, followers, etc. that you have, but the quality of the relationships you have with those individuals.

1 Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

2 Source: Ted Talks Website – https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

Book Review: The Truth About Employee Engagement

Last night, I finished reading The Truth About Employee Engagement: A Fable About Addressing the Three Root Causes of Job Misery by Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni is also the author of the National Best-Seller The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (which I also read not long ago). I absolutely love Lencioni’s writing style and choice to provide business lessons within a fable format. It makes for an easy read and even easier to digest, remember, and discuss with others.

The Truth About Employee Engagement provides an interesting perspective through the eyes of a CEO, Brian Bailey, that is involved in several businesses through his career and even after retirement. Bailey’s character has a knack for engaging employees, thereby increasing productivity, morale, and an organization’s overall success. Unsure of whether his concept for employee engagement only applied to one business (a small Italian restaurant), he had the opportunity to test his theory again in his next job (at a large sporting goods chain).

His theory is a three-prong approach to explain job misery, which includes: anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement (the last, a term Lencioni coined).

  • Bailey believes that managers need to know who their employees are and Lencioni later gives an example of not just knowing that someone’s daughter is into ballet, but knowing that she had a recital last Friday and asking the employee how it went. Making a more personal connection is important to building trust and a strong relationship, in turn creating a more faithful and productive employee.
  • Next, employees need to know who their work impacts (not just that outer shell of what they provide whether it be a product or service), but also what that means to the customer. An example Lencioni provides is the night shift hotel room service attendant, and how the delivery of an item to a hotel guest not only provides that necessity to the guest, but also may play a part to relieve some stress they are facing during their travels. This may be a bit more challenging for employees that are not client-facing, yet those employees need to consider what they provide to their business partners, or as part of the organization, as their work typically lends towards the success of those on the front-lines.
  • Lastly, immeasurement, the term Lencioni mentions, relates to employees’ ability to measure their progress. While widgets are easily measured, there are other measurements that are more difficult to come by. When Bailey was working in the Italian restaurant, he had the drive-thru associate track the number of times he made a customer smile. There are often opportunities to use customer satisfaction surveys and qualitative customer feedback (360-degree feedback, comment cards, etc.) to measure results in instances where that is most appropriate. If employees can measure their work and help in identifying what those measurements should be, the level of interest in meeting or beating those metrics will increase.

Through Bailey’s experiences, his ability to decrease the levels of anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement within the organizations he worked provided a positive impact and a culture of engaged employees. I like that Lencioni included Bailey’s struggle to get buy-in from his leadership team while the CEO at the sporting goods chain, as I can see this being a challenge because employee engagement is often viewed as a soft skill that has little overall impact to the bottom line. Bailey proves otherwise, and what I like about that is the time it took for the change at the sporting goods store to impact revenue and help turn the store around. Another aspect I appreciated was when Bailey said everyone needed to be on board with integrating the three concepts or it would not work. It takes a village, and not just a couple people, to change the culture and make an impact.

One concern I have is how managers figure out the proper balance between all the responsibilities they have on their plates and incorporating these concepts. I agree that they are important, and believe it takes time and practice for managers to learn to balance them with everything else (and without it feeling like a check-the-box activity, which it should not be). As Bailey and Lencioni prove, there are many simple activities that managers can integrate into their day-to-day interactions to help decrease the elements of job misery among their employees.

Click here to purchase on Amazon!

10 Random Facts About Me

  1. I didn’t start wearing make-up on a regular basis until about five years ago. I never thought it was worth the time, until I realized how amazing foundation is, and how much prettier my eyes look with color and mascara!
  2. I have never broken a bone (knock on wood). Although I did sprain my knee while thinking I could swing dance with a friend at her 16th birthday party.
  3. If I could vacation anywhere, I would go to Sitka, Alaska. It is never supposed to get below 35 degrees there and the views are breath-taking.
  4. I used to hunt for my Christmas presents as a kid and didn’t give up this habit until recently (okay, I’m still curious, but don’t devote the energy I used to). Tony even hid a new bicycle for me one year early on in our marriage at his parents because he knew how I was.
  5. There were at least two years in a row that I dressed up as a punk rocker with my good friend, Theresa, when we were younger. We put colored spray in our hair, wore funky clothes, and seriously thought we were the shit. (I’m the one on the back left in the picture below).
  6. I wrote a book of poetry when I was younger (never published). Many of them are so silly, but looking back, I see how good a handful of them really were.
  7. My husband and I got all our deposits back from wedding planning and went and got married on the beach instead. Our families were on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding religion and it wasn’t worth the battle to us to have that traditional wedding.

