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Bedoor Bluemoon

Everyday writing to expose the soul

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Work

Can We Measure Common Sense?

hanging file

You meet many different types of people at work who lack the skill set to perform, but in my opinion, many things can be taught and learned with the correct performance appraisals, coaching, mentoring, and showing them the way.  The problem is when it comes to common sense: how can it be measured and how can you actually hire and then fire someone with the reason “lacks common sense?”

Firstly, what is common sense?  In the minds of managers, common sense is the way the employee conducts him/herself by abiding by the rules of logic set by the manager.  This is where the mix up starts.  Managers expect their employees to have the commonsense that is equal to theirs.  The problem is, human beings’ common senses is a compilation of their cultural background, personalities, logic, and database of experiences.  How can managers expect their employees to have the same common sense if they have been born, raised, and worked in a different environment?

A simple example is when a manager, without being too stereotypical, was a star baseball player calls in his employees and asks them for a “home run.”  One of his employees who just came in from the middle east, for example, wouldn’t necessarily understand what is meant by his figure of speech and asks.  The manager would immediately think that the employee lacks the common sense because, come on, who doesn’t understand this simple reference to baseball.  No, things don’t necessarily translate well between languages or cultures.  The differences in words describing the same item are clear in multicultural and diversified workplaces in such an evident manner that employees may start joking around without realizing that language barriers in addition to cultural barriers are causing communication gaps.

Common sense is the tacit knowledge a person acquires throughout his years: they include cultural norms and background, personal and professional experiences, personality traits, and all other outside factors that affect the person’s judgment.

To work in a diversified company, employees must understand that their definition of common sense is not easily transferable to other employees; different cultures have a different definition of common sense.  Even though many things can get lost in translation, it’s the misunderstanding that can cause harm in the organization’s harmony.  Many companies either give out a handbook or conduct an induction training for employees to inform them what is considered right and what is wrong in the company and how to conduct oneself.  The trick here is to be able to adapt quickly to the organization’s culture and common sense; should this be considered organizational behavior?

Some companies have the norm of working extra hours without being paid overtime.  Now, a female employee who has other responsibilities at home, would be glad to work for eight hours but as soon as the clock strikes five and she starts going out of the door, her colleagues look at her funny.  It’s the organization’s culture.  She’s not doing anything wrong but they are pressuring her to stay for longer hours just to be part of the accepted group.  Then all the bickering starts about how she leaves at five and doesn’t work hard enough.

Now to my story.

I cannot say that our company is vastly diversified but there are just some things that, I believe, should be considered common sense.  In my studies when discussing the difference in generations at work, it is commonly stated that generation Y employees are very keen on the environment and making a stand to what they believe.  I liked that concept since I took part in many beach clean ups and extinct species reports when I was younger.  And of course, throughout my childhood, I was expected to care for paper: to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

In comes the Gen-Y secretary.

I had some employee files I wanted to file away in the archives and thought that I could ask her to do so.  It’s not that I asked her to do something terribly difficult because she was the person who opened the archive files in the first place and arranged them as she saw correct.  Thus, she was using HER common sense when filing.  I give her seven to ten hanging files (as seen above in the image), some of which are perfectly new and some of which needed to be thrown out ages ago.  Thinking that she has the common sense to distinguish the difference, I did not think of giving her any extra details in my request.

A few days later, I call her up and ask about the employee files:

Me: where are the employee files?

Secretary: I filed them in the box files

Me: no the actual hanging files

Secretary: huh?

Me: the green files

Secretary: I threw them

Me: What?

Secretary: I threw them

Me: can you come up please?

In this instance, I think there is some kind of misunderstanding.  My brain could not get around the idea that she threw away the hanging files.  She comes up and I show her one of the files as a sample.  She repeats that she threw them out.  The million dollar question here is why?  Why did you throw them?

Secretary: (Silence)

Me: They were perfectly new files

Secretary: (silence).

Me: (still in shock and disbelief) did anyone teach you anything about trees and how this is all a waste?!

