Archive for July, 2009

Activity, Efforts or Outcomes

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

A recently released report on successful government leaders [] lists several characteristics, one of which is “outcome oriented.” Leaders happen at every level of the organization- formal and informally.  As we diligently work to do the best we can, we also need to ask the question, “So What?”  This is one of the most powerful questions to help us see the impact of our toil.  It can bring us back from the frustration and chaos to focus on what’s important. “Is what I’m doing making a difference?”

Does compiling the number of people who attend a training class matter? Yes, if it is for compliance records.  But why does that record keeping matter? What is important is how the people use the skills and knowledge gained from the training. How do your specific programs and activities contribute to the overall, higher-level societal expectations?

Leaders with a results-oriented focus represents a fundamental shift in the way the public sector does business—a fundamental shift in the nature of think­ing, acting, and managing that moves away from a focus on process and regulations to a focus on out­comes and results. []

We need to understand the ‘why’, the purpose for the activity, and what end result is truly expected. Placing these in context of the mission of the organization, not just the statement-in-the-wall, but connecting with the deep core values of the people in the organization is a true leadership characteristic.

Thinking of Retirement?

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Is retirement an option for you? Are you facing a decision due to mandatory or an early retirement offer from your employer? Have you reached that milestone point in terms of tenure or age?

“Retirement” is really a word only used in financial terms now – you are eligible by either age or time in your job/profession.   Whenever people adamantly say, I’m retired, I don’t do anything.”  I generally find they are doing the things they always wanted to do. But because they aren’t getting paid for it, they call it “nothing.”

Most people don’t think this is a tough question.  They are enthusiastically counting the days and minutes to the moment they can walk out the door the last time. For others of us, we are absorbed with our work. It has become who we are both as a person and as a professional and what we want to do with our days. Leaving the job would be like cutting off oxygen. “I really like what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else.” We have become comfortable with the structure, people and challenges the work setting provides.  We don’t know what we would do without these.

Many people begin “encore” careers, or develop creative interests through writing, painting, music, etc., or generously volunteer to help others. Starting a new business after age 60 is common.

Many organizations are offering more flexibility to prevent the brain drain that the boomers are believed to be creating.  Reduced hours, part-time status or contracting back to the company for a project or for mentoring others are common.

Not an “Elevator Speech”

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

You meet someone at a social event or are introduced by a mutual friend and they ask “What do you do?” The next time they ask, “What do you do?,” try giving them some information they can personally relate to, and that will help them remember your name. If you feel good and proud of what you do, your expertise, your experience and the contributions you are making, talk about it. Let your enthusiasm show.

If you don’t feel good or proud of what you do, talk about what you’d like to be doing. Like this: “I’m working as a budget analyst learning the food distribution policies. I hope to move into a policy making role to help us find way to eat safe and healthy food.”

Are you your title? Or are you serving in that capacity or role? You title is significant to your organizations, and perhaps your industry. Beyond that, many titles don’t translate the same. A title generally denotes rank, status or level of responsibility. A Director in one organization may be a Board position, while at another it is the Manager of a specific area.  An Analyst makes very different contributions depending on their employer. So don’t hide behind, or stand on your title pedestal. People are generally more interested in the types of activities, challenges and successes you’ve had.  What kind of problems do you tackle and/or solve?  Say something that will intrigue them. Take into account the type of setting you are in and anything potentially in common – such as the person making the introduction.

At a professional meeting:

“As a Life Coach, I help people find their personal charisma.”

“As a Procurement Analyst, I help my company get the best contracts for our IT needs.”

“I help my co-workers get the software they need to help their clients avoid personal bankruptcy.”

It’s a conversation, not a pitch.  Be curious about the other person by asking. “What do you do?“

Fluency with Change

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Because change is so pervasive, resiliency is critical to success in all aspects of our lives.  Fluency with change is the ability to be at ease or have a sense of confidence in dealing with ambiguous situations.  It is the ability to respond to annoying things like deadlines, software changes, traffic delays – and major changes such as job, family, or health issues. Change is both voluntary and involuntary.  Its the latter that is often the harder to manage.

