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…

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!

A Reason to Embrace Feedback

Embracing

I remember the day I received the first draft of a portion of my dissertation’s first chapter back from my mentor. While I have never considered myself a superb writer, I thought my writing had improved throughout my undergraduate and graduate coursework. I still remember reading through my mentor’s marks and comments and experiencing a heaviness within my chest. She and I had a call to discuss a few days later and I remember hanging up from that call and sobbing. A million thoughts of “I’m not good enough” and “What the #@!% am I doing in this program?” were going through my head during that time.

The last time I had that feeling in an academic setting was during my undergrad from a professor grading my literature review papers. Even more recent was when an attorney in the organization I worked provided feedback on a contract I was helping to negotiate with a client. Across all these scenarios, that heaviness that settled in my chest – what I thought was a hit to my ego – was really a way in which that professor, attorney, and my dissertation mentor were helping me to learn and grow.

There was something about that tough love that stung. What was most beneficial for me though, is that I didn’t let it keep me down. It would have been easy to get frustrated and let anger take hold. What would that have solved though? I would have only hurt myself and regressed versus improving, advancing and possibly doing something amazing.

Throughout the three years that I had the opportunity to work with my dissertation mentor, she made a comment early on that I didn’t realize the meaning of at the time. She told me that she would know I was becoming a scholar practitioner when I started to disagree with her. There was many a time that I accepted her track changes and responded with yes, agree, or understandwhen we talked during that first year. It wasn’t until I was deeper into my research and became even more passionate about the process and my work, that I became the expert in my work and my topic. At that point, I wasn’t afraid to disagree or debate with her because I knew that I knew my stuff.

Don’t take feedback for granted. It is not meant to tear you down, but to challenge you, build you up, and strengthen your abilities. It took me over 300 drafts of my dissertation to prepare it for publication. Being open to the feedback and helped me to learn, grow, and become the successful person I am today.

When have you received difficult feedback, but later realized it was beneficial?

 

Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on April 5, 2016

Meeting Mayhem: How to Control an Out of Hand Attendee List

MeetingOverloadpic

Just because an individual receives an invitation to a meeting does not mean they must attend. The lines seem to have blurred between the ‘required’ line in a meeting invite and the ‘cc’ or ‘fyi’ line – often times more so for attendees themselves than for the meeting organizers.
Three questions to ponder here:

1. Why is this?

2. How do we fix this?

3. What if we don’t fix it?

There are some individuals that believe their attendance at meetings equals their importance in the organization. Their “visual” presence, whether via in person, on the virtual presentation screen, as a caller in the conference line, etc. reminds people that they exist. They exist and are a part of the organization.

Take a step back and consider how many of the individuals in your last meeting actually spoke.

Problem-Solving Personnel
Not to say that speaking equals importance, rather think about those who really contributed to the core issue being discussed. Those individuals who really knew what they were talking about and had the knowledge needed to solve the problem.

Awesome Administratives
Now, think about which of the individuals in that meeting needed to hear the problem-solving as it was happening – play by play. These may be individuals that fit into the first category, or maybe these are employees in training and learning the process, or those that are facilitating or taking notes for those in the first category (the latter being the administrative roles of meetings).

Results-Driven Radicals
Did the individuals above need to hear the process of solving the issue at hand, or did they instead really only need to know the final decision? Often times, managers, unless there are issues or conflicts during the problem solving process, will be presented with recommendations or decisions made by the team as a result of the meeting — after the meeting has taken place.

Lonely Lingerers
Lastly, there are often lingerers, or individuals that have asked to be invited, barged in, or were not sure if they should decline or not (maybe those people that feel that, if they are invited, they need to go to the meeting). Basically, you don’t know why they are there, and often, they don’t really know either.

 

Now, take a look at the attendees at a meeting you recently attended where you or others thought maybe it was a bit too jam packed. Go through the attendee list and break out those individuals into the 4 categories above. How many people are eliminated because they fell into one of the last 2 buckets?