Secretary: silence

Phone rings, I pick it up and it’s another manager

Me: Please come and explain to Ms. X about the importance of recycling.  (throw my hands up in submission and ask her to go out).

MORAL OF THE STORY: when giving out directions, be very specific because people can’t read your mind.

Should businesses around the world have a universal language or common sense?  Are there already established rules and regulations when it comes to working with businesses from other countries especially with the emergence of e-commerce?

Is there really a big gap in common sense between people from different countries with social networking?  If music is global, books are global, movies are global is the youth in the USA living differently than the youth in Japan?  Being people of the world instead of being associated to one country diminishes some differences in culture (and thus common sense) so youth can easily understand what their counterparts mean when they bring up that amazing hit song of their time.

Are people all required to live a certain way to be accepted and whose culture is the accepted alpha-culture?  What about religion and other taboos that take a big part in some people’s lives, are they supposed to be left at home?  People are made up of their past experiences and thus cannot be requested to leave who they are.  But in terms of working in multicultural environments, the personal common sense must be set aside (or in the back of the minds) and the overall business common sense be ruling.

But does this lack of diversity in a multicultural environment hinder creativity and encourage group thinking?  Aren’t the best companies those who question all processes and procedures and nurture people’s differences?

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I wonder… if pilots have performance appraisals would it include “reduce the amount of turbulence by 70%” and “make sure to speak eloquently in the microphone so passengers can understand?”

cockpit-1

The Dark Side of Leadership

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There are many studies today that show the difference between a “boss” and a “leader.”  What we see portrayed is the fact that being a boss is a bad thing whereas being a leader is a good thing.  A leader is always portrayed as someone who is willing to take part in the tasks, shows his followers how to do things (versus just ordering them into doing them), and the cheerleader for the team.  What is not portrayed much is the dark side of leadership.

People are not machines.  They contain many emotions, biases, and predispositions.  So when a person is given the role of a leader, it does not make them immediately correct in everything they say and do.  The problem is, many leaders think that with their new roles and duties, they are suddenly invincible.  So how can we make sure not to get sucked into being the next Hitler?  How can we make sure that we have followers who are continuously questioning our thinking and making us grow instead of stay in one place?  The human’s natural thirst for power and drunkenness can make it a sweet sweet place to be but, if you are in a position where you are not questioned, then only you can question yourself.

The Johari Window as seen below illustrates our relationships with others and ourselves.  A quick explanation of the 4 windows:

 

johari-model

1-  Arena:  Things that are known to you and known to others.  These are the obvious traits that people see and that you identify as part of yourself

2- Facade: Things that are known to you but not known to others; they are covered by a mask (or a facade) of other traits

3- Blind spot:  Things that people see but you don’t see in yourself.  Now, many people are probably thinking of their bosses and laughing now.  Don’t forget that this is about you, not your bosses.

4-  Unknown:  Traits that neither you nor others know.  This may seem evident later on and could be a good surprise.

The whole purpose of knowing that there is a blind spot is to accept that you can get to know yourself better.  360 degree performance evaluations could help shine light on this blind spot, making it smaller.  In the end, don’t we want to get to know ourselves better?

The first step towards change is the willingness to change.  Do we really accept and want to take part in getting to know ourselves or are we too scared to see what is hidden?  Joseph Conrad’s final judgment in The Heart of Darkness was “the horror, the horror”. Are we too scared to face the horror that lives within?

Now, this is a quick list of some difficult leaders just to make sure if you are of one type or are dealing with one:

1- The micro-manager:  This is pretty straight forward.  The micro manager makes sure to oversee every single little minute detail of every single little minute project.  Why?  Because they are probably egotistical perfectionists who think no-one can do the job the way they want it to be done.  Now, imagine if your mother micro managed you while you were getting your homework done.  Would you have learned anything?  No.  What better way to teach people than to allow them to experience and make mistakes.  To all micro managers out there:  you are giving yourself a hard time and over complicating your job.  Learn to delegate and overlook variances in the outcome your subordinates submit.  Try to be a “teacher” and teach.

