Sunday, September 26, 2010

Listening to People's Stories

A few stories I heard today:

Connor's House (
Today I went to donate blood at a nearby church where my brother (and his wife) used to attend worship. It was interesting that I gave blood on the same day I took communion. Think about it.

The person organizing the drive told me about her son who had died at 8 years old (in 2007) and so she started a ministry called - They have these blood drives and also have a book sale to raise funds for books at hospitals so that children have books to read. It was a sad story about her son and all the time he spent in the hospital and all the care he needed at home, but I could see how God is using the family to help others. She told me she has a dream to have a house where these families can have a respite.

World War Two Veteran
The other story is one about our neighbor. He is an elderly Jewish man who has lived with his wife in this neighborhood for 50+ years. We neighbors around help them out with work around the yard and with shoveling snow in the winter and such. He stops over from time to time to talk. We were talking today while Ruth and I were cleaning the cars. He's been sick lately. He's loosing weight and the doctors are trying to find out why. His adult son is very ill and not able to care for himself. I listened to his story and offered to pray for him. We stopped and I prayed. After we were done, he said "Thanks. The last time someone personally prayed for me was in the war." He reminded me of the story of how his B-24 crew flew one weekend and it was the first time of all their missions that he did not fly with them. On Saturday night while returning to base from town he said there was a somber mood. He found out that 11 planes were lost that day and one was his crew. Then there was the part of the story I hadn't heard before. He told how he had to gather their belongings and pack them. He related how the feelings of guilt were a heavy load. It was around that time that Passover was occurring which he observed. The day after Passover that year was Easter. He said that a man brought him into the chapel and asked him to sit in the back and told him he didn't have to do anything, they would take care of it. That man then went to the front and prayed for him and the others.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it?
How many people just need to tell us their stories? How many people need us to just listen? How many people just need us to take the time to stop and pray with them right then and there?

What are your thoughts? Do you have a story to share? Please leave a comment. And, feel free to click on the link on my website to subscribe to email updates from my blog.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I was recently talking to the people I manage about how they need to help their project manager to keep the "Monkeys" of his back.
Help get the Monkeys Off your manager's back
This idea of "monkeys on the manager's back" comes from an article published by Harvard Business Review. It is one of their most requested reprints.
The article talks about tasks as "monkeys." The manager is trying to get the Monkeys off his back and onto the backs of those who work for him. Some people who work for him might try to get him involved again (like by asking him to review their work, or asking him for guidance) which puts the monkey back on the manager's back.
A helpful worker will try to keep the monkeys off of the manager's back.
The GROW Model:
We have this GROW Model of Coaching that stands for "Goal, Reality, Options, What Will you do." The GROW Model says we can tackle issues by first looking at the Goal, then looking at reality (what are the issues?), then listing the Options (what different things could be done to tackle this issue?), and then deciding What Will I do (which option is the one I propose to take). I've used a similar technique for years to encourage people who report to me to provide me with solutions (rather than problems) and their recommended path to solve the issues. If you put yourself in the position of your manger, wouldn't you want people to come to you with solution options and a recommended path?
The Freedom Ladder:
We also have this concept of the Freedom Ladder. The idea is that you need to take on more responsibility to get tasks done and be more independent. At the bottom of the ladder we have a worker who waits for instructions. The next "rung" of the ladder is a worker who asks for work. Then we progress to the next level where we have a worker who Recommends a solution and then acts on it (see the GROW Model above). The next level on the ladder is a worker who acts (does the work) and then advises the manager what was done. The top level is someone who just acts! Put yourself in your manager's "shoes" and think about which type of worker you would want working for you.
It applies to email too!
I explained to this person I was coaching how these concepts also apply to email. Some people copy their manager just to show that they're getting work done, or to give the manager a FYI (For Your Information). But, managers already get so much email. One idea that I use is to think about what it's like to be my manager getting copied on my email. Does he want to receive email about this now, or would he rather that I wait until it's resolved and then get a copy of the last email in the thread so he can see the solution and closure? Or, does he need to even see this at all?
Another help for my manager: spreading around my questions
I learned a few years ago that I don't always have to go to my manager for help. I can ask others to help. By spreading around my questions, I am able to interrupt my manager less often. It also helps to make sure that my manager is not a "bottle neck" where everything needs to go through him.
But, keep in mind "balance" in all things
We also have to remember that all these things are not "hard and fast" rules that must be followed all the time. Sometimes it makes sense for all involved to ask the manager for assistance. A good example is an issue the manager can solve in 5 minutes, but if you were to go to others, or figure it out on your own, it might take hours of your time and the time of others. Clearly, in this case, it would be best to just ask your manager.
What have you found to help your manager?
Please comment or recommend this article to others. I'd like to hear how you've found ways to help your manager.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Why of Work : Book discussion with author Robert Ulrich

I was just listening in to a Book discussion on "The Why of Work" with author Robert Ulrich today. Here are my notes:

Team Work is more important than having star players
In research done by the authors, it was found that for all Academy of the Arts best movies, only 15% of the time were the actors/actresses in those movies also awarded best actor/actress for the same movie. The same is true for sports teams: It was found that teams that won the ultimate season game(s) only in 15% of the cases did they have the best players.
So, team work is very important!

High Performing Teams focus on these aspects

1) Clear and Common purpose/objectives
Call it vision, goals, purpose, objectives, or whatever, but it must be clear and common.

Ask your team members to jot down the answer to "What are we trying to accomplish" and see if you have agreement. If not, clarify it!

2) Governance
How well do we work together? Are people on time to meetings? Are people "present" (or distracted)? Do we make good decisions? Is everyone involved/engaged?

Discuss issues with the above questions.
Discuss if it people are "present" or distracted? Does it matter? Why is it happening? How can we improve?
Ask a question at the beginning of the meeting: e.g. everyone jot down 2 things we've been successful at (or to answer some question/issue). Call on a random first person to speak, then when that person is done, they choose the next person.

3) Relationship
Do we care about each other? We don't need to be best friends, but there should be some caring. There should be some knowledge of people's personal lives. Face conflict. The discussion "in the room" should be the same as "out of the room." Acknowledge people's worth.

Ask team members to write down the strengths of each of the other team members, then pass the answers around.
Everyone share a success
Everyone share a failure
Have team members share what hobby they have and how it relates to the way they like to work (e.g. I am detail oriented, I like to interject humor...)
Team leader can tell each team member why they were brought onto the team
Perform a physical task that is unrelated to the work (e.g. Habitat for Humanity on a Saturday)

4) Learning
Teams increase their effectiveness by learning and developing

Ask what has worked well and not well in past 30 days
After Action Review: Conduct a "lessons learned" to see what was done well (or not so well) and how it can be improved on

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Movies we've enjoyed watching

I was thinking the other day that I should post on my blog about the movies we've watched that we've enjoyed. Today at the prayer breakfast, somehow we got on the topic of good movies. So, maybe it's time to post now.

Keep in mind that we're not into watching violence or such, so these will be pretty tame movies by most people's standards. I don't think you'll see any "R" rated movies on my list (expect maybe the "Passion of the Christ," but even that's a tough one).

I'll start with a few recent ones we've watched and revisit this topic later.

We hope you'll find this list helpful.
Please post a comment to let us know about movies you've enjoyed.