 

If you walked through the above exercise and are in a land of meeting overload, you are probably thinking holy schnikeys!
So, how do we fix this? Here are a few hard and fast tips to help provide clarity in these situations:

 

  • Think about this — the meeting organizer is the gatekeeper. That person typically determines who is or can be included in the invitation for a particular meeting. That person needs to strongly consider the four types of meeting attendees, and ensure that only problem-solving personnel and amazing administratives are included on the invite list. The meeting organizer may not always be popular as a result of this, but imagine ALL the time and energy it will save those who do not really need to be there in the first place!

 

  • Do not use ‘cc’ or ‘fyi’ on meetings, as those individuals falling into these categories may feel a need to come anyway (lonely lingerers), or not understand what their role is in the process. Instead, if there are other people that you do not need in the meeting, but want to ensure are informed of meeting results (primarily the results-driven radicals), tell them you will include them in on the meeting notes.

 

  • If you want to ensure results-driven radicals know a meeting will happen, send them a brief note to let them know beforehand, while also including that “no need to attend the meeting, as meeting notes will be sent afterwards.” If escalations or approvals are needed as a result of discussion within the meeting, that should be assigned to the appropriate individual within the meeting to take away.

 

  • Are you a results-driven radical or a lonely lingerer that has been invited to a meeting you know you don’t really need to attend? It’s your responsibility to ensure the meeting organizer is aware of your role and your need, if one exists (e.g., if you need meeting notes, in order to see recommendations, impacts, and/or decisioning made). If you are in one of these categories and NOT pushing back, you are only failing your team and wasting your own precious time.

 

Here is the issue with not fixing this growing problem. First, the problem will continue to swell and the number of meetings needed to attempt to fix a problem will multiply immensely. Second, consider the pure number of man hours being WASTED by not fixing this growing issue. We already waste on average 1 hour of time per day, but that number is significantly understated if we consider the number of meetings people attend on a DAILY basis that do not directly impact them, or that they cannot get the results of afterwards.

 

It is up to meeting organizers take action when results-driven radicals and lonely lingerers attempt to creep into the invite list. It is also the meeting attendee’s responsibility to ensure they are only attending meetings where they fall into the problem-solving personnel or amazing administratives roles for a specific meeting. If not, get the hell off the meeting invite and use that time wisely!

 

Action Planning 101

Have you ever developed an action plan?
journey

An action plan can be compared to developing a road map to meet the goals of a person or organization. Individuals or groups use action plans to help further detail the process to implementing their goals.

 

If an action plan is developed at the on-set of a project or a year, and never looked at again, they are not useful. It is important that an action plan is reviewed and updated on a regular basis after its initial design. Reviewing and making updates serves as a method of accountability, ensuring that the person or people involved in the actions noted within the plan stay on task.

 

There are many instances when an action plan is beneficial. Here are a few examples:

  • An individual may develop an action plan to break out their fitness goals and align them with specifics tasks, time frames, and methods to stay accountable.
  • A business owner may use an action plan to determine the path to meeting or exceeding forecasted results and/or improved productivity.
  • Managers and their teams in a corporate environment may use action plans to detail next steps as a result of employee feedback in an annual survey.

 

When developing an action plan, it is important to include the who, what, when, and how for each task.

  • Who represents the person(s) responsible for a specified task. If the action plan is for an individual, the who is likely to be that person, whereas if the action plan is for a team, one or more individuals within the team would be assigned to each task.
  • What is a detailed description of what tasks need completed to reach the goal. Identify several tasks that will need completed in order to reach the larger goals. These can easily be organized with the use of bullet points within your action plan.
  • When represents the time frame in which assigned who will complete thejourney2 action plan item. Time frames should be set realistically, and have a clear start and/or stop date. Using the time frame of ‘ongoing’ is not helpful to implementing the task, as there is no indication when the action will begin or end. If unsure of whether there is a specific end date, include an evaluation date in the place of an end date. This will allow the individual or group to take a look at the task to evaluate its effectiveness at that point, and determine whether to continue or end the specific action.
  • How is the specifics of what will be done to carry out the specified task. Consider whether help is needed from other individuals or teams to complete the task? Will the assigned who need to request access, sign up for membership somewhere, or reach out to a person or organization, to help complete the task?