A few years ago, I had a specific method of filing, hole punching, and stapling papers.  In my micro-managerial mind, it didn’t take a scientist to know that all papers had to gently folded in the middle to ensure that the hole punch is correct.  The staple had to be on the top left side almost 1/4 of an inch from the top.  I never talked about it to my assistant and one beautiful morning, I was presented with a bunch of papers with the staple in the top middle.  WHY?  How am I supposed to read the document?  Can you imagine?  If you can’t please go ahead and staple some papers and give me your feedback.  What I learned from this is (no, I will not overlook this very important matter) during the interviews I ask the candidate to demonstrate how to punch and staple some papers together.  Win-win situation!

2- The procrastinator:  A manager who will do things eventually.  This, my dear friends, could be a blessing in disguise.  How so?  You don’t need to do anything and when your manager asks, throw the ball in their court and wait for a decision that will never be made.  I’m not a procrastinator so I don’t have any anecdote to serve as an example.  In my opinion, get things done in advance, try to stick to a schedule, and meet with your manager regularly to get your next task assigned.  Make sure that you are doing your job because, who knows, maybe you will end up being promoted into your manager’s job!

3- The idiot:  Honestly this could just be your point of view.  Some managers get promoted for a variety of reasons, most could be office politics.  You could be working for someone who seemingly doesn’t know what’s going on but this can also be played to your advantage.  Befriend your manager and maybe, just maybe, you could find out what qualities he has.  Don’t look too hard, sometimes there’s nothing inside. Hello!

4- The dictator: The basic dictator who likes to do things his own way.  Hopefully you are not being asked to do something wrong or illegal but when someone really cares about the job, that’s when it hurts.  What’s worse is when the dictator is also an idiot.  Ah, this, my friend, is an indicator to look for another job because in the end, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.

5- The abuser: the abuser needs to know that it’s not alright to abuse.  Chandler’s boss in the clip below is using his power as a manager to praise his employees in a not so polite way.  Yes, it seems funny but this is a manager who has crossed over to the dark side of leadership.  You  are given the power but you are not supposed to abuse it.

chandler

Friends- Chandler and his boss

Now, normal people with emotions and feelings and with limited years of experience could be put in a situation where their temper could spiral out of control.  For example, a very nice manager I know was in a disciplinary meeting with a few employees trying to figure out something about someone (she doesn’t even remember what the meeting was about).  She was getting opposing facts, people pointing fingers at one another, and sheer chaos.  After listening patiently for ten minutes (patience isn’t one of her strengths) she decided to pass out warning letters to everyone just to flex her muscles.  Now she’s not a very big person and her employees were older men and women so they probably saw her as an “idiot”.  She quickly and angrily jotted down the points on a piece of paper and asked them to sign them.  The first two employees signed without saying anything and the third just refused.  He just said no and started to walk away.  We have a saying in Arabic that means if you can’t reach something with your hand, reach for it with your leg.  No hand nor foot would have reached the employee quick enough, and to our surprise, a quick throw of the pencil hit him on his leg.  No he wasn’t hurt but seriously, it is NOT ALRIGHT TO THROW PENCILS AT YOUR EMPLOYEES!

Being leaders come with great responsibility.  Try to get to know yourself better, be open to criticism, obtain an open door policy, get to know your own strengths and weaknesses, try to grow your knowledge.  Being a leader is not a ticket to make people run your errands nor is it a way to start your own cult for the sake of your ego.  Do not be sucked into the dark side of leadership.

Stamp Of Approval

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The man gets out of bed in the morning, gets into the shower, gets dressed, grabs breakfast, and gets himself to work. On the way, he wakes up from his sleep and realizes that he was operating on auto-pilot for the first hour in his day which makes him chuckle. He hates his morning routine and wishes sometimes that he didn’t have to get home every night. He would never operate without his senses at work, he doesn’t want to! A big grin spreads across his face as he looks forward to getting into the office and grabbing these never-ending problems by the horns! He recalls the difficult decisions he has to make and his heart skips a beat, excitement rushes through his veins as he accelerates the car trying to get to work faster.

 
Are you cringing yet? Sounds very suspicious to normal people and you know why? Because no such job exists!

