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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Welcome to the working week..."

"...I know it don't thrill ya, I hope it won't kill ya"
- Elvis Costello
(This is the theme song for the 6-8 AM Monday show on the ultimate volunteer radio station in the Volunteer State, WEVL 89.9 FM, Memphis)

I didn't have time to get this together on Monday, but for some of us it seems like the workweek is a much more fluid concept nowadays, so a roundup of work-themed posts is appropriate any time.

Back this summer, I wrote about my son's entry into the post-college work world. But since most parents have learned that their kids will listen to advice from anyone else before they hear it from us, I've found "An X-er's Career Advice for Generation Y." Here are a few of the things she has to say:
Try to understand the perspective of older workers
Believe, me, what I’m saying here is NOT to just blindly accept views that limit change and improvement. But to move your employers beyond “but this is how we do it” kinds of thinking, you have to understand where those limits may be coming from...

Be patient, learn to read others and speak their language
...By observing and understanding human nature as much as you do today’s technologies, you’ll learn to help those who are fearful make subtle changes little by little. You’ll learn to help renew those with burnout, inspire those who dream like you, and support those who struggle with new things. These soft skills will get you farther than anything else you’ll learn on the job.

Don’t settle for less than you deserve.
More than any other generation of workers that came before your time, you know how important it is to have a fulfilling, rewarding career that also lets you live the rest of your life...That doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay your dues. We all do. Each and every job will have its boring tasks and rough times. Every company has the rungs on the ladder you may need to climb to get where you need to be. But over time, you’ll learn to distinguish between what is acceptable and what just doesn’t work for you...Go as far as you can in terms of getting the rewards you want out of work – whatever they are for you – while you still have range of motion. We can make career changes at any point in our lives, but they are much easier when you’re not yet saddled with a mortgage or other hefty bills and a family to support. Stretch your wings while you still have room.

Develop work habits that support having a life now.
...Technology has given us the flexibility to work from anywhere. That means we CAN have the freedom to work from home, a coffee shop, even the beach. With the right employer, it gives us the freedom to schedule work around life, instead of vice versa. But it can also create an expectation that we WILL be accessible anytime and anywhere. If you want technology to improve your quality of life instead of hampering it, you need to get into the practice of managing this expectation early - and that includes not becoming a slave to your cell phone.
Ask A Manager presents "7 Ways Interviewing is Like Dating." I've used that analogy myself, and I think these items are particularly important:
2. Give the impression that you're choosy. Whether or not you're targeting multiple companies (or dates), it's important to give the impression that you're at least somewhat deliberative or choosy and not just taking the first thing that comes along.
3. Make your interest personal, not generic. Ask questions and express a genuine interest. Your interviewer wants to feel you want this job, not a job.
5. Remember to ask if you like them, not just if they like you. In both dating and job-hunting, sometimes people get so hung up on getting the job offer (or the next date) that they forget to assess whether it's even compatible with what they want.
(This is one I've noticed that people don't seem to stress nearly enough, and when they don't, they give up some of their control in the process.)
And from the "management" track again, KathyHowe (of the awesome Work It, Mom blogger team, who merit a love letter and thank-you all their own) found this list of "101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders." As is often the case with lists of this type, there aren't really 101 different rules. Some are restated a few times in different words and contexts, some are redundant, and some are seemingly contradictory, but there's some good stuff here that's applicable to much more than management at work. Here's a sampling, with commentary:

11. Only promise what you can realistically deliver. Don't create deadlines that you know you can't meet. By only promising what you know you can do, you'll be able to finish on time. You're also less likely to disappoint others - and yourself.
14. Delegate tasks. Spread work among your employees in a way that doesn't leave anyone overburdened while also allowing the project work smoothly.
19. Make sure expectations are clear. Be sure that each member of your team knows what their specific responsibilities are. This will save time and prevent tasks from being overlooked.
20. Create a plan. Compile your goals and milestones into a comprehensive plan for attacking any project you are given. This way, you can make sure you're staying on schedule and that all of your employees will be clear about how and when things should be done. Substitute "family" or "team" for employees, and this is relevant for all sorts of projects.

*21. Don't make your employees come in on days they're normally not scheduled to work or call them while they're on vacation. A surefire way to make employees resent you is to invade their personal time for non pressing work. Unless you have something that absolutely has to be done, let time away from work stay that way.* This correlates with #97 - and again, avoid cell-phone abuse.
24. Don't micromanage. While it's fine to keep up with what your employees are working on, don't constantly look over their shoulders. *This goes with #41.
26. Don't interfere with employees' work. If your employees are getting work done, don't stress about how it gets done. Even if it's not being done they way you'd do it, it's best to let employees use their best judgment. Again, switch "family" for "employees" in these two items, and many couples could handle their stress over domestic tasks much more effectively. Unless someone really doesn't know how to do what you want done, just let them get it done - and while they're at it, you can do something else.

