There is a quiet revolution going on in many educational institutions that may not be known by workplace employees wanting to get qualifications or update old ones. Traditionally, tertiary education has been delivered in the main in face to face classes or distance learning – with text books and course material arriving through the mail. Yet for many years now, new courses have been developed and existing ones redeveloped for online learning – for certificate, diploma and degree qualifications. A feature of online learning is that the course content and additional reading material is embedded within the course material; the course material is developed especially for the online environment; and studies can be done at any time during the day or night in the privacy of your own home or workplace. If the thought of travelling across town in peak traffic to attend classes doesn't do it for you and you are comfortable with technology, explore online learning options. In New Zealand, TANZ – the Tertiary Accord of New Zealand – has been at the forefront of this development – http://www.tanz.ac.nz/
I shouldn't be surprised at some of the things I hear but I still am, even after fifteen years as a personal management trainer. The one issue that gets me, every time, is hearing managers who have inherited poor performers with a known, longstanding history of poor performance. The core issue, which is startling, is knowing that a long line of managers have chosen not to deal with a serious problem and ignored it in the hope it will go away or miraculously right itself. What does it tell you about the skills and competencies of those previous managers? What does it tell you about the soundness of the organisation's performance appraisal systems? What does it tell you about the organisational culture that tolerates and endorses poor performance? I despair sometimes, I really do.
Some women and men seem to have a natural flair and style in their dress sense. It seems they could go out in a sack cloth and ashes and still manage to look fantastic. Yet, there are the rest of us poor creatures who struggle with colour, style, coordination and overall look, and never quite get the look we want for ourselves. For those of us who do struggle, it is an unpleasant feeling if our roles require us to look smart and professional and we're uncertain if we are on the right track. Help is available and it is an investment well worth making. Professional advisors can do our colours, advise on best styles according to body shapes and sense of self, advise on hair styles and accessories, clean out our wardrobes and take us shopping. Peace of mind can be quickly had with this level of support. If you're based in Christchurch, New Zealand and want help, look at http://www.enhancelife.co.nz/ and see what can be done.
How much time have you spent thinking about your working life? I don't mean the daily thoughts about whether it was a good day or not, but quality time spent reflecting on the roles you've had; the things you really enjoy doing; the tasks that don't interest you or want to be doing any more; the ideal conditions that enable you to be your very best; the things you're passionate about? If you haven't done this for a while, do so. Check whether you heart is in what you do; whether elements in your working world make your heart sing or sink; whether you are thriving or dying inside. And if you know deep down what you are doing doesn't do it for you anymore, then do something about it. You owe it to yourself to do so.
An interesting looking book for those who feel their days are filled with drudgery and not great work, is "Find Your Great Work – napkin sized solutions to stop the busywork and start the work that matters". The author is Michael Bungay Stanier and if you go to http://www.greatworkmovie.com/ you'll get a sense of the key points within the book.
A great quote about change crossed my desk this week and it's so natty, it needs to be shared: "It is not the strongest that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change." Charles Darwin.
With the hectic pace of most places, it's easy for managers to spend their days with back to back meetings, dealing with floods of emails, coaching and supporting staff, and fighting fires. It's easy to get into doing mode and spend little dedicated time in thinking mode – as in, doing nothing else but thinking about the business, section or department; the long term goals, the short term implementation plans etc. Thinking time is just as important as time spent on planning, organising, controlling, leading and staffing yet, we tend not to factor it in. When was the last time you spent uninterrupted chunks of quality time, simply thinking about the business or your own management practises or the way your management team operates?
I've been reminded of late that when people have a major crisis in their lives i.e. dealing with a health scare, their focus immediately turns to dealing with the crisis. All other things in their lives drop away and take on less significance, because on the scheme of things in relation to the crisis, they're minors. So why is it then, in so many organisations facing a crisis or serious issues, the managers react so slowly as if the issues aren't that serious or they have all the time in the world, to ponder upon it? If serious issues and these challenging economic times don't wake managers up to problems within their organisation that can't be ignored, what would?
Have you ever noticed how some people get stuck into a negative spiral and stay stuck in it? I often listen to employees complain about their workplace, their managers, their colleagues, their wages and life in general yet never move beyond complaining. Learned helplessness is a label for being stuck and believing you have no power to do anything about the situation. Yet, for many issues we complain about, we can do something about them. For example, if we don't like our job we can look for another one; if we feel the people we work for are intolerable, we can see if we can change our attitude towards them, we can talk to them about the issues of concern, find some ways of adapting to the reality, that may improve the situation, or find another job. It is important to realise that in most situations, we can have some control over them and that taking small steps to change things, is better than taking no steps at all. Learned helplessness can be a perpetual frame of mind yet it doesn't need to be. Issues can be reframed so the positives and opportunities can be seen and actioned upon.
I love the phrase "you can't build a reputation on what you're planning to do". I've had reason to recall it recently as I've dealt with some shoddy workmanship in my office. It amuses me to see companies say in their advertising material how they are customer focused, take pride in their work etc, etc and send invoices saying how much they appreciate your business, yet fail to adequately monitor the work being done and encourage, by various means, staff to do only a good enough job – in other words, establish a high tolerance to low or average work and turn a blind eye to poor work. It only takes a few actions to quickly damage credibility and reputations (personally and organisationally) yet a very long time to build them up.