 
HR professionals and psychologists have been working on trying to make jobs more interesting and enriching but are still facing issues with the human psyche. Motivation theories and job specifications are constantly changing and turning into market trends which still flop. Dealing with (Baby boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y employees in the workforce) forces us to mix and match them around, imagining boundaries that actually don’t exist and forecasting problems before they happen just to give ourselves something to do. And in the end, studying the overall organizational behavior in midst of globalization and the employees’ cultural background just forces us to lose sleep… And what for? To be able to run our organizations better.

 
Are we overthinking?

 
When I had to finish my two month internship for my degree, it was a well known fact that training in a governmental ministry is the best option for us. Now why is that? Well, it’s less work, a secure job, and good pension. You can’t get fired from a governmental job and you don’t really have to do much anyway. It’s not like you’re expected to.

 
Very interesting, I thought.

 
Well, my internship was in a private stocks/bonds company and I later chose to deny their employment offer and work in a family business (for that story, click on best decision ever). I had to deal with governmental agencies to get many papers done and, with time, I realized that employees in governmental agencies were slacking off.

 
It was a shock to my naivety.

 
Yes, it’s a generalization to say that governmental employees would get to work, have breakfast (in one office thereby leaving their offices), they would chatter about last night’s episodes and anything else worth talking about such as the stock of new clothes one of them got from Thailand and has to market, burn some incense, complain about their colleague who took a sick day off for the fifth time this week, then get a few papers done, go for prayers, have a tea break in one of the offices (thereby leaving their offices again ignoring all frustrated visitors and callers who have been calling all day), get back to their offices, act busy while calling their friends from the office phone, and finally getting ready to go. Yes, I believe that many private sector employees sees this is how a government employee spends his day.

 
Now I am an optimist and there happened to be some changes back in the early 2000s which segregated some functions which were under ministries to new governmental agencies; these were focused on specific tasks such as the labor market regulatory agency (LMRA), and the national health regulatory agency (NHRA). They were new, fresh, and had websites which actually worked and call centers which answered your calls! There is always light in the end of the tunnel.

 
Fast forward to Tuesday January 26, 2016. Our company needs to get the approval from the NHRA to enter some stocks into the country. Although the rules are new so we have to explain to our suppliers why and since when we needed quality assurance papers, we still try to be good citizens and just get the paperwork done. So by 9:30 we reach the NHRA offices with fear and terror in our eyes, praying that we forgot nothing.

 

We are greeted (by greeted I mean looked at as a living creature) by the receptionist who receives the paperwork without as much as a smile. Maybe it’s Botox. She requests samples of the products which we don’t have. We apologize for wasting her highness’s time and run away to a distant location to call the office and ask them to arrange the samples NOW! We wait, seeing people come and go: some are disappointed, others are more disappointed, only one gets through. We sigh wondering if we could be so lucky.

 
We receive the samples and get back to the receptionist who has a problem with smiling. We approach carefully, treading lightly and hoping. We give her the samples. It’s 10:40, she says,’come back tomorrow we cannot give you the stamp of approval today.’

 
‘Why?’ I ask, forgetting where I am. She looks at me like I was Oliver Twist asking for more food.

 
‘We only stamp from 9:00 to 10:30.’

 
Do you, my dear reader, understand what I am saying? They only stamp from 9:00- 10:30 am. The rest of the day there is no stamping done. None whatsoever. Maybe they staple for the next 1 1/2 hours, then next they hole punch. So what really happens to the stamp? Does it get tired? Is that why there is no more stamping after 10:30? Is it religious or can I question it?

 
Based on the stamping rule and the stamping rule only, we need to go back tomorrow and hope it’s within the stamping time.
Jumping through hoops for no reason whatsoever for an approval stamp. Do the HR know what they’re doing and is it specified in the job description?  Are we in the private sectors really overthinking our job?

 
Human Resources, you’re doing it wrong.  Stamping, you’re doing it right.