What gets in our way of effectively managing change? Our own expectation of how things ‘should’ be is challenged by what is really happening.  We may agree there is a problem to resolve, but disagree with the solution.  Or, when good things happen, we may feel guilty, as if we don’t deserve them.

3 Tips for Developing Your Fluency with Change:

1. Take stock –  Dealing with change, or not,  is a matter of choice. It is choosing to be accountable to yourself for your own reactions, in both personal and professional development.  We often cannot see how we undermine ourselves by our beliefs.

Create your own list of major things that happened or that you created in your life over the last year.  These can be the “good” changes as well as disappointments or losses. Note how you initially responded to the change.  How did you feel?  What did you think? What did you say, to whom?  What did you do? How do you feel about the way you handled it? What would you do differently?

2. Revisit your Sense of Purpose and Perspective – Clearly define “why” you do your work. Remember the stonecutter who made square blocks of marble day after day?  When asked how he tolerated such a boring job, he replied, “I’m not just making square blocks.” He pointed across the field and continued, “I’m building that cathedral over there.” There are many resources to help people discover their mission or purpose in life.  Your organization’s original mission can be a good place to start.

Re-new your commitment to your personal and/or organization’s mission. Then when you experience set-backs or other changes, you’ll have a stronger perspective to deal with the change.

3. Personal/Professional NetworksPeople don’t tend to keep up their network when they haven’t had to look for a job.  Your network is not just a safety net in bad times.  It’s a mutual exchange of ideas, support and connecting people as resources for each other. The most resilient people have a variety of personal and organizational relationships.

Jump-start your network by listing people you can depend on in times of need.  Now choose a name and think about what you can do for them today!

5 Ways to Make Your Way

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

In her “How to Deal” column, Lily Garcia lists 5 great ways to get ahead without going the management route.  Too many times when we do great work, we get “rewarded” by being promoted to supervisor or manager.  When dealing with the people aspects of managing we need a very different skill set in addition to how we manage the work. And it isn’t the right path for everyone.  Both individuals and organizations are developing non-linear career paths to best use our talents and interests.  Read Lily’s column: There Are Plenty of Ways to Shine, Even on the Bottom of the Totem Pole

Introducing Ahull Unfurled

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

In sailing, lying ahull is a controversial method of weathering a storm, by downing all sails, battening the hatches and locking the tiller. The boat is allowed to drift freely, completely at the mercy of the storm. Ahull is also my first initial and last name. Thus, after too many years at the dock, I am launching this ship into the wilds of the blogosphere. However, the winds have unfettered these sails and we shall see where it blows us.

For the past 11 years I’ve had a consulting and training company in the Washington, DC area. The focus is on helping people enjoy their work through effective change and career management. We provide consulting and training on the whole employee life-cycle, from on-boarding through career and performance development, retirement and beyond.

Check out the website at

Organizations are People and Practices

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

How many times have we used the royal “They” to refer to the management or executives higher than us in the organization? Or referred to “them”- the regulatory forces that demand compliance. “They” are the reason, the excuses, or the problem. Organizations are entities made up of individual People; mere mortals like you and I (ok, some are smarter, kinder or meaner) and they do what they have learned to do. Their Practices are the habits they’ve acquired and the processes, systems or procedures that they have created to get things done. In the most effective organizations, where people like to work, it’s about claiming the common dream, knowing what needs to done and the accountability to accomplish the goals. So, next time you toss the ball to “them,” remember that in all the bureaucracy are individual people with all our talents, flaws and virtues.

more at

Timing is Everything

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Readiness is what I’m thinking here. There are times we just aren’t in the right frame of mind to accept a new idea, or anything different that the current thinking.  Sometimes we are ready.  This hold true for asking for a raise,  more budget, time off,  as well as creating a subsidiary, initiating a merger and taking on large scale projects.  We handle change in our personal ways.  I help people understand how to get ready for change and manage it at an organizational level as well as the personal level.