Category Archives: Work Life

Fragmented Experience

I was recently at the Salesforce1 World Tour in Chicago (they had Buddy guy play, which was awesome) and they used this marketing term while discussing customer experience and a light bulb went on for me.  Fragmented experience – that got tucked away for future mulling.

DSC03817

Having spent a few years in customer service/care/experience (whatever the current lingo), I am sensitive to providing clear, accurate and timely information and assistance to customers in a cohesive manner.  As a consumer for even longer, I am well aware of how many companies fall far short of this goal and I have had way too many fragmented experiences from the customer perspective.

 

(ATT – take heed!  A couple of months ago I called them to ask a question and the automated message said to contact them through their website for faster service.  When I hung up and tried that, the website told me to call them.  Yes, really.  Maybe not a fragmented experience per se, but I thought for a minute that I was in one of Dante’s circles of hell.)

 

So, what is a fragmented experience?  Any time when you get only bits and pieces of what you are after using one method of contact and you have to expend a lot of effort to achieve your goal of all the information or service that you are after.  Too many companies seem to do this on purpose to make people give up, which often results in a disgruntled customer who is paying more than they probably should.

 

I probably shouldn’t single out ATT for my fragmented experiences, but that is the one that is coming to mind just at this moment.  I’m sure that I could gather plenty more with a quick poll of my friends.  Sadly.

 

Plenty of companies in recent years have ignored the percentage of their employees who felt disengaged because the company saw no compelling need to address the issue.   Some of the same companies have allowed fragmented customer experiences to be the norm because they knew inertia would allow them to retain a large portion of these disgruntled customers.  What if that starts to change?  What if younger, hungry companies start to show customers a truly better experience?

 

What is your most egregious fragmented experience?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Perception of Control

I feel compelled by circumstances to write on this topic.  In a short span I came across the following links that relate to the topic of control and our perception of our level of control:

3 Reasons You Can’t Climb Out of Your Financial Hole

TheRealMikeRowe on Facebook – 4/19/14 Saturday Mail Call

 

So if I start out this post about control saying that I feel compelled to do something, then who has control?  Well I do, because I didn’t have to pay attention to the forces that happened to bring these examples to me within minutes of each other.  But I am also aware of the influence and how it affects my behavior.  How many people live their lives with a high perception of a lack of control?

 

Too bad we can't have a time out spot like this nearby when we need it.

We can’t control the weather.

I learned early on that I operate better when I have structure, so I created structure when the situation didn’t provide it.  I see this as a gift of my melancholy.  I also learned that this awareness seems to be rare.  There is an assumption that control is held by others in many instances.

 

If we assume that the control is held by others, then we abdicate any control that we might hold in a given situation.  And it might be that the overall control is held by someone else – but there are almost always aspects of control that we might be able to hold if not wield.

 

The example that comes to mind is the jury that I sat on over 10 years ago.  (Fascinating experience – I highly recommend it, but found it hard to balance my life for those 5 days.)  The young man was on trial for murder because he drove the car in a drive by shooting.  Had he exerted control that night and not taken his crew for that ride, instead followed his original plans to go on a date, there is a high potential that none of us would have been there those January days.  Had his lawyers exerted some control and put up some sort of defense, he might not have been found guilty.

 

I could go on with that more extreme example.  There are plenty of examples every day.  Maybe someone regularly interrupts you at the office.  You could find a firm and suitable response that lets that person know you will find them when you are available instead of letting the interruptions continue.

 

I thought it was interesting that most of the comments that I read through on the financial article didn’t address the points of the article at all, rather unconsciously reinforced the first point that many people have a perception of lack of control over their own financial solutions.  Awareness of where you might take control, no matter how small, is a first step.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Loving What You Do

We are told in so many ways to choose to do something that we love to make our living. It has become almost a cliché.

 

“I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.”

~ George Burns

 

Is finding work that you love one of our modern myths?  It certainly can be tremendously helpful to feel positive about your work because we spend a great deal of our time working.  But plenty of people have found a way to be capable at work that is probably just a means to an end.

 

A garden is a work of love.  Hopefully these plants come back this year.

A garden is a work of love. Hopefully these plants come back this year.

Is it possible to excel at something that you hate enough to be successful doing it?  I’ve noticed in myself and those around me that we usually stay where we feel valued and we think that we can provide value to others.  That doesn’t mix with deep dislike in my book.