Considering developing an action plan to take your goals from
words on a paper to actions in real-life?

 

Free Stuff

 

FREE Action Plan Template

FREE 12-minute Action Plan instructional video

 

 

 

 

Prioritization is Key

People have used to-do lists for many years, whether on a piece of paper or electronically (I am really enjoying the Asana app right now)! While to-do lists are helpful, they can get out of hand quickly. What I mean by this is that the number of items on your list has the ability to grow exponentially. All control goes out the window and anxiety creeps in as your list(s) grow longer by the minute, hour, or day.

Prioritization aligns tasks in an orderly fashion, helping the list maker determine the appropriate order in which each item needs completed. With people holding numerous roles and taking on more depending on the day, prioritization is critical to achieving success. Without it, everything is considered equal, and each item has the potential to be both important and urgent.

To ensure I maintain my sanity, I have had to learn the art of saying “no” to some opportunities that come my way. Setting goals and prioritizing has helped me rid myself of the guilt that used to come with saying no. There have also been times when I have said no to something I would enjoy, because it would not be worth the expense of throwing off my current balance.

prioritizeBelow are a few exercises you might consider to help prioritize all that you have to do.

  • Stoplight Game: The stoplight approach is where you look at all that you are doing and drop those tasks into 3 distinct buckets: (1) what I can stop doing; (2) what can I do less of; and (3) what can I start doing? This is a helpful exercise for individuals and teams. Once you develop your goals, this exercise becomes even more helpful, as you align what you are doing to your goals and begin to see value-add and non value-add tasks appear, making it a bit easier to see what falls into each of the three buckets.

 

  • ABCs and 123s: In a planner or notebook, write down all of the items that you need to do for the day. Next to them, write A, B, or C based on how high of a priority they are (A is highest priority, B is next highest, etc.). From there, prioritize your A items by adding 1, 2, 3, and then move and apply the same to the B items, etc. Now, you are able to work from A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. to complete your action items. For some individuals, this exercise may be overwhelming, whereas it may be the perfect match for someone that is extremely detail oriented.

 

  • Top 3: In the morning, write down the top 3 action items you need to accomplish during the day. If nothing else, you need to get those items completed. One consideration is to ensure your items are not HUGE tasks, but reasonable to complete during the day. Keep this list near you throughout the day as a reminder of what your focus should be. A friend of mine uses post-it notes for this approach and puts them on the wall in front of her work station.

 

What other approaches do you use, or have you used, to help prioritize all that is on your plate? 

BTSW Job Search Do’s and Don’ts

 

Job Search Do’s and Don’ts   

brought to you by Beyond the Stone Wall Coaching
www.btswcoaching.com

jobsearchimageWhat TO DO…

  • Make sure that there is good information available via a Google search on your name (bad results are not good and no results are not necessarily good either)
  • Be cautious of what you are posting on social media applications such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Instagram
  • Realize that you may find a job opportunity when you least expect it (so be prepared)
  • Keep your résumé and cover letter as up-to-date as possible so there is less work once you find a position you’re interested in applying
  • Look at skills of interest in the position posting and prepare examples of when you have exhibited behaviors related to those skills
  • Realize that skills are transferable. If you are posting for a job in a different industry, sell how your skills can transfer despite a change in what product or service is being provided
  • Ask prior managers, co-workers, volunteer leaders, etc. if they will serve as references for you to list on a job application
  • Conduct informational interviews – consider doing these even before a position becomes open as it may elevate your chances once an opportunity becomes available
  • Do a mock interview run through with someone prior to the interview day
  • Take time to review your résumé and cover letter, ensuring that they fit the job you are posting. You will not necessarily use the same standard résumé for every job posting.
  • Research the organization and/or team you are applying for a position
  • Consider what you would do in your first 30, 60, 90 days in the position – develop a skeleton outline of tasks that you might initiate. Check out my blog post about 30 60 90 Day Plans.