  8. I used to call myself an anti-vegetarian, but have gotten a lot better over the years (thanks to my personal chef/husband).
  9. 2013 and 2015 were the 2 most difficult years I have faced yet – but I survived them.
  10. The best compliment I ever received as a professor is a guy that emailed me after the end of the semester (and grades were submitted) to let me know how much he learned in my class and appreciated that I was someone with a higher degree that was down-to-earth and didn’t let my education go to my head.

Minimizing the Impact of Electronic Messages

It is bad enough that a person may not focus on someone that is speaking to them, or on a topic that they should be focused (whether to be informed or provide support). Has there ever been a time when you took time and careful attention to crafting a written message and you find out that the recipient merely glanced at it, but didn’t capture the entire message?

With the busy-ness of today’s world, there are several individuals that never seem to fully read an email. Either they read the first line or two or maybe only the last line, and respond. Better yet – what about no response at all! That’s a real punch in the gut.

Granted, everyone has a ridiculous amount of papers and electronic messages that come across their desk each hour. Whether these messages fall into the delete, file, quick response, or thought-required response, there always seems to be a consistent flow of messages in and out. It can be difficult to stay out of the inbox when someone knows that for every item reviewed or worked, there are likely to be 10 or more to replace it soon after.

Instant gratification – more so with the advent of enhanced technology, has resulted in an acceleration of the flow of messages, and therefore an increased feeling of busy-ness. For managers, I imagine this is the worst, as there may be numerous members of the manager’s team, as well as peers, senior leaders, and business partners, pinging the crap out of the manager at any given time. Makes me visualize someone ducking for cover and waiving the white flag to surrender to the madness. Instant messaging and texting are amazing technological advances, but can be intimidating if you allow them that control. Have you ever sent a message and tried to patiently sit there, waiting for the little pencil or the three dots to show on your screen, reflecting that the recipient is writing a response? Think about that moment when you see the response starting, and then it stops, and doesn’t start back up within a minute or two. Arrrh!!!

When it comes to electronic messages, what can you do to minimize the impact on others and increase your chances of getting a response?

Here are a few tips for electronic communication to others:

  1. Consider who your audience is and whether they are primary to the information / request (include in the To: line), or secondary and maybe just need to have an awareness of the information / request (include in the cc: line). Identify your audience prior to writing the e-mail, but I highly recommend waiting to put their e-mail addresses in the To: and CC: lines until after your e-mail is crafted and ready to send. Think about this, how easy could it be to accidentally hit the send button amid drafting the e-mail. Even if you are doing a reply or reply to all, you can easily cut and paste the To: and CC: line addresses into the top of the e-mail body, then cutting and pasting them back up there once you are ready to send. This may be super precautious, but it could just save your butt some day!
  2. Make sure your subject line or header is clear. If you are requesting approval, consider putting ‘PLEASE APPROVE: [Topic] by MM/DD’ or ‘FEEDBACK REQUESTED: [Topic] by MM/DD’ in the subject line so that the person can quickly identify the need and urgency before the communication is opened or reviewed further.
  3. The body of your communication should be clear, simple, and to the point. Think about how many e-mails or paper documents people receive, and how great it would be if you were in their shoes, to receive a message that was simple to understand. Use short paragraphs, spacing, bulleted or numbered lists, etc. Also make sure a reminder at the end of your message as to your request or ‘ask’ (if there is one).
  4. Is an attachment needed? If so, limit the number and size of attachments. In addition, after you attach, and before you send the e-mail, open the attachment to confirm it is the correct document and most updated version of the document.
  5. For the love of all English teachers out there, run a spelling and grammar check on your message before sending. A default option would be to copy and paste the text into a Word document and run the check. Better safe than sorry!
  6. Last, if you are preparing an uber important communication, consider having a trusted source review it prior to adding your audience and sending. I don’t recommend this all the time (you are an adult and should be responsible enough to do the work you need to do), but it doesn’t hurt when there is something big and crazy important, and may be seen by leadership or many eyes, to get a second opinion before sending.

Are there other tips you would recommend when it comes to ensuring a clear understanding and response to an electronic message? Click over to my FaceBook group and share on the blog post comments there!

Smarter Than You Realize

Untitled design (15)How many times in the last week have you mentally beat yourself up? Maybe you have said you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or you will never get out of the situation you have currently found yourself, or something to that tune.