 

My first job was babysitting.  A pretty standard method of earning money for a girl back in the day – not as much now, I think.  It helped that I was the oldest girl on a block with plenty of kids.  I had a great career for a few years until the opportunities kind of drifted away as the kids got older and I got involved in high school activities.  I did love to babysit.  I miss spending time with kids.

 

Next I got into food service.  It was a relatively easy job to get without much experience, but not one that I was particularly good at because I just wanted to earn some money.  I also did not fit in particularly.  But food service jobs were available so I got one after another for a period of time.

 

A lot about the jobs that you get has to do with expediency, not love.  I probably would have been better suited to general office work but I had no clue how to obtain such a job.

 

Along the line, I took a brief stab at retail work in a small shop that sold natural remedies.  I do have an interest in the holistic approach and in natural remedies plus it didn’t hurt that a friend already worked there.  I’d tried to get retail jobs back before I got my first food service job, but no one was interested in a person without experience.  It was a means to earn some money while my life was in flux.

 

Eventually I got an office job.  I was a single mother in need of steady income and regular hours – so, highly determined that an office was a good choice.  That determination looked like confidence, which I had sorely lacked in my early forays into the working world.

 

I didn’t love office work, I loved my boys and wanted to find balance.  I wasn’t doing what I loved, but I did learn to love what I did because I found plenty of things to spark my curiosity.

 

Love what you do, do what you love, love why you work, love what you can do because you work to support yourself – there are plenty of options, I think.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Workday in Increments

5:49 am – Oh no, no, no.  I still have 11 minutes to sleep.  Shhh…

 

6:49 am – Breakfast done, half-way through my morning ablutions.  I want to make sure to have time for some extra stretching since my back is a little tight.

 

7:49 am – Nearly done with my morning commute.  Slow & steady is winning the race this morning, that guy who raced past me first chance he got is now back behind me as we merge.

 

8:49 am – Phone tag isn’t nearly as much fun as tag was as a kid.  Maybe he’s an email person.

 

9:49 am – Oops, almost forgot about my meeting at 10.  Do I have everything that I need?

agenda

10:49 am – After meeting catch up and if I’m lucky I can sketch out some of my to-do’s while they are still fresh in my head…

 

11:49 am – Come on lunch, I’m hungry.

 

12:49 pm – Next meeting coming up.

 

1:49 pm – I am not sleepy, I am not sleepy

 

2:49 pm – I won’t think that our team might wrap up the week well, I won’t jinx it.  I definitely will not say it out loud.

 

3:49 pm – A nice stretch of time to do some project planning.

 

4:49 pm – Finished planning, only 11 more work minutes to the week and then weekend.  Don’t want to wish too hard for these next few minutes to go by fast, that seems to have a bad effect on the weekend and its Monday again before I know it.  A little email clean up and Monday prep should just about fit.

 

5:49 pm – Hmmm, what to do about dinner?

 

6:49 pm – Once again I have failed to do any planning for the weekend.  Wonder if anyone has any free time?

 

7:49 pm – So nice that it is still a little light out at this hour, longer days feel so overdue this year.

 

8:49 pm – A little newspaper reading, a little TV watching…

 

9:49 pm – Best moment of the weekend, I can turn off my alarm and wake up on my own tomorrow and Sunday.  Here’s to a great, restful and yet purposeful weekend for us all.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Near Complete Lack of Curiosity

I never fail to be stumped when I encounter a person with a near complete lack of curiosity.  I can’t even bring myself to say that the person may have a complete lack of curiosity.  I have to qualify it, and hope that the person has some curiosity about something that I just don’t see.  It just doesn’t seem possible to me that a person could have zero curiosity.

 

Sure there are things that I am not interested in at all, or so I believe right now.  I would have said that was true about beer until last June when I sat through a talk that my son wanted to attend and the panel brought up the history of beer and tied it to some things that I am interested in.  Heck, I find myself feeling curious about math at times now that my niece is so taken with the topic.

 

But there are people who just want to be told to put that there and twist this a half a turn and move on.  They don’t want to know why.  They don’t want to know how the thing came to be in front of them or what will happen to it after it moves on.  Huh.  I am curious why that is, what is it about their make-up that left aside the wonder?  I can’t fathom it.