You Are Not Your Job

batman

TV shows have a large impact on social life especially when it runs for more than a few years.  Hanging out in coffee shops became popular after the TV show Friends and ladies jumped into Rachel’s (Jennifer Anniston) haircut from season two.  Recently, many TV shows are related to doctors and so instead of Rachel’s beautiful shag we see men and women wearing their lab coats out in public.

The first question I would like to ask is why are you wearing the lab coat?  Don’t hospitals offer you lockers?  Do you go out of the house wearing them and keep them on?  It is such a predicament to me that I cannot accept it.  Now this was my opinion when I saw the doctors (residents, trainees, I’m not sure if someone just bought a lab coat to fit in) in Starbucks.  Fine, doctors need coffee too and I would really appreciate a doctor high on caffeine; plus it’s a great place to sit and chat and study.  The thing is, a few days ago I saw three women in lab coats walking in the mall!  Now that is a new level of crazy.

Trying to think as a person working in HR and not a cynic, I thought that maybe these women were proud to be doctors and are ready to jump in whenever needed.  Similarly, Bat Man walks around in his cape too.  Therefore, they identify themselves as heroes and have high employee engagement.  Now going back to TV, I’ve seen many movies when an accident occurs (specifically in air planes), the stewardess would shout “Is there a doctor here?” and a man a few seats back would say, “yes, I’m a doctor, give me some space.”  And the action would continue.  This man is usually not wearing a lab coat.  Thus, lesson number one: you do not need to wear your lab coat to be a doctor.

When we are introduced to someone, a common question that comes up is “what do you do for a living?”  Sometimes the question isn’t asked and we immediately think of informing the new acquaintance of our profession.  Why is that?  This is where I’d like to say you are not your job.  The need to be identified with a career is making people concentrate on titles more than their actual growth in life.  Children don’t need to inform each other what they do, we don’t see a child say that he is a student because it doesn’t matter.  Does it really matter what you do for a living?  Yes. But is it the only thing that identifies who you are?  It shouldn’t be.

It’s true that we spend a big chunk of our adult life at work but we need to be reminded time and again that life is not work.  The concept “work-life balance” needs to be renamed since they are not different, it’s just a matter of time management.  Yes a part of who we are today is made up from what we do but it’s not the only thing.  For example, a working mother understands the importance of juggling the different aspects in her life and so her role in life is more varied and she can “log off” when she leaves work because there are other pressing matters to tackle.  The urge and desire to grow in our careers sometimes take our eyes away from the beauty of life, we are so preoccupied with the race that we are missing the scenery.

Life goes on, you don’t want to wake up and realize that you spent it at work.

There are Work life balance assessment tools that can be found on-line, this is the wheel of life with its different areas.  Even without taking the assessment, you can immediately see what you are dismissing, whether knowingly or not.

wheel-of-life-300x300 *Example of Wheel of Life

Another thing to consider when trying to manage your time is your priorities.  Identify your priorities in the Wheel and come to peace with your choices.  If you end up with Family and Friends having a low number and you are ok with that, then it’s fine.  There is no correct answer to how the wheel should look for it to function.  It should just work for you.  In addition, priorities change over time and you need to pay attention to these changes and change your life (and wheel) accordingly.

An interesting clip I found is Steven Covey’s First things first Youtube Clip which portrays time as a bowl.  The woman in this clip is asked to fill the bowl with business related issues but imagine trying to fit your bowl with all life aspects.  Time is limited and it’s what you do with your time that matters.  Follow your dreams, look where you are going, and be thankful for what you have.  You are not your job, you do not need to wear your lab coat everywhere because you are more than just what you do.  Find out what you like and pursue it, you only live once.

Hold your Horses- Reality Funnier than a Joke

 

When I was in elementary school, not a very long time ago, our English teacher was giving us a class on idioms and figurative speech.  For people who don’t remember, idioms are basically sayings that are used to express the meaning of the situation with a bit of drama and pizzazz.

That’s when we learned “it’s raining cats and dogs,” “the grass is always greener on the other side” and “it’s not my cup of tea.”  Interestingly, I thought that was the last time I’d come across idioms since, in the real world and specifically in the business world, there’s no place for idioms (or emoticons.)

I was wrong.