Let me tell you something, my friend, you are not alone!

There were several coincidences in the last couple weeks that sparked the idea for this post. The first of which was a conversation I had with a friend while her daughter was in the midst of her thesis defense. She had the opportunity to listen to her daughter’s defense via phone, and she and I chatted through instant messages. As I was messaging back and forth with her and hearing what was going on, it took me back to the moment of my dissertation defense. During that defense, I remember feeling an almost out-of-body experience in talking about my research. I was shocked that the thoughts and words of an impressive and smart person were coming out of my mouth. Have you ever experienced a moment where you said something or wrote something and surprisingly thought, “Damn, I really am smart!” That was my defense experience.

Colleen Georges, a faculty member at Rutgers University, and friend, shared her Tedx Rutgers talk recently, where she talked about the stories we tell ourselves and how we need to shift those thoughts to live a more positive life. For many years prior to my dissertation defense, I had such self-doubt as to my abilities and a fear that everyone would eventually figure me out. Thankfully, with the increased encouragement and motivation of my dissertation mentor, classmates, and friends and family, I was able to shift that mindset to be more positive and appreciative of my abilities. We are often our own worst critic. We are really much smarter than we often give ourselves credit.

What are some helpful thoughts, sayings, or actions individuals can take to replace the negative self-talk?

 

Published on LinkedIn Publisher, written by Tracy Shroyer on May 18, 2016

 

Tracy’s Top 5 Time Management Tips for College Students

Tracy's Top 6Time ManagementTips (2)

Balancing college on top of everything else life throws at you may seem like a near impossible task, whether as a first-time student or if you are going back to school as an adult. Trust me – I was there for 16 years…and survived to talk about it today! One area that comes up time and again when I talk with college students is that of enhancing their time management skills. Here are 7 tips for college students to explore to better manage their time.

  1. Use waiting to your advantageThink about how much time you spend waiting, whether it is in line at the bank, pharmacy, store or waiting on the phone for a customer service representative. Those are just a few examples, but it is amazing how much time you spend waiting – typically an hour or more each day. Take your textbook, books, journal articles, notebooks, highlighter, pen, etc. with you in your purse, car, or bag. When you find those moments that you need to wait for someone or something, use it to your advantage and dive into that school work. My favorite was taking journal articles, a highlighter, and pen, as these were typically easier reads and not difficult to break up into different periods of waiting I had throughout the day.
  2. Try out the Pomodoro techniqueIf you have not heard of the Pomodoro technique by now, I am a bit surprised, and know that you will likely LOVE this! My husband told me not long ago that it’s amazing how much house cleaning he could complete within 15 minutes. The Pomodoro aligns with this, in that you set a timer for a short period of time (maybe 20-30 minutes) and keep focused on a task. Once the timer dings, you set it to take a break (maybe 5-7 minutes), and then re-cycle through the process as many times as you need. A friend of mine completed 6 Pomodoro sessions in one day and was enthusiastic at her ability to make such progress.
  3. Create time blocksA physical or electronic calendar can be used to create blocks of time in which a specific focus is identified. For example, I blocked out 4 hours on a Thursday morning to work on a specific work action item. You can utilize time blocking for standard items (e.g., studying for Biology class, going to the gym, watching Game of Thrones), or you can use time blocking for
    ad-hoc type needs, such as the example I provided. Creating and sticking to time blocks allow you to design and execute your schedule with focus in mind.
  4. Secure an accountability partner or groupTo ensure you are staying aligned with your goals and using your time wisely, an accountability partner or group can support you, keep you honest, help you back up when you struggle, and cheer you on as you reach your goals. Consider a trial period for accountability with someone and see if it proves beneficial for you. I have goals and meet with a group once a week and provide an update and get feedback when I get stuck, which has been helpful to keeping me on track and is providing me with valuable support and encouragement along the way.
  5. Take a break!While it may feel like you are making real progress by going full steam ahead 24×7, it will lead to burn out and is dangerous. Don’t do it! Make sure to give yourself permission to take a break. It may be a small break, such as getting up and moving to another place in the house, walking with a friend or your pup, or, watching your favorite movie or television show; or a larger break, like volunteering for a day or taking a well-deserved vacation. Don’t let yourself get carried away with this “break” time though, as you still have work to do. It is a matter of finding the right balance, where you are making progress, yet also taking time for yourself.

Which of these tips have you already used? What was the outcome?

 

Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on May 11, 2016