 

What NOT TO DO…

  • Include a photo of yourself on your résumé
  • Trash talk prior company or managers in your interview
  • Dress inappropriately
  • Include hobbies that would not apply to the job or skills needed for the job in which you are posting
  • Dress sloppy for an interview
  • Chew gum, take your cell phone into, or fidget during an interview
  • Post for any job – make sure the jobs you are posting for are those that you are qualified, or near qualified
  • Interrupt the interviewer(s)
  • Go into an interview unprepared
  • Forget to shower the morning of your interview – or after a workout, if your interview is in the afternoon!
  • Burn bridges – you never know who may be your next manager or co-worker

 

Visit btswcoaching.com and become a part of the
Beyond the Stone Wall FaceBook group to learn more!

 

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Connections

Over the past month, I have had an opportunity to meet and connect with some A-M-A-Z-I-N-G individuals. This is all a result of my coaching business or by connecting with others via social media. Here is some insight and links to some of the great people I have had the chance to interact with further:

team-84827_1280 (1)

Cynthia Bazin, founder of SmartChic and the SmartChic Inner Circle, as well as the SmartChic Inner Circle members. Being a member of this community of awesome women has strengthened me tremendously and given me support and encouragement to get some great feedback and try new things (www.smartchic.me)

Gail Foley, a fellow member of the SmartChic Inner Circle, who has a radio podcast called “One Awesome Community” providing insight and resources for women entrepreneurs (www.oneawesomecommunity.com)

Lisa Kosak, a fellow member of the SmartChic Inner Circle, who recently started working for a company headquartered in Ohio. We had the opportunity to meet for dinner and have had similar experiences, have similar interests, and enjoyed great conversation!  Lisa hosts the Green Thumb Leadership blog (http://www.greenthumbleadership.com/)

Stephanie Jo Johnson, a fellow member of the SmartChic Inner Circle, who recently launched her eBook “40 Days of Inspiration” to provide support and guidance for women moving past divorce (http://www.stephaniejojohnson.com/)

Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence, helping authors and thought leaders to grow their online presence and promote their books (www.weavinginfluence.com)

Maria McGraw, a long-time friend and JamBerry Nails consultant, using her profits to pay for her two daughters’ braces (http://fabuloushomemanicures.jamberrynails.net/profile/)

Students at Shasta College, by request of Dr. June Covington, to talk about my journey to becoming an entrepreneur and moving on after school

Dan Forbes, (@danvforbes) host of the ever-amazing #leadwithgiants TweetChat. I recommended a chat on the topic of virtual leadership and Dan was game! He worked with me to develop the best set of questions to use and the chat was a success! (www.leadwithgiants.com)

Grove City Chamber of Commerce and its members, as I had the honor to present as one of the monthly Table Talk lunch and learn series presenters this month, providing insight on “The Power of Connecting” (www.gcchamber.org)

Jen Polk and Maren Wood, who are coordinating the 2nd Annual Beyond the Professoriate Virtual Conference (#beyondprof), for providing me an opportunity to present this year. Excited at the opportunity to meet so many other PhDs (and PhD candidates) at the conference coming up in May! (www.beyondprof.com)

 

Here are some additional great resources that I learned about along the way:

system-71228_1280Lewis Howes, a former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur who has a radio podcast called “The School of Greatness.” I have listened to a few of Lewis’ podcast interviews with authors, researchers, etc., and also attending a free virtual training session on developing and launching webinars as part of your business (http://lewishowes.com/)

Sarah Hart, who is, simply put, a creative genius. I attended her free virtual training session on creating an eBook and learned about the Canva application (where I am now developing my own eBook). Thank you to Stephanie Jo Johnson for the shared post on FaceBook regarding Sarah’s free webinar. (http://www.sarahhart.ca/)