Imagine this: I was sitting in my office with my business hat on trying to follow up on a shipment that was delayed for no apparent reason.  So I, being very professional in my emails, started with a courtesy, asked nicely but firmly about the shipment, and ended with a nice closing.

A few minutes later, I get a reply that started with my name misspelled. (long pause)  This is not and never is a good start to any email.  A few lines into the email I come to a halt staring at the unimaginable words: (please hold your horses).

WHAT????

I was dumbfounded.  I could not believe that anyone would use such rude and unprofessional words in a business context. But what I did learn in this situation is if you want to catch someone off guard, use an idiom.

For reference, these a few:

1- It’s raining cats and dogs – can be used when a colleague you barely know brings up the weather to fill in the silence.  You can say, “it’s raining cats and dogs” if it is raining heavily but you could also say “it’s not raining cats and dogs”

2-“the grass is greener on the other side”- can be used when your boss is scolding you and you feel like you are getting fired.  Please note that you will probably get fired after this

3- It’s not my cup of tea- can also be used with your boss when he/she gives you work you are not comfortable doing or you just don’t want to do.  Please note that this is not good for your performance evaluation.  Alternatively, you can also use it when someone is asking about an actual cup of tea in the break room.  To do so, you need to position yourself in the break room and have a cup of tea near you but not directly in front of you.  Try to engage the person in a conversation regarding the item he/she is holding.  For instance, start with, “is this your sandwich?” then casually say while pointing to the cup “it’s not my cup of tea.”

4- Hold your horses- also hazardous but you could get away with it when talking to your fellow colleagues.

And finally

5- You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  DO NOT USE THIS.  THIS MAY BACKFIRE IN SO MANY WAYS!

Choose your words wisely, they can move mountains.

Know your Employees, Get Better Results

There are many ideas and theories regarding how to best motivate people in general and employees in specific.  Most managers remember the X, Y, and Z theories of management from back in college in addition to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which has been altered recently to add a new primitive and basic need: WIFI.  I have seen an image of the pyramid with ” battery” at the bottom but thought they were taking it a little too far.  To refresh your memory, Maslow stated that all people have the same needs which he then segregated to physiological, safety, esteem, and self actualization (as shown below).  It’s not a difficult concept but back in college, it was just a theory.

Maslow-hierarchy

When we finally got employed and for those of us who are fortunate to be deemed managers, we were given employees and told that we now have the role of motivating them.  So what we all did was go back to our textbooks and started researching “motivation.”

Through the process of trial and error, thinking that I was sometimes too lenient and sometimes too strict, and at other times thinking that I was not cut out for this job and introverts should stay away from life as it is, I came to realize that theories were put in place as tools to help us and as guidelines to set our course.  It has come to my attention that the employee I spend time talking and listening to is usually more motivated than another employee who I haven’t met with for a while.  Why is that?

Communication is key.  Knowing how the employee thinks and what he is looking for helps you, as a manager, identify what motivates him.  An employee who seems to look forward to going out in the weekends and spending time with friends would probably appreciate time off work or additional vacation days.  It doesn’t just rely on where that person is in his life, as in whether the employee is single or married, has kids, is thinking of retiring, and so forth, it also relies on the individual and his personal goals.

So let me give you a few pointers that could help:

1- When you have someone newly employed, talk to them.  Listen to their life story and try to understand what kind of person he/she is.  You will be surprised to know that most people lead a fairly similar life to you and usually have pretty clear goals.

2- Look at your employees, read their faces.  Employees are people who get affected by what goes on in their life.  They cannot just leave their problems at the door; it’s not possible, they are human.  Read their faces and find out what “happy” looks like and what “sad” or “disappointed” looks like.  You mostly need these two emotions to motivate.

3- Take cues from others.  When you hear that employee X is unhappy, he probably is unhappy.  Listen to people then try to find out if it’s true.

4- Listen to stories and try to make connections.  Many things happen around the office and when you hear that employee Y is a family man and loves his kids very much, consider that a point you can use to motivate him when needed.  So when employee Y does something good, maybe you can give him a gift voucher for a family dinner or offer to help with providing medical insurance for his pregnant wife to help with expenses:  something related to family.  More about this subject on my previous post Buying The Perfect Gift can be applied here.