34. Accept responsibility. Part of being the boss is accepting responsibility for the mistakes of all that you manage, not just your own. That's the not-fun part.
38. Instruct rather than order. You may be the boss, but you don't have to be bossy. You'll have more success if your requests are more tactfully delivered. This goes with #96.
39. Include your staff in your plans. Don't make your work top secret; let your employees know what's going on and how they are expected to contribute. (I had a boss like that - so glad I don't anymore, which is why I like this "rule.")
40. Know your subordinates' jobs. You don't want to be caught with inferior job knowledge. *This correlates with #94. The tricky part is not falling into doing their jobs, but they do respect and cooperate much more when they know you know what they do and how they do it.
41. Be flexible. It's fine to be firm in what you expect, but allow for flexibility in how it gets done. *See #24.

43. Know your limitations. You can't be everywhere doing everything all at once. Know the limits of your time and abilities and say no to things you know you can't do. This one's for all the "guilty" working moms...
49. Do only what is necessary. There are times when going above and beyond works, but doing so on a daily basis can derail your progress on more important issues. Get the key things done first, then see if you have time for additional things. And so is this one!

75. Don't be afraid to say you don't know. It's OK not to know the answer to every question. It's better to say you don't know and get back to (someone) than to try to bluff your way through a conversation and have to backtrack later. I used to be afraid of this one, but I have finally learned that "knowledge" is one thing, and "intelligence" is another. If you have the intelligence, you can acquire the knowledge.

79. Identify the positives. Even the most negative changes can have positive aspects to them. Being able to identify and maximize them can help make adapting less painful.
80. Be quick to adapt. Learn to adapt to changing situations quickly and be able to change plans on the spur of the moment if the situation requires it.

85. Fix what's broken. Don't waste time placing blame. Take care of fixing the problem before dealing with any possible repercussions. Too many fingers pointing means too few hands are doing anything about the situation.
91. Don't ignore problems.
A small problem can easily snowball and become something much more difficult to fix.

93. Lead by example. You can talk until you're blue in the face, but the best way to get a point across is to be the model to emulate. Let employees follow your lead. This goes with #94, and #40.
94. Get your hands dirty. Sometimes you need to show your employees that no one's above doing unattractive tasks. See #40.
96. Gain your employees' trust and respect. You'll have a much easier time managing employees when they respect your rules and boundaries and trust your leadership. This goes with #38.
97. Be empathetic to personal problems. Whether it should or not, what happens outside of work can have a big affect on the quality of work produced. Be sensitive if employees have personal issues that keep them from concentrating on work. It's not like there's anyone alive who hasn't been there...

When I was working at the zoo, I participated in a training class called "MORE - Managing Our Relationships Effectively." That's what it comes down to, I think - at work, at home, and in our communities - and that's where the "common sense" in this list comes into play. "Managing relationships" shouldn't imply "manipulating other people;" it's learning and using "people skills," and treating others decently - as we'd want to be treated - to get things done effectively and pleasantly, which sounds like a very common-sense outcome to me.

And returning to Generation Y for a minute, this post talks about the desire to do something "risky" on the career front:
Safe for me is a cushy, decent job that pays well. Safe is making a steady paycheck that will cover my student loans, rent and living expenses with a small amount left over to put in the bank. Safe is having the spending money to eat out on Tuesday, go to happy hour on Thursday and buy a couple of rounds at the bar on Saturday.

Safe sounds really fun. So why do I find it so boring?

I have an intense desire to know what it's like to scrounge for a month’s rent. I want to know what it’s like to say I can’t afford to eat out tonight, and really mean it. I truly do believe that living like this builds character, and everyone should probably experience it at some point.

But more importantly, I want to know that every action I take can result in my success or my failure.

Well, sir, maybe if you hadn't moved back in with your parents after college, you might be able to have that character-building experience right now.

3 comments:

  1. Yowee! Great stuff here, Florinda!

    Yeah, I thought that was a funny post over at Brazen Careerist about risk-taking. But I think they do mean to be provoking because it encourages comments.

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  2. Working Girl - Thanks! It ended up being a pretty long post, but I kept finding more stuff that fit in with the theme and didn't want to split it up. Maybe we'll talk about some of these things again over at your place. :-)

    I think that "provoking" thing applies to a lot of Brazen Careerist posts - but since this was by "Mr. Responsible," I couldn't let it pass.

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  3. Tee hee. Still, he's finding his way. . . . .

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