End of year wind down a real wind up

I really don't like this time of year. The end of year wind down that so many people get into seems to start about October and I often hear "it's nearly the end of year so we'll leave whatever it is until the New Year". It winds me up a treat because the end of year is about eight weeks away by then and when people speak of the New Year, they're typically meaning mid to late January as it's the time of year when so many people take their annual leave and many workplaces are understaffed at that time. The long wind down time suggests that for some organisations, a business year with consistent effort and focus may only be about nine months long even though they think things are all go for twelve months. One way to minimise this annual aberration is to listen to what staff are saying about what they can or can't possibly do before the end of year and challenge their thinking and planning if it isn't in accord with what is required; another tactic is to have good planning processes and well documented action plans so that projects and business is usual is evenly spread throughout the year; another possibility is to develop annual plans that run from say, April – March each year instead of January – December, so that mentally staff grasp that Christmas Day and New Year day and the resultant statutory days are minor breaks from the usual routine and not an excuse to defer decision making or actioning things for months before hand. 

Definition of retirement scary and could be avoided

A dictionary definition of retirement means to give up or to go into seclusion. It suggests a withdrawal from life and the workplace. The notion of retirement is something that many people welcome so they can be free of work pressures and routine and free to pursue other interests. However some people begin their pre-retirement wind down and withdrawal while they are still employed and several years before their intended departure date. Some deliberately slow their work pace down, avoid doing tasks they don't believe in, disagree with any organisational change, mentally withdraw and say things like 'I've only got three years, four months, two days and six hours to go until I'm out of here'. The problem with this is that the employer is still paying the wages and should have the expectation that the employee will be fully engaged and productive until the day they leave. Another problem is that the employee may become widely known as dead wood and a liability and their colleagues eventually join in the count down too, until the employee leaves, because they're sick of carrying them. The employee in question typically doesn't know their reputation is poor nor may they be aware of the resentment their colleagues may feel at having to cover for them for years. Preparation for the next life stage needs to start early so the transition from full time to part time work or leaving the workplace altogether is planned. The preparation needs to start while the person is still actively engaged in their work and their departure needs to occur while they are still actively engaged and productive and have their reputations still intact.

Why do customers buy?

If you've ever wondered about the inner mechanics of a customer/consumer's mind when it comes to buying goods and services; and wondered at the inner mechanics of any seller's mind (any person selling goods or services) Sean D'Souza's book, The Brain Audit: Why Customers Buy (and Why They Don't), is a good starting point. It makes you think of problems and solutions in a whole new way. And it explains how easy it is to talk past each other, without realising it.

If problems ignored, look at belief systems

Known workplace problems are often ignored. This may occur because people responsible for dealing with them may believe if they ignore the problems, they'll go away on their own accord. Inevitably, they don't and they become entrenched. One reason people ignore issues is because deep down, they have the belief the problem(s) are too hard to tackle. The key to managing known problems is to change the belief system around them into something more realistic and appropriate: problems can be successfully dealt with, with the intention to eliminate them, time, appropriate support and expert guidance, where needed.

Age and technology may kick good people into touch

A guy I know who is a bundle of energy, has a super high work ethic, boundless enthusiasm, is fun to be with and he loves nothing more than working, dawn to dusk if necessary. He'd been successfully self employed for decades and when he relocated into another city, worked for an employer until the recession hit and the work dried up. When he recently applied for a role as truck driver in a large company, he passed the driving test and the interview with no problem at all – he was keen on the company, the company was keen on him. Then the interviewer asked him to complete a short online assessment and that was when the guy hit difficulties. He had few computer skills and panicked when asked to do it. The driving job didn't require computer skills or computer work so he told the interviewer he had little experience of computers, he didn't know how to do the assessment on line, he withdrew his application and left immediately. The applicant is young at heart and mind and is a vibrant 67 years old. The interviewer didn't offer the guy the opportunity to do the assessment in another way i.e. print it out, have him fill it in then process it; or sit with the guy, familiarise him with the assessment, the mouse and the arrow and guide him through the process without actually doing it for him. The company lost the opportunity to get a great employee because they assumed every applicant would be computer savvy and there was no plan B if someone wasn't. The interviewer was a generation X – a generation that is computer savvy – so where was the awareness that not everyone is, regardless of their age or generational band? The applicant has discovered that in today's world computer skills are expected for every role; the lack of these skills is a serious impediment to future employment and that regardless of one's age and stage, a focus on life long learning is a must.

What? Baby boomers, Gens X and Y want similar things?

Yes, it's true. Although there are certainly differences between the builders/matures, baby boomers and generations X and Y, there are some similarities: the desire for work/life balance and work flexibility; purposeful, meaningful work; being rewarded in ways that are personally meaningful; recognition for work/contribution; challenge and variety; being heard; the ability to make decisions and have the resources needed to do the work; connectedness, opportunities to learn and develop; a work environment that is pleasant and enjoyable; opportunities for coaching and mentoring; being treated respectfully by managers and colleagues. It's not too much to ask for, is it?

Personal progress – whose responsibility is it?

A quote that took my eye through the week is from Thomas Edison – "Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities for progress". In a workplace context, we need to know how much of our discontent or restlessness may be attributable to factors that are genuinely work-related and how much actually relates to ourselves. For example, our boredom with what we do; knowing we have outgrown our role; knowing we are fearful of change and leaving current job security. We need self awareness, we need to develop our emotional intelligence to register the stirrings of restlessness and discontent; and we need to act on those findings. It's our responsibility to do so.

Warp, normal or slow speed management responses?

Another post-Christchurch earthquake reflection triggered by reports in the media about the fast and timely speed at which some decisions were and continue to be made in the recovery mode, is simply this: an emergency situation galvanises people into action because time is of the essence. There is a lot at stake. Personnel are assembled, briefed and dispatched to do what they need to do. Issues are discussed, decisions made and actions happen soon after. Monitoring of the situation and the outcomes of decisions made is constant and adjustments quickly made, when needed. There is a sense of urgency; there is no time to waste. This is how it should be. Could we say the same intense focus, sense of urgency, timely action and monitoring of outcomes is evident in our workplaces on a daily basis, as a matter of course, in non-earthquake times?