Every Sunday, I phone family and friends to chat and catch up on their lives. Connecting to loved ones on Sundays is challenging. If weather permits, they are outdoors. Some are attending church, others doing errands or weeding the garden. So I leave messages and try later. You would think calling folks on a week night would make more sense.
Last night I sank into my reading chair and opened a murder mystery classic: The Butcher Boy by Thomas Perry. This is Perry’s first novel and one that earned him many accolades and awards. The book has an introduction by Michael Connelly, another master of the mystery genre. One statement Connelly made in his introduction stuck in my brain as good advice to us blog-writers. Connelly lauded the craftsmanship of Perry’s writing by stating: “Writing comes from experience, curiosity and knowledge.”
Sometimes a casual conversation makes me stop and scratch my head. This happened to me the other day as I chatted with a colleague and friend. She was telling me how she had returned to school to earn a Master’s degree. What gave me pause was that I had heard the same update from another friend just the day before. Both of these individuals are senior level professionals, comfortable with their current situation, not looking for advancement or career change.
I had a client meeting the other day and stopped by a Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee. Grab? More like queue up and shuffle. The place was mobbed and due to the complexity of some of the beverage orders (!) it took me nearly 15 minutes to get my humble cuppa joe.
No one wants to be micro-managed. No manager wants to be dubbed a micro-manager. So if this term is universally considered a bad appellation, why do we have so many examples of this poor management practice in our workplaces? The biggest problem with this thing we call micro-management is that it exists in the mind of the beholder. The appropriate level of guidance and supervision is relative, not absolute. For one person, weekly check-ins with the boss is great, for another, it feels like oppressive interference.
Slow down. Breathe. Think. Relax. Keep repeating these words from now until year end. December is for many of us, the most challenging time of the year. December has what I call, the Trifecta of Trauma. First, the Center for Disease Control announces that the flu season has officially started. Second, the colder weather forces us indoors, windows shut, sharing germs. Third, year-end brings unrealistic expectation both at work and at home.
Last night I attended a fascinating program put on by the DC Chapter of ASTD (American Society for Training and Development. The program was titled, EducaTED and was structured similar to the famous TED Talks. A new spin on the old talking panel, we heard from 5 guest speakers, 3 of them physically present and 2 remotely engaged via video conferencing. Each speaker was given 10 minutes to share his/her thoughts on learning and development. The brief presentation was not a data dump on current research but a very personal talk about their own values and beliefs around developing self and others.
Last week I had a mental meltdown getting a cup of coffee. I was at a client’s office, in their kitchen, searching for a needed cuppa joe. What I found was one of those one-cup systems that made me choose from a vast array of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and something called “chai” which I thought was a furry plant from the 80’s. I went into brain lock and had to be rescued by a buddy who said: “Just pick one. They all taste the same anyway like lousy instant coffee.”
I am constantly confronted and confounded by what I have dubbed “The Cult of Choice.” I don’t know when this started but it seems like every simple life act requires endless nuanced decisions.
The end of the year is slowly creeping up on me. I find myself enchanted by the beauty of fall leaves, blissfully thinking these balmy days of sunshine and color will last forever. Yet year end and holiday madness lurk on the horizon, waiting to pounce once Halloween is over.
October and November are the time to gear up to deep dive into uber-time and priority management. No other season of the year puts such pressures on us. The business side bombards us with year-end goals, quarterly number targets, budget submissions and the dreaded annual performance reviews. The personal side has families, friends, entertaining and more.
By Alice Waagen, PhD
Over the years, my goals have provided focus and direction to my management training business.
For instance, last July, I wrote in my newsletter about attending Penland School of Crafts for a two-week drawing course. Entitled, The Benefits of Taking a Break, it struck a chord with many of my colleagues, who called after reading it.