5- Know your employees at a personal level without getting personal with them. This is very tricky because you don’t want to be mistaken as a friend but rather as a very nice boss.  A boss which they can talk to but who would not be invited over for birthday parties.  This is a very delicate balance where you need to be empathetic but not a pushover.  This could sometimes makes it hard to discipline but the key is to maintain their respect.

6- Do not over-complicate matters.  Some people just want and need money, others want time off, some want to be thanked in private, others want to be appreciated in public.  And of course, someone is out there to take over your job.  Your role is to know what the employee needs AT THAT TIME since needs constantly change.

Get to know your employees to be able to motivate them.  Everyone is different and people change over time.  Truly understand what makes them happy “tick” and what makes them sad “tock”  Talk to your employees: be their leader, be their coach.  Navigate them to succeed in their lives and you will get better results.

Best Decision Ever

Tough Decisions Ahead Road Sign

High school, for many of us, brings back memories. Some we may wish to remember and some we wish to forget. All in all, high school was and will always be a part of growing up. We went through ups and downs, we had our best friends who we thought would be there forever, and we had heart aches. Our biggest concern was our upcoming exam and our biggest dilemma was which university to apply for. It was a truly ambiguous and vital part of our lives.

Getting where I am today in my career had basically NOTHING to do with my high school decisions. How, how, and HOW do you expect a 17 year old to decide what they want to do for the rest of their life!!?? I would like to think that things happen for a reason and fate plays an important part in our lives so I am very grateful in where I stand today. Just to clue you in, my little group of besties were always discussing everything of no importance and nothing of significant importance. So when college applications were going out, no one spoke to the other about them because, well, they were important. I assumed I would have some input from my friends but when we got into the 12th grade I realized two were flying off to the U.S. and the third was flying off to Scotland. Hmm, this was the first time I realized that people planned their lives and I should start planning mine.

Aha moment.

I ended up going to the University of Bahrain because I thought studying in hell would prepare me for life and I was right. The mere registration process takes perseverance, patience, and strategic planning. We would walk around like headless chickens trying to get our papers signed, stamped, have seats added, just to go back and start all over again. Well, life in UOB was interesting, kinda like giving birth.

Two years into my bachelors degree, I am supposed to sign up for an internship in a company set up by someone-in-charge. I got an IT assistant position in a securities and investment company where the IT manager was a great mentor. The place was very laid back and professional and I finally got my first pay check. It was an amazing feeling and I thought to myself that I can now be independent and earn my own money. 💪 After the two month internship period, I got offered a job there and I was so excited. The only thing is that if I chose to accept the job I will have to change my studies into evening classes which means that I will graduate later.

At that time, graduating was a big deal and we rushed to register for more than 5 classes per sememster. You see, this was when we didn’t know that life has NOTHING to do with when you graduate, it’s the experience that makes a difference. I didn’t know what to do so I decided to discus it with my parents. I loved the work environment there but I got offered another job by my father. He offered to let me basically run his charity organization in my free time since I am willing to work. I had to decide and I was confused up to the day I was supposed to start work. I really didn’t know what to do, I had two options and couldn’t decide.

So that morning, I got into my car and drove. I reached an intersection, literally, and stopped at the red light. I had to make a decision. If I turn right, I would accept the job as an IT assistant and could later on become a broker and work with stocks and bonds. If I turn left, I would have to enter a new world of children with mental retardation, autism, Down’s syndrome, and cerebral palsy.

I stopped and thought.  This decision will shape me into the person I want to be.

Who do I want to be?

A year later, I was working hard in my office as a little boy popped his head in and gave me a big smile. Sayed Yousif, come here. I said. He walks in coyly and sits on one of the chairs like he does everyday during break time.  Best decision EVER.

The Importance of a List

to do

There are two types of people: people who like using lists, and people who think lists are useless.  I am a person who loves lists.  I love everything about lists: making lists, checking things off my list, and telling people that if you want to plan your life better you need a list.  I 100% believe that lists could save you 80% of your time when done and utilized correctly.