Nov 1997-Are they gone yet

Sure, curiosity killed the cat but lack of curiosity narrows.  Or at least it seems to me.  I would like to have a conversation with someone who has no interest in learning new things, who is content within their comfort zone.  Has that person ever had to deal with big changes?  In my experience life brings alterations, from tiny to seismic, fairly regularly and my curiosity has helped me to get resettled.

 

What importance do you place on curiosity?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Complaint or Solution?

It’s been a long week of varying sized hassles after last week’s hassles and the week before that.  Hassles, snarls, frustrations – don’t have to move very far in any particular direction to slam into one.  It is what it is.  Job security.  Life.

public domain image

public domain image

 

 

“If they would just…” begins the statement – ‘they’ being some power-that-be at work – and so formulates the complaint.  ‘They’ should fix something to make my work go more smoothly.  I can’t meet my deadlines because ‘they’ make the process more difficult.  And on and on in hundreds of permutations goes the complaint.

 

More personally, ‘she’ – when a person accepts a position as a boss that person must expect to become part of ‘they’, a representative of management induced worker frustrations – ‘she’ expects too much.  (If you aren’t ready or willing to be ‘she’ or ‘he’ – personally representing ‘they’ – then think twice about being a boss.  It comes with the territory, even in the best of circumstances.)

 

The complaints slip out as an easy release when coworkers talk in pairs or groups.  Sensible, short term stress relief.  But also potentially toxic.

 

Complaints aren’t a be all and end all, but a starting point for a solution.  If you want something to get better a complaint by itself isn’t going to accomplish anything.  A complaint by itself is an abdication of any responsibility for improvement.  A complaint by itself is acceptance of the hassle as part of your lot.

 

com·plaint Dictionary.com

[kuhm-pleynt]

noun

  1. an expression of discontent, regret, pain, censure, resentment,or grief; lament; faultfinding:
  2. his complaint about poor schools.

 

In order for a complaint to become an effective long term method for hassle reduction, it has to move into being a solution.

 

I’ve seen the echo of ‘she’ coworker complaints on plenty of faces over the years.  More than I can count.  But I can count the number of times that someone on my team has come forward to ask for clarification, to talk further, to want to discuss a potential solution.  And I don’t mean guns blazing accusations, but measured discussion.  Seeking understanding.  I wish I could say this approach was utilized more.

 

Nobody really intends to create hassles – well, ok some small subset of the population gets a kick out of it.  Plans filter down from senior management to middle management to the people that get it done day after day.  Honest discussions about improving the plan can happen at any level.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Social Media Samba

I realize that I haven’t written about LinkedIn in a long while.  (I have to admit that I haven’t allotted much time for LinkedIn lately – shhh don’t tell them, it’s bad for my SEO.)  It is hard to keep up with all the content that can be found for perusal on the social media sites – and there is plenty that is worthy.

 

Do you do social media?  Are you tweeting and Facebooking and connecting on LinkedIn?  Or all of the other social media sites that seem to pop up every week.  I have no idea what the latest thing might be in terms of social media but I’m sure there is someone to tell me what I should be doing this week.

profile-plea

I do have a social media presence because I do get that it has merit.  It provides a great topic for interaction with new acquaintances too.  Ask a person about their social media engagement and you will find out quite a bit about that person.  As much, or maybe even more, than you would if you brought up one of the taboo topics of religion or politics.  Everyone has a position on social media.

 

I have found that it equates a bit to dancing – hence my title today.  (Plus I just liked the alliteration.)  Particularly for people of a certain age.  Do you dance – are you on social media – seem to cause many people to become self-conscious.  Fear of embarrassment.  Fear of doing the ‘wrong thing’.

 

While I wouldn’t advocate going out and standing in the middle of the dance floor and moving with the abandon of a 3 year old, I think that we should all be aware when we stop ourselves from doing something because of the fear of embarrassment.  Look at all of the public figures who have overcome some amazing faux pas.

 

Come on and pick the rhythm of your choice and stretch your social media muscles.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Chance to Lead

You decide if this post is about group dynamics or individual leadership.  Several things have gotten me to think about leadership from different angles recently.  Talk about leadership is everywhere, a distinct meaning of what it really is, is not so prevalent.

 

Have you ever been in a group where everyone is trying to lead – whether there is an established leader or not?  Everyone is working to get the upper hand for their own agenda and chaos ensues.