Now, I’m not a list guru, (I give that title to my sister who, without lists, could have lost her mind by now), but I can still give you some pointers on how I use this wonderful tool.

Before I do so, let me give you one exercise you can do which would shine the light on your time management skills.

I once attended a time planning training where the instructor told us that to be able to see where your time is wasted you need to make a schedule of what you are doing for a week.  So basically, you would write down 7:00 – 7:15 a.m. wake up, 7:15 – 8:00 a.m. shower, dress, and get ready, 8:00 – 8:15 a.m. have breakfast and check the news (I wish!!), 8:15 -8:50 a.m. commute to work, and so on.  Of course, we shouldn’t forget to include all those little things that waste our times such as (play candy crush) and (chat on Whatsapp) or (stalk ex-boyfriend on Facebook heeheheh).  So I thought to myself, what an amazing idea! I’ll just do that and eliminate all my wasted time.  After a few days, I started seeing a pattern in my schedule: I waste a lot of time using the phone and not enough time doing anything I love and find significant.  I chose to change my routine and make conscious decision.  So now, when I catch myself doing something wasteful I tell myself make conscious decisions.  I also tell myself Are you really hungry, or are you just bored? But I’ll get to that story another time.

Anyhow, this is the first step:

1- Start by identifying your biggest time wasters and make a conscious decision about changing them.  This would give you a good chunk of time for work.  Schedule in your coffee and lunch breaks and give yourself time to breathe.  When you have that done, look at the number of hours you can work in awe.  This is your canvas.

2- Take a piece of paper (yes I am old fashioned) and write TO DO as a title.  Underline it twice to show yourself that this is a very important document.  Now leave a few lines (basically press enter twice) and write number one.  You can put a dash or a dot, your choice.  Great, you’ve got it so far.

3- Write down the things you need to do everyday at work.  So if  you have to print a specific report, check the cash invoices, file yesterday’s papers, or make specific calls, write those down.  This is your first category: your daily tasks.   These will not change, they are a crucial part of your job description.

4-Next, write down the things you need to do today.  I prefer to have a To Do list done in advance but if you feel like you are living in chaos at work, start with a list.  Write the things that need to be done.  A weekly to do list gives you plenty of time to shuffle the tasks around.

5- At the end of each task, draw a small box that you can check.  Checking the box feels SO good, trust me.  Keep the box.

6- Start working according to your list.  Start with your daily tasks and go on.  How you choose which task to start is your decision.  Some people say you shouldn’t check your email before noon (or whatever golden hour they seem to have researched) but come on!  You can check your email without replying, right?  It’s not like you have the tendency to lose yourself in emails.

7- Review your list.  You can make a daily list or you can have a general list (for people like me who don’t seem to get much done everyday).  For people with projects that take longer, instead of writing (Finalize the report) you can instead write (work on report due on…..) and check the box when you work on it.  The way I review my list is rewrite the things I didn’t complete and totally scratch off things that are done.  This feels better than the little tick.

 

So why are lists important?  Well, lists display what you need to do that day.  They keep you focused on your goal when you feel like life is chaotic.  With lists, you make sure that you don’t forget to do that thing you keep forgetting.  So you will catch yourself less often wondering (what did my boss ask me to do on Monday?)  Lists also service as a cute little motivational pat on the back.  The little ticks show you that you’ve done something.  During those days when you can’t make yourself work and you feel like you’d rather be home in bed, lists offer you some items that CAN be done with minimum effort.  You can choose your tasks and still feel like you’ve achieved something.  Finally, lists are fun to have especially if you categorize them based on your workload.  If you have your list numbered well and you have a bunch of papers you need to go through, your list can be the (cover) of your file with each page numbered.  So item #1 on your list will be the first set of papers, item #2 the second set, and so forth.  This HELPS with people who have a lot of paperwork.

In the end, lists help save your time.  Make conscious decisions, write up a list, and eat because you’re hungry, not bored.  Oh, I’ll get to that another time.  Till then, happy listings.

 

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