 

George Washington in 1775 (public domain image)

George Washington in 1775 (public domain image)

Have you ever been in a group where no one wants to take the lead – even if there is a designated leader?  Aimless chaos usually ensues, along with plenty of finger pointing when nothing is accomplished.

 

Have you had opportunities to lead?  How did they come about?  I had an employee once who would regularly tell everyone and anyone that she never got any opportunity to lead.  Because she expected the opportunity to come gift wrapped with a tag that read ‘This is Your Chance to Lead’.  When she would ask me about leadership opportunities, I would start to enumerate specific recent instances that were opportunities to show leadership – to direct a circumstance to her expected outcome.

 

Have you been on a team with a leadership vacuum?  How did you respond?  If you created your own method to get your work done and perhaps to help your coworkers do the same did you see that as leadership?

 

Have you ever known a leader who complained that they had to do everything because otherwise it wasn’t done right… because the only right way was their way?

 

A boss should be a leader, but a true leader doesn’t have to be a boss.  I know I have quotations about leadership, being a boss and the distinguishing characteristics of each in a quote book that I keep, but those will have to go in a future post on leadership.

 

What do you have to say about group dynamics, leadership, and bosses?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Sprinters Running Marathons

I don’t run.  For that matter I don’t jog, trot or canter either.  I have been known to lope and I’ve been told I walk at a pretty fast pace.  I well remember the joy that came along when, as a child, I would burst into a sprint.  (And then because I was mostly bookish, I would gasp and pant for several minutes.)

 

But I digress, I think in part due to the burgeoning spring which encourages thoughts of being outdoors and being active.  This post isn’t about literal running of any kind.  It is about understanding the right pace and energy level for a project or activity.  Most of us start out full of energy and enthusiasm for a new venture but if we didn’t clearly understand how the venture would go, we can let our pace lag well before the finish.

forward

I’ve been known to sit comfortably on my couch and turn on the last portion of a long race like the Marathon during the Olympics or the Tour de France.  It amazes me that the athletes who are still in the race at this point can find it in themselves to increase their pace at the very end.  These people have mastered the art of being in it for the long haul.  They can portion their energy and hold something back to make a strong finish.

 

How many times have you found yourself agreeing to something, thinking in the short term, only to feel disgust build as the thing goes on and grates at you?  I’ve told the story how I accepted the request to be called by my first and middle names at the start of a job only to have to get everyone to change a now established habit when I started to think long term.  How many marriages end simply because the two people weren’t really thinking long term at the start, were just entranced by their love goggles?  How many times were you ill-suited for a job that you took?  How many projects are in a partially completed stage around your house?

 

Relationships of all kinds can be entered into casually, even if intensely, and rarely do we think about how they may develop and last.  Sprint or marathon tells over time.

 

Tasks and projects should be easier to identify as sprint or marathon, but this will require a bit of planning before the plunge.

 

Have you mastered the art of identifying and planning properly for a sprint or a marathon?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Change: Affinity vs. Ability

Life is so much nicer all around when we like what is happening; what we are doing, where we are living and so on.  Sometimes we forget that there is a difference between liking, affinity, and skill at a task, or ability.  We all have skills that we could use to our advantage but often don’t because we just don’t have the affinity.

 

I’ve met plenty of people who, without saying it straight up, think that they will know they are on the right track because everything will snap into place – life will be easier and smoother if they are in the right place.  If things are difficult, it must be the wrong direction or place or whatever.  How many times have you been in a discussion with someone who shuts you down on a topic with something like, ‘oh, I’m not any good at (fill in the blank)’?

 

The world is ever changing.  (public domain image)

The world is ever changing. (public domain image)

Math doesn’t have any sort of magic for me like words do, I just don’t have much of an affinity.  But I have come to understand the importance of having a math competency – in financial dealings at the very least.  I will never gravitate to math, but I can be proud that I can master the more important math concepts and make use of them in my life.  And I have discovered that there are fascinating parts of math – statistics and economics do stir my curiosity.

 

We don’t get to arrange all of the pieces of our lives so that we can focus only on those things that we like.  (We’re lucky to arrange most of them, the big ones hopefully.)  And it isn’t always clear to see when you are on the right track, because that track might be just as bumpy and difficult as the wrong one.

 

Writing is a skill that makes plenty of people grimace, I both understand and feel consternated about this fact.  But like math for me, it is an ability that can be developed to serve your overall purpose.  You can like what a competency in a certain skill brings you without having an affinity for the concepts of